‘Beneath the Surface’ author Lankford presents John Muir lecture
January 11, 2012
John Muir’s effort to make Lake Tahoe a national park was narrowly defeated. But for advocates of the environment, there is an upside.
“In many ways Muir’s failure to create the Tahoe national park triggered a giant expansion of the national forests in California,” said author and historian Scott Lankford. “So it’s kind of a victory snatched out of the jaws of defeat.”
Lankford, who in late 2010 wrote “Tahoe Beneath the Surface,” is the featured speaker Saturday as part of Sierra College’s Dean’s Lecture Series, “Experts & Insights.” The topic is “John Muir’s Tahoe National Park.”
“(Muir) came very, very close to victory in 1899, just a few votes away,” Lankford said of the Sierra Club founder’s effort to preserve Tahoe from development. “He had the railroad lobby behind him, he had Duane Bliss, timber baron turned tourist baron, and it just fell apart at last minute in Congress.”
A return to Tahoe inspired Muir to become a champion of environmental causes. After leaving the Sierra he became a fruit rancher and family man, a lifestyle that depressed him.
“He came back to mountains with his hiking buddies to kind of heal his soul,” Lankford said. “To his horror he saw that in his absence (Tahoe) had been raped and left for dead. The timber strips had ground up what was left of the topsoil, the fisheries were in collapse. It really was a catastrophe and it made him angry.
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“Instead of healing his soul it lit a fire under him that propelled him all the way to the founding of the Sierra Club and the creation of many, many national parks, including Yosemite and Redwood National Park.”