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Thoreau’s Walden Pond—“The opening salvo of the modern conservation movement”

Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts

“In wildness is the preservation of the world”—so concluded Henry David Thoreau in his 1851 talk at the Concord Lyceum in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau famously lived in a cabin in the woods on the shores of Walden Pond—on land owned by writer and friend Ralph Waldo Emerson—for two years. This experience led him to write and publish (in 1854) what became perhaps his seminal work, “Walden, or Life in the Woods” (link is to a pdf file). This summer marked Thoreau’s 200th birthday, providing an opportunity for perspective on his legacy, the effect on the burgeoning conservation movement, and current views of conservation in the United States.

Thoreau’s writings undoubtedly presented a romantic perspective on nature and the “wilderness,” which influenced the American psyche. The promotion of wilderness conservation led most directly to laws by the US Congress that established Yellowstone National Park (in 1872), Yosemite National Park (1890) and ultimately the entire US National Park system (1916). Walden Pond itself was donated by Emerson’s descendants to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and today is protected as a state reservation. (Photo of Walden Pond in 1908 is in the public domain).

The US federal system of land conservation has expanded greatly since the turn of the 20th century and involves several large land-management agencies. Some of these protected areas are now under renewed threat, as current plans call for re-evaluating recent designations of national monuments, calls for significant budget cuts, and other proposed federal action.


Thoreau’s Wilderness Legacy, Beyond the Shores of Walden Pond

By Douglas Brinkley

The New York Times

July 7, 2017

Also see

Trump’s monument plan still shrouded in secrecy

By Timothy Cama

The Hill

August 26, 2017

See also

Authority to revoke National Monument designations? Not according to this Constitutional scholar.

International Heritage News

August 2, 2017

Downsizing the largest US public lands agency

International Heritage News

June 22, 2017

Biosphere reserves—gain some, lose some, particularly in the United States

International Heritage News

June 21, 2017

Cheers from the oil and gas industry and jeers from almost everyone else”

International Heritage News

June 12, 2017

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