"The conscience of the whole country has been aroused from sleep; and from outrageous evil compensating good in some form must surely come."
The National Park Service has just celebrated its 99th birthday. In the early days, our national parks were not managed by park rangers but by the U.S. Army.
Congressman John Raker of Manteca
Change came in 1916, when Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act - 3 years after passing the Raker Act which had allowed Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley to be clear-cut, dammed and flooded. The Orqanic Act ensured that our parks would henceforth be managed for national, not local, benefit - i.e the debacle of building a dam for a remote city would not be repeated.
Ironically, or perhaps not, the Organic Act's supporters included not only John C. Raker himself but Congressman William Kent. Kent, who personally donated Muir Woods to the federal government and later supported damming Hetch Hetchy, was in fact a co-sponsor of the Organic Act.
So men like Kent and Raker either had a change of heart after the nationwide uproar over damming Hetch Hetchy, or they thought San Francisco deserved an entitlement available to no other city. Perhaps there is another interpretation or explanation.
John Muir with Congressman William Kent, who personally donated Muir Woods to the federal government. Kent supported damming Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley but then co-sponsored the Organic Act to make sure no such destruction would ever again be allowed.
John Muir died the year after the Raker Act was passed so he was unable to appreciate the protections provided by the Organic Act. But the words he used to console a friend after the Raker Act's passage suggest he might not have been surprised: "The conscience of the whole country has been aroused from sleep; and from outrageous evil compensating good in some form must surely come."
Clark Bunting, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association wrote a nice tribute to the positive legacy brought about by Hetch Hetchy's misfortune - See The 'Outrageous Evil' that Led to the Birth of the National Park Service.
The NPCA is committed to protecting all of America's National Parks for future generations. Restore Hetch Hetchy's objective is more narrow. We are committed only to the physical restoration of Yosemite, but success would surely inspire people to support all of America's national parks as well as lands beyond.
Since officials in San Francisco will not engage in constructive dialog to undo this greatest injustice ever done to any of America's national parks, Restore Hetch Hetchy has taken our campaign for restoration to the courts. Financial support will be necessary to make restoration a reality.
Please contribute today. Together we can restore Hetch Hetchy Valley and make Yosemite whole once again.