Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation (Karl Jacoby)
This linkage of an environmental crisis (deforestation and water loss) and a social crisis (urbanism and the undermining of traditional models of masculinity) captures the modern and antimodern impulses that, in uneasy combination, lay at the core of the nascent conservation movement. On the one hand, conservation, with its emphasis on using the power of science and the state to rationally manage natural resources, represented a quintessentially modern approach toward the environment. On the other, conservation frequently invoked the Romantic search for authentic experience, in which nature was offered as the antidote to an increasingly industrial, «overcivilized» existence.
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Despite this promising start, however, relations between conservationists and Adirondackers quickly soured. Following their first patrols, the Forest Commission’s newly appointed foresters reported «gross infractions» of the state’s new game, timber, and fire laws. Noting the frequent hostility the foresters encountered whenever they tried to arrest those responsible for such crimes, the New York Fisheries Commission concluded that «in the whole Adirondack region … the utmost lawlessness prevail[s].» Contemporary newspaper accounts added to the sense of crisis. In 1889, for example, the New York Times published a string of articles bearing such lurid headlines as «Pirates of the Forest,» «Stealing Is Their Trade,» and «Useless Forestry Laws» that depicted violations of the state’s conservation code as common throughout the Adirondacks.
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The far-flung character of these undertakings reflected themselves in turn in local property rights. Although state officials in the 188os charged Adirondackers with looking upon the forests as «a piece of `commons,’ or as a public crib where all may feed who choose,» matters were more complex than this assessment implied. In keeping with the common-rights ideologies prevailing elsewhere in the rural United States at this time, locals did regard undeveloped lands, whether state or private, as open to hunting and foraging. Engaging in such activities on another’s property «we would not call a trespass,» admitted the Adirondacks resident Freeman Tyrrell in 1895. «I know I don’t when they go on my lands.»31 These «rights in the woods,» however, were hedged by numerous constraints. Inhabitants often considered certain features of the woods, such as game blinds, fish weirs, or traplines, to be-like homesteads or other «improved» areas-exclusive property. Interference with these could prompt violent confrontations,
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For all its monetary benefits, however, tourism unleashed new pressures as well. The arrival of large numbers of sports placed increased demands on the Adirondacks’ limited supply of fish and game, while the rise of the tourist industry created fresh class divisions in the region, with a few locals capitalizing on the trade to become large landowners and employers. Perhaps the most successful of these entrepreneurs was Apollos «Paul» Smith, a onetime trapper and guide. In 18 5 z, at the suggestion of one of his clients, Smith built a small «hunter’s retreat,» where he and his wife could take in eight or ten sports as boarders. Bit by bit, Smith added to his holdings, until by the time of his death in 1912. he owned some thirty-five thousand acres and a four-story hotel overlooking lower St. Regis Lake that could accommodate a hundred guests.
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To facilitate the expanded state supervision of the countryside that conservation required, the Forest Commission embarked upon a program of what the political scientist James Scott has termed «state simplification,» in which officials standardized and rationalized local practices to make them more comprehensible-and ultimately more controllable-by government agencies.2 Creating a simplified Adirondacks, however, was far from a simple process. The new agencies charged with overseeing the region’s ecology often lacked basic knowledge about local conditions. Even data that one imagines to have been
easily accessible to state officials had rarely been assembled in a manner convenient for a fledgling bureaucracy like the Forest Commission. One of the first tasks facing the commission, for instance, was simply figuring out what lands it was supposed to manage. Because the Adirondack Park was a patchwork of private and state lands, environmental regulations in the region varied considerably from one location to the next. While it was illegal to settle, farm, or cut trees on state property, for example, such activities remained permissible on private lands within the park.
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By destroying monuments, which in turn obscured the location of the state’s landholdings, locals hoped to preserve their access to the resources on nearby public woodlands. Indeed, as one exasperated warden noted, those arrested for trespassing on state lands often defended their activities by pointing to the state’s lack of borderlines, «boldly ask[ing,] `Where is your line?’ and `Why is it not marked?»‘ «The absence of lines, or plainly marked boundaries,» claimed the commission in 18g0, «is often the occasion of an unintentional trespass; but, more often, the pretext for a willful one. The establishment of new lines, and the re-marking of old ones, has the effect of lessening the number of trespasses by removing the pretext under which they may be committed.»s
Of all the issues associated with the state’s efforts to delineate its territory in the Adirondacks, by far the most volatile concerned the location of local homesteads.
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In the face of such dilemmas, the Forest Commission adopted a policy of benign neglect for much of the nineteenth century, limiting new settlements but doing little to oust longtime squatters. Not until the early 19006 did the commission begin to push more aggressively to reclaim control of its lands. In 19o1, for example, the state issued ejection notices to a large number of residents of the Raquette Lake area. Many squatters, however, refused to leave their homes. After several delays, the commission finally dispatched foresters to tear down and burn the offending structures. In November of 1905, District Game Protector John B. Burnham and fifteen men went into Raquette Lake with orders to destroy some fifty houses on state lands, only to be met by angry locals: «threats of violence to the state officers if property was harmed by them were freely given out at the village, and it was expected that there would be trouble,» noted a reporter for the New York Times. Residents tried to counter the state’s attempt to eject them by emphasizing the public nature of the park as well as their lengthy residence in the area.
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But there were other factors beyond a simple calculus of square miles per forester that inhibited the enforcement of state forestry laws in the Adirondacks. While the hiring of local people as foresters provided the Forest Commission with individuals who possessed a detailed knowledge of the Adirondacks forest, it also meant that foresters possessed strong allegiances to the rest of Adirondacks society and, as a result, often felt the tug of local loyalties. Since it was impossible for the Forest Commission to monitor every facet of their daily behavior, foresters often had considerable latitude in deciding how to enforce-and not enforce-the forestry laws. As Forest and Stream charged in 1885: «The constables being appointed from the country round and knowing many of the guides, it is a generally understood thing that if no venison is in sight there will be no search for any. As soon, therefore, as a deer is killed the carcass is buried or hidden in the underbrush, and if a constable should pay a visit to the camp he and the campers have so many pleasant topics of conversation that it seems a pity to introduce unpleasant ones.»17
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The peculiar pressures bearing upon foresters highlight the new social and political relationships that the rise of conservation generated in the Adirondacks. Foresters played a dual role in the region: not only were they the means by which state power was projected into the countryside, they were also the means by which local influence penetrated into the state. As a result, foresters had to navigate between several competing allegiances. On the one hand, the Forest Commission sought to make the forester an extension of its conservation program; on the other, the forester’s friends and neighbors often tried to render him an accomplice in their efforts to evade the state’s environmental regulations. While the forester who became too aggressive in pursuing his duties risked being ostracized or shot by local residents, the forester who was found to be too cozy with lawbreakers could lose his job or even be arrested for corruption, as happened on several occasions to foresters who were alleged to be taking bribes to ignore the illegal cutting of timber in their districts. The daily dilemmas that foresters faced in trying to balance these competing claims convey worlds about the distance that often existed between the simplified categories of conservation and the messy realities of everyday life in rural America.23
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Among Adirondackers, private parks soon became the most hated facet of conservation. In little more than a decade, private park owners had sealed off many of the region’s best hunting and fishing areas, defying the previous convention of leaving undeveloped forestland open to hunting, fishing, or foraging by local community members-a restriction that not even the Forest Commission, which still permitted public passage and the taking of game on Forest Preserve lands during the hunting season, had attempted. Private parks’ stringent efforts against trespass, combined with their concentrated landholdings and extensive corps of guards, made them, for many rural folk, a powerful symbol of the class biases lurking at the heart of conservation.
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Despite such measures, the repurchase program was far from a total victory for the region’s inhabitants. Adirondackers never eliminated the hated private preserves: even today, significant portions of the park remain in the hands of private owners, who continue to post their land against local trespass. Moreover, in certain respects, local opposition to private parks reinforced the state’s control of the region-for, as the Zamora case evinces, in voicing their opposition to private parks, the region’s residents frequently resorted to a vocabulary of public property and public rights that echoed the language used to legitimize state conservation. Although this congruence was often unintentional, at other moments locals consciously advocated state ownership as a more attractive alternative to private parks.
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There is, to be sure, much that is correct about such analyses. The settlement of the American countryside was accompanied by tremendous ecological devastation as settlers endeavored to find marketable goods and remake the «wild» nature they encountered into a more familiar world of fields and fences. Yet the current scholarship remains elusive on a number of critical issues. Above all, while many environmental historians place capitalistic economic relations at the center of their analyses, they frequently treat capitalism as little more than a marketplace for the buying and selling of natural resources. Rarely do their discussions touch upon capitalism’s social or cultural dimensions: its division of labor, its contesting classes with their distinct ways of conceptualizing the world. Submerging these differences has lent environmental history tremendous rhetorical power, but at the cost of obscuring the diversity of relationships that Americans forged with the natural world. Moreover, by failing to engage the perspective of non-elites, environmental historians have inadvertently recapitulated much of the degradation discourse of early conservation, especially the movement’s leaders’ vision of themselves as saving nature from «the ignorant or unprincipled.,, 4
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The Forest Commission’s enforcement problems arose, however, not only from the mixture of neighborliness and intimidation prevailing in many Adirondacks villages but also from an even more fundamental cause: a profound disagreement with local residents over the definition of timber stealing. While conservation officials, in keeping with their program of state simplification, insisted on classifying all cutting of trees on public lands as theft, local residents considered such «crimes» to be, under certain circumstances, perfectly legitimate.
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Many locals defended their thefts of trees not only by stressing their right to subsistence but by placing their activities outside of the market nexus. As the Adirondacks native Henry Bradley explained in 1895, residents considered it perfectly legal to take firewood or building supplies from state lands if the materials were used for one’s immediate household subsistence. From the local perspective, such activities only achieved the status of crimes if, in Bradley’s words, one cut trees «for the purposes of marketing and selling the logs again.» «Though the cutting of timber from State lands for the market has been recognized as done in violation of the law,» agreed an investigative committee of the Forest Commission, «it seems not to have been considered a crime or offense of any kind for trespassers to cut timber upon State lands for firewood or for building purposes, chiefly of hardwood.» In keeping with this division between subsistence and market activities, local people also distinguished between which species of trees might legitimately be cut.
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Despite such measures, the heyday of the Adirondacks timber gang lasted little more than a decade. The Forest Commission’s ability with each passing year to map and patrol its holdings with greater precision soon made it difficult for organized groups to steal the large quantities of logs that the timber industry sought. By i 900, the Forest Commission could report that of the forty-six cases of trespassing it had prosecuted that year, only one had been connected to a lumber company. Instead of stealing timber outright, many lumber concerns began to exploit the weaknesses of conservation in other, more subtle ways. A number of companies seized upon the confused status of property titles in the region to strike sweetheart land deals with sympathetic members of the commission (several of whom, like Basselin, were drawn from the ranks of New York’s prominent lumbermen). In 1894 and again in 1910, such scenarios led New York to investigate charges of fraud in the Forest Commission and to dismiss several leading conservation officials.21
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This indictment of local practices, echoed repeatedly in the pages of the leading sporting journals of the day, pointed toward an obvious conclusion: that protecting the wildlife in the Adirondacks depended on setting stricter limits for
locals rather than on outside sports hunters. In the words of J. H. Woodward of New York City: «I, for one, do not believe that the solution of the problem [of a shortage of game in the Adirondacks] lies in still further restricting the sportsman.»25
As might be expected, most Adirondackers strongly disagreed with such interpretations. Residents pointed out that wealthy sports hunters did not need the game they killed-hunting, after all, was for tourists a leisure activity. By contrast, hunting was for locals an integral component of household subsistence. «We lived off the land, and the deer were there, and you ate them the year around,» noted resident Bill Smith.26 To such folk, it seemed unfair that New York’s game law failed to distinguish between rural need and elite leisure.
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To justify their violations of the game law, Adirondackers called upon a complex of beliefs that linked hunting to the proper ordering of social and political relations, derived in part from an attenuated but still vital republicanism. Americans had long celebrated the fact that unlike in European monarchies such as Great Britain, where the hunt was limited to the landowning aristocracy, in the United States all citizens had an equal and common right to pursue wild game. Not only did this open access stand as a powerful symbol of New World freedom, but by providing rural families with hides and meat it also helped to preserve the agrarian self-sufficiency that republican ideology so prized. Even at the close of the nineteenth century, such beliefs resonated with many Adirondackers, who viewed New York’s efforts to restrict their hunting as «un-American.» Queried in 1897 about the game law, Alvah Dunning, for instance, could only mutter, «I dunno what we’re a-comin’ to in this free country.»38
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Some residents hoped to preserve their economic autonomy through market hunting. Others wanted to outlaw market hunting completely because of its potentially devastating effect on the region’s game population. Some residents preferred to hunt by hounding and jacking because of the efficiency of such techniques. Others feared that these practices enabled sports hunters to decimate local wildlife. Some residents were willing to accept the larger quantities of deer that sports killed with hounding and jacking, because these successes attracted more tourist dollars to the region. Others worried about the possibility of overhunting. These debates acquired a further layer of complexity because activities such as jacking and hounding did not allow for much selectivity as to the animal one was killing (when jacking, all one saw was the illuminated eyes of the deer; when hounding, it was the dogs that chose which deer to follow).
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The fact that some Adirondackers would maliciously shoot the very same animals that other community members were caring for testifies to the deep fissures that had developed within Adirondacks society by the turn of the century. Ironically, at the very moment that the region’s guides had begun to accommodate the new conservationist order, other inhabitants were unleashing a wave of spectacular protests against conservation, of which the killing of the unfortunate moose and elk comprised just one example. In 11899, 11903, 11908, and again in 1913, vast forest fires swept across the park, burning more than a million acres of state and private land. While many of these fires could be attributed to the fire hazards created by the region’s spreading railroad system, a significant proportion was the work of arsonists.
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But to focus exclusively on revenge obscures some of the other reasons Adirondackers set forest fires. Timber poachers, for example, frequently burned the area where they had illegally cut wood in the hope of erasing any traces of their trespasses. Other Adirondackers, adopting a long-standing Indian practice, burned local woodlands to encourage the growth of berries or fresh browse for livestock or wildlife. Others set fires on the private parks within the Forest Preserve with the intention of damaging estate property or driving deer and other game animals onto lands where they might be hunted.72 And still others set fires because they sought the cash wages that employment on a fire-fighting crew could bring or, once on a fire-fighting crew, hoped to prolong their employment. «The poor people of a certain community cut wood on State land last winter and were fined for it,» reported Forest and Stream in 1903. «Partly to `get even’ and partly to earn money to make up the fines by fighting fires, the poachers were believed to have set the fires.»73
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Despite the haphazard manner in which conservation began at Yellowstone, the park nonetheless marked a turning point in federal land policy. In keeping with the goal of fostering the independent yeoman farmers so prized by republican ideology, previous federal programs had focused on converting the public domain into small-scale, privately owned plots of land. But the creation of a two-million-acre park signaled a significant shift in federal priorities. No longer was the national government to be merely a temporary caretaker of the American countryside, eager to surrender its role to private property owners: henceforth, it would be an ongoing presence in the landscape, the permanent manager of vast portions of the rural United States. And Yellowstone, as the location where the federal government first undertook this new role, would serve as proving ground and template for federal efforts elsewhere.6
Ultimately, the effort by park backers to disavow any Indian connection to Yellowstone National Park reveals far more about Euro-American conceptions of Indian land tenure than it does about the realities of Indian life. Drawing upon a familiar vocabulary of discovery and exploration, the authors of the early accounts of the Yellowstone region literally wrote Indians out of the landscape, erasing Indian claims by reclassifying inhabited territory as empty wilderness. Those «explorers» who, during the course of their travels, encountered Indian peoples within the confines of the park simply dismissed these natives as transitory nomads. Neither the Bannock, the Shoshone, the Crow, nor the Blackfeet practiced agriculture, and seeing no landscapes in the Yellowstone region that had been «improved» through farming, many Euro-Americans conveniently concluded that the area’s Indians were rootless beings, with no ties to the lands they roamed across.14
What this ideology of dispossession overlooked was that Indian migratory patterns were not a series of random wanderings but rather a complex set of annual cycles, closely tied to seasonal variations in game and other wild foodstuffs. Moreover, while they were not farmers, local Indian peoples nonetheless «improved» the landscape around them through the setting of fires.
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Rather than looking upon these native hunting expeditions as part of a seasonal cycle that predated the park’s existence, Yellowstone’s managers viewed any Indian presence in the park as a new and artificial intrusion. Park superintendents labeled Indians invaders, their hunting expeditions «an unmitigated evil,» their setting of fires an affront to the «spirited cautions against fire» posted throughout the park. All constituted, in the eyes of Yellowstone officials, clear evidence that the inhabitants of nearby reservations were allowed «entirely too much lib- erty.»24
What made these Indian actions all the more galling to park administrators was their apparent depravity. Indians did not just hunt, according to Yellowstone authorities; they overhunted.
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Yellowstone’s lack of game wardens was only part of its enforcement problem. The act creating Yellowstone National Park had also neglected to include any method for administering punishments to wrongdoers. «Under the law as it now stands.. .1 have not the legal right or power to arrest and detain any person charged with a violation of any of the rules governing the Park,» lamented Yellowstone’s superintendent in 1883. «Now what am I to do?»48 On those occasions when assistants did catch violators of the park’s rules, the severest penalty that the wrongdoer faced was expulsion from the park with orders never to come back. Should the offending party return, all park authorities could do was to expel that person yet again. Unsurprisingly, park managers came to view expulsion as a toothless punishment, a measure that was almost more of an incentive to wrongdoing than a check. Stated one superintendent, «All sorts of worthless and disreputable characters are attracted here by the impunity afforded by the absence of law and courts of justice.»49
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In 1882, Samuel S. Cox, representative from New York, proposed placing Yellowstone National Park «under the exclusive care, control and government of the War Department.» That same year, General Sheridan recommended that troops from nearby forts be used to «keep out skin hunters … and give a place of refuge to our noble game.»56
This domestic deployment of American armed forces was not unique to conservation. Throughout post-Civil War America, the army was the police of choice for restive areas: the Reconstruction South; urban areas beset by labor strikes; a West still engaged in wars against various Indian nations. With such precedents already in place-and with many of the same perceived opponents (Indians, lower-class white lawbreakers)-it was but a small step to expand the army’s role in the «defense of national property» to include conservation sites.57 Perhaps the sole official to express any disquiet with this proposed shift was the
secretary of the interior, who perceived in the transfer a loss of power for his own department.
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In 189o, in partial response to such pressures, the Department of the Interior dispatched army units to the three other existing national parks: Yosemite, General Grant, and Sequoias. Yet at the very moment that the national press was holding up the military at Yellowstone as a model to be emulated nationwide, quite a different perspective was being voiced in the newspapers from the small Montana villages bordering the park. To the correspondents for this local press, the sight of armed soldiers patrolling the park represented not a triumph of conservation but rather the unwarranted imposition of martial law.
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The animosity behind such critiques derived in large part from the confrontations between residents and the army that began almost immediately after the military arrived at the park. Under Yellowstone’s previous, weak civilian administration, many settlers had treated the park much as they did undeveloped property elsewhere in the American countryside-as land open to timbering, grazing, hunting, and foraging by local community members. Such practices, however, conflicted with the army’s attempts to institute the technical oversight and state simplification that conservation demanded. Thus, even though the villages surrounding Yellowstone were founded after the park’s creation in 1871, the result was a situation not unlike that in the Adirondacks, where many of the region’s inhabitants perceived conservation as interfering with their preexisting rights to the natural world.10
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From the perspective of the park’s newly arrived military commanders, this practice of letting locals gather wood in Yellowstone was far too open-ended. It allowed residents too much discretion in deciding what constituted «down wood,» and it gave poachers and other wrongdoers a pretext for wandering, unsupervised, throughout the park. In its place, the army instituted a system of permits, which required the town’s residents to get approval in writing before gathering wood from parklands. Besides allowing for the more precise dictation of where and when wood could be gathered, this arrangement enabled Yellowstone’s superintendents to exercise a form of social control over Gardiner in which informers and others sympathetic to the park authorities were rewarded with permits while poachers or other lawbreakers could have their wood-gathering privileges withheld.
The mass of correspondence that this new policy generated documents Gardiner residents’ reliance on park timber for a variety of subsistence uses.
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In contrast, because many of the settlers around Yellowstone established ranches on the grass-rich plains of the Yellowstone Plateau, park officials found themselves faced with an issue that had rarely troubled their counterparts in the Adirondacks: the grazing of livestock within park borders. Prior to Gardiner’s founding, park authorities had not even anticipated such an issue arising. As a result, there were no standing regulations about grazing when the town was created. As in many other rural communities, Gardiner residents often let their animals roam loose. Since the boundary with the park was unfenced, domestic stock from the village soon made its way into Yellowstone, just as wildlife from Yellowstone often ventured out of the park.
Initially, Yellowstone’s military superintendents, continuing the policy of their civilian predecessors, tolerated the incursions of livestock into the park. But as the region’s populations of antelope, deer, and elk rebounded, placing greater stress on Yellowstone’s grazing lands, officials took steps to exclude livestock from the park.
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All too often, the soldiers guarding Yellowstone resembled the unit that Lieutenant Elmer Lindsley inspected in i 898: «absolutely unfamiliar with the country and their duties as game wardens.» Even under the best of circumstances, the constant transfers involved in military life meant that just as the soldiers at the park had begun to master Yellowstone’s rugged geography and the cumbersome cross-country skis used in winter patrolling, their tour of duty at Yellowstone had drawn to a close.
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Although all the available evidence indicates that the majority of soldiers performed their duties in an honest manner, local newspapers preferred to emphasize the «venal and corrupt» features of the army’s management of the park.37 «The acceptance of bribes,» maintained the Livingston Post, «is `so open and notorious that westerners have ceased to express surprise at it.»‘ The Post even charged one enlisted man with soliciting so many illicit payments during his tour of duty that he was able to buy a large ranch near the park upon his discharge.38 On the most immediate level, such accusations reflect the antagonism that many residents felt toward the park’s military supervisors. But they can also be read as attempts to disprove a key element of the logic of conservation. Rather than delivering the enlightened oversight of natural resources that its advocates had promised, conservation seemed instead to create new opportunities for corruption and mismanagement. As one resident of Gardiner put it, «the military up at the Park was all a fake…. it didn’t protect the Park and was no good.»39
One reason the soldiers posted to Yellowstone may have been so vulnerable to corruption was the necessarily decentralized nature of law enforcement at the park.
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The full effects of this campaign did not become apparent until decades later. Army officers believed that by preventing forest fires they were defending Yellowstone against destruction, but their policy actually led to dramatic alterations in the park’s ecosystem. In the lower elevations, sagebrush and conifers invaded grazing areas, diminishing the quality and quantity of the grass available to the park’s wildlife. In the forests that dominated Yellowstone’s middle elevations, the suppression of fire disrupted the reproductive cycle of the lodgepole pine, the park’s most common tree, whose serotinous cones released their seeds only when exposed to intense heat. Furthermore, by preventing forest fires the army allowed dead plant matter to accumulate, so that when fires did erupt they proved uncommonly fierce and difficult to control.72
The army’s management of Yellowstone’s wildlife had similarly unexpected results. Hoping to increase the park’s ungulate population, the military launched periodic campaigns against mountain lions, coyotes, wolves, and other predators.73 Combined with the army’s efforts against Indian hunters and white poachers, these measures reduced many of the checks that had long restrained the park’s elk population.
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More than any other phenomenon, it was Yellowstone’s prolific poaching that defined the relationship between park officials and the local populace. To Yellowstone’s superintendents, the apparent support that illegal hunters enjoyed among the folk living near the park provided an unwelcome reminder of how limited their command over Yellowstone truly was. The ultimate source of such problems, officials contended, was the territory’s raw frontier condition. «The Park is surrounded by a class of old frontiersmen, hunters and trappers, and squaw-men,» explained Moses Harris in 1886. «As the game diminishes outside the Park, [they] increase their efforts and resort to all sorts of expedients to get possession of that which receives the protection of law.»2
– Highlight Loc. 1840-44 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 04:47 PM
Attempting to build on the momentum Howell’s arrest provided, Anderson soon initiated a renewed campaign against «the worst and most daring and desperate gang of poachers who ever defied the park laws and the vigilance of the authorities. «30
Whether or not the target of Anderson’s attention can best be described as a criminal gang remains open to interpretation. There is little question that a number of the inhabitants of Henry’s Lake were participants in a systematic poaching operation that sold meat, heads, and hides to area taxidermists and mining camps. But whether this group was a just a loose association of familiars or a hierarchically arranged band with a clearly defined membership-a true gang-is less clear.
– Highlight Loc. 1878-81 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 04:50 PM
As such pleas reveal, the public acceptance that the Henry’s Lake gang enjoyed masked considerable private resentment. While community members may have been afraid to confront the poachers directly, they proved more than willing to work behind the scenes to bring about the group’s downfall. Once they realized the extent of the efforts against them, the village’s poachers, much like timber gangs in the Adirondacks, attempted to intimidate local residents into halting the flow of information to conservation officials.
– Highlight Loc. 1964-68 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 05:56 PM
For Simpson and others like him, poaching spoke of the larger struggle between agrarian modernizers and backward rural holdovers (whose primitivism merited the charge of «white Indian»). Yet in certain respects the two groups were not as far apart as they may have appeared. A poacher like Binkley might resist entering the labor market, but he did so by intensifying the sale of natural resources. Thus, both the poacher and his detractor sought to capitalize on the spread of market relations. Indeed, by certain measures, a poacher like Binkley could be considered even more attuned to modern economics than his critics: through his intensive sale of game, Binkley was commodifying a good that many other residents resisted bringing entirely within the marketplace.61
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In the end, the fact that the American countryside produced both prolific poachers and a moral ecology that criticized certain poaching practices should not prove surprising. Poaching touched on many issues at the heart of turn-of-the-century rural life-the desire for self-sufficiency, the drive to prove one’s manliness and daring, the hope of avoiding the dependency of the workplace-as well as on abiding notions of community responsibility and of one’s right as an American to the hunt. These factors sometimes coincided but often conflicted, prohibiting rural folk from reaching any easy consensus about poaching’s moral stature. In subtle yet unmistakable ways, Yellowstone by the early i 9oos had become as much a monument to such tensions as it was to the geothermal energies that powered its famous geysers.
– Highlight Loc. 2282-88 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 06:22 PM
By the early 189os, the dire circumstances in which the Havasupai found themselves had attracted the attention of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the federal bureau within the Department of the Interior that was the tribe’s theoretical protector. But rather than restoring the Indians’ hunting grounds as the tribe itself urged (and as several army officers sent to investigate the condition of the Havasupai suggested), the BIA proposed that the tribe’s salvation lay in their becoming intensive agriculturists.
In keeping with this logic, in February 189z the agency assigned the first federal official to the Havasupai reservation: an instructional farmer named John F. Gaddis, whose orders were to encourage «a spirit of industry» among the Havasupai by teaching them «a knowledge of agricultural pursuits.» BIA administrators believed that by giving the Havasupai new crops and by instructing them in farming techniques, the tribe could use its existing land more efficiently, thus making up for its loss of territory.
– Highlight Loc. 2334-39 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 06:31 PM
By 1902., a decade after the passage of the initial law allowing for their creation, there were fifty-four forest reserves in all, enclosing some 6o million acres; over the next decade, the system more than tripled, reaching 119o million acres by 19i11. Although there would later be national forests in Puerto Rico and eastern states such as New Hampshire, Arkansas, Florida, and North Carolina, the first forest reserves clustered west of the Mississippi, where the federal government’s continued possession of large expanses of timbered territory facilitated the setting aside of extensive forestlands. The arid southwest, where protecting water for irrigation projects was viewed as vital for the region’s development, was a favorite target of forestry planners. By the early 1900s, Arizona could claim not only the Grand Canon Forest Reserve but seven other reserves as well, with an aggregate of 6,740,000 acres-about 9.z percent of Arizona’s total land surface. Neighboring California and New Mexico possessed another eleven reserves, which contained more than r z million acres com- bined.4″
– Highlight Loc. 2371-76 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 06:33 PM
At the Grand Canyon, this close relationship between forestry officials and business interests began to take shape not long after the forest reserve’s creation in 1893. By the early twentieth century, the canyon’s new federal managers had reached a series of accommodations with the local mining, railroad, and lumber companies that allowed these businesses access to the reserve’s natural resources. In i9or, for example, the canyon’s regional superintendent supported plans by «a large cattle man, Mr. Wm. Donaldson of Williams, Arizona,» to build a reservoir for his cattle within the reserve. The following year, officials permitted the «Canon Copper Company» to cut timber for free on the re- serve.56 Once Gifford Pinchot’s Forest Service assumed control of the canyon in 1907, such ties increased further.
– Highlight Loc. 2379-83 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 06:35 PM
Left outside of the Forest Service’s plans were groups such as the Havasupai, whose uses of the environment seldom met conservationists’ definitions of productive or efficient. Indeed, to administrators attempting to institute a system of governmental controls over the Grand Canyon landscape, the presence of a group of transient Indians like the Havasupai was at best a reminder of a vanishing era and at worst an ongoing menace to official efforts to manage the canyon in a rational manner. The Havasupai, of course, did not view matters in quite the same light. Having managed to preserve a presence on the plateau to the south of the Grand Canyon despite the encroachments of ranchers, tourist-camp operators, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribe members regarded this territory as still rightfully theirs.
– Highlight Loc. 2420-27 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 06:41 PM
As ineffective as the early forest reserves often were, their creation nonetheless reconfigured property rights throughout much of the American countryside. In accordance with conservation’s logic of placing natural resources under scientific management, the Forest Reserve Act stripped away any competing local claims to the lands within the reserves. Only those individuals who had already filed a homestead entry on property enclosed within a forest reservation would be allowed to remain within the reserve. Explained the GLO’s commissioner in 1893, «Persons who established residence on land within the reserve prior to
the date of the President’s proclamation, with intention of acquiring homes under the U.S. land laws, will be protected by reason of prior settlement; but no one will be allowed to settle within the reservation after the date of said proclamation.» Furthermore, added the commissioner, «a mere squatter, with no intention of acquiring title, is a trespasser, and has no rights that the government is bound to respect.»9
In theory, such policies were race blind. In actual practice, however, they posed a special barrier for the Havasupai, who, like many other Indian peoples, were unfamiliar with English and the United States legal code and based their land claims on tribal custom rather than American law.
– Highlight Loc. 2554-59 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 06:49 PM
The Havasupais’ efforts at eluding the park’s rangers were facilitated by the highly stratified form that conservation assumed at the canyon. Unlike either the Adirondacks or Yellowstone, where conservation officials found their most effective enforcers to be local people hired as wardens or scouts, administrators at the Grand Canyon never sought to use the people who knew the area best, the Havasupai, to patrol the park. (The BIA did have an Indian policeman on the Havasupai reservation during this time, but he was apparently never used against poachers.) As a result of the ensuing racial and cultural divides that existed at the Grand Canyon between the enforcers of conservation and the local population, one finds little of the slipping back and forth between categories that occurred in the Adirondacks or at Yellowstone, where a sympathetic game warden or soldier might, under certain circumstances, turn a blind eye to poaching, or local inhabitants might inform authorities of lawbreaking by their neighbors.
– Highlight Loc. 2614-17 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 06:51 PM
Given this context, to insist that the Havasupai stop their hunting, gathering, and other subsistence activities in the Coconino Forest was, in essence, to insist that the tribe abandon many of the cultural forms that composed the backbone of daily existence. Much of an individual’s identity-as male, as female, as a member of the Havasupai tribe-was linked to how they interacted with the landscape around them. And so, from the perspective of the Havasupai and other groups like them, conservation represented an assault not only on the material underpinnings of their existence, but also on many of the less tangible, but no less real, spiritual and moral understandings that gave their lives meaning.
– Highlight Loc. 2659-67 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 07:26 PM
One might expect that the presence of an «impoverished and unauthorized camp built by the Indians» only a few miles from park headquarters would draw official criticism. And at times this was the case. The Indians now living in the Colony,» charged one administrator, «apparently, have simply `moved in’ and, by constructing shacks of all descriptions and conditions are, in reality, violating park regulations by residing in the park without written permission from the Superintendent.» But for the first decade or so of the camp’s existence, the park’s supervisors did little to hinder its development. Indeed, throughout the 19zos, the Park Service encouraged the shift by the Havasupai to wage labor in the Grand Canyon Village, even seeking to give tribe members «preferential employment status … for unskilled work.» As P. P. Patraw, the Grand Canyon’s acting superintendent, admitted in 1930, «For some time past it has been the policy of this park to make fullest possible use of available Indian labor. The policy has developed to the point where the local Supai Indians are employed in preference to outside white labor.» Patraw’s replacement, M. R. Tillotson, put it more bluntly: «We plan on taking care of these boys first.» In addition to using Havasupai laborers on many of its construction projects, Tillot- son explained, it was Park Service policy to «always recommend the Supais to the contractors.»58
– Highlight Loc. 2702-6 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 07:29 PM
It is important not to sentimentalize these local, extralegal systems. They functioned best only under particular circumstances-when participants had inhabited an area for an extended period of time, had come to understand the local ecology, and expected to remain in the vicinity, which gave them an interest in stewarding local resources-conditions that were often the opposite of what one found among the disrupted and transitory communities of the American frontier. In addition, most systems of local control hinged on exclusion as much as on inclusion, be it of non-village members in the Adirondacks, of Indians and migratory shepherds in the villages near Yellowstone, or of non-Havasupais in the Grand Canyon.
– Highlight Loc. 2708-13 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 07:31 PM
since customary rights regimes were not static but rather existed in a constant state of flux, as issues such as insider/outsider status or environmentally appropriate behavior were renegotiated in light of changing circumstances, a certain level of conflict was likely endemic to any system of local control, making the American countryside in the preconservation era a surprisingly violent place.3
Still, the existence of this patchwork of local controls serves as an important reminder that rural folk were not ignorant of their impact on the natural world. Conservation did not, as its nineteenth-century supporters often maintained, bring order to a chaotic, unstructured situation. Rather, it replaced a local, informal set of rules and customs relating to the natural world with a formal code of law, created and administered by the bureaucratic state.
– Highlight Loc. 2752-56 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 07:44 PM
In reality, however, the movement played a powerful role in transforming the American countryside. The rise of conservation involved a number of unprecedented state interventions into the rural periphery: the passage of new laws governing the setting of fires, the taking of game, the cutting of timber, the grazing of animals, and other long-standing practices; and the deployment of a veritable army of wardens, foresters, rangers, scouts, and soldiers to ensure compliance with these measures. Such actions rewove the existing web of social and environmental relationships in much of the rural United States. Plant and animal populations, for instance, underwent significant shifts as officials took steps to prevent poaching and predation, while new regulations undermined the subsistence patterns of rural folk, pushing them farther into the market economy, particularly the market for wage labor.
Highlight Loc. 2765-69 | Added on Friday, April 08, 2011, 07:47 PM
Perceiving rural folk to be stubborn obstacles rather than potential allies, conservationists made little effort to build on the local systems of environmental control already existing in the areas they targeted (although, ironically, conservationists did find local knowledge invaluable when it came to matters such as finding foresters or scouts to enforce their new regulations).12
By adopting what verged on an authoritarian stance toward environmental problems, early conservationists were able to formulate quick responses to some of the nation’s more pressing ecological concerns. Yet these actions also left behind a troubling legacy. As conservation’s hidden history reveals, Americans have often pursued environmental quality at the expense of social justice.