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Episode Six: 1946–1980The Morning of Creation

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Dall Sheep, Denali National Park Add to Scrapbook

Dall Sheep, Denali National Park

Adolph Murie and family with pet wolf, Wags, Mt. McKinley (later Denali) National Park, 1940 Add to Scrapbook

Adolph Murie and family with pet wolf, Wags, Mt. McKinley (later Denali) National Park, 1940

Protecting the Predator (continued)

At McKinley, Murie walked more than 1,700 miles gathering data in the park. He analyzed more than 1,000 samples of wolf droppings to determine the predators' eating habits, and studied the skulls of Dall sheep to determine the age and health of the animals when they died.

He would continue his study for nearly a decade, moving his wife and children to a remote cabin in the park and temporarily adopting a wolf pup he named Wags, so he could study its growth and development.

The report Murie produced would become a landmark in understanding wolves. But his conclusion – that wolves actually strengthen sheep and caribou herds by culling out the sick and the weak – was denounced by hunting groups as "pro-wolf propaganda."

When federal Fish and Wildlife Service officers initiated a campaign of killing wolves throughout the rest of Alaska, pressure mounted for the park to eradicate its wolves, too. The Park Service agreed to a limited wolf-control program, but the person selected to oversee it was none other than Adolph Murie, who kept the number of kills to the barest minimum.

And when the sheep herd rebounded as Murie had predicted, the Park Service quietly instituted a ban on all wolf killings. McKinley's wolves had survived thanks to the efforts of one man.

The Parks vs. the Most Dangerous Animal

Hetch Hetchy Valley before dam, circa 1911 Add to Scrapbook

Hetch Hetchy Valley before dam, circa 1911

Hetch Hetchy reservoir and O'Shaughnessy Dam, Yosemite National Park, 1950s Add to Scrapbook

Hetch Hetchy reservoir and O'Shaughnessy Dam, Yosemite National Park, 1950s

By 1950, the battle over the construction of dams in the national parks had been raging for 50 years, pitting Americans who wanted dams built for irrigation and city water supplies against those who wanted national parks protected from development.

John Muir's failed attempt to save the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite had galvanized the nascent conservation movement into pushing for creation of the National Park Service, to make sure nothing like the loss of Hetch Hetchy would ever happen again.

In the aftermath of World War II, as the populations of states in the arid West began to skyrocket, the pressure for more dams intensified. Plans were drawn up for $9 billion in dam projects, including two in a remote corner of Utah and Colorado, where the Green and Yampa rivers converge in a place known as Echo Park.

But Echo Park was also the site of Dinosaur National Monument, first set aside in 1915 to safeguard an important discovery of prehistoric bones, and expanded in the 1930s to include the dramatic sandstone canyons upstream. The few people who had visited the monument or paddled through its network of canyons considered it almost sacred.

Steamboat Rock, Dinosaur National Monument, 1954 Add to Scrapbook

Steamboat Rock, Dinosaur National Monument, 1954

Even though the Park Service opposed the dams, President Harry Truman and his Secretary of the Interior supported building them. But lessons had been learned from the battle over Hetch Hetchy. This time, even more people were willing to stand up for the protection of their national parks.

One of these people was Harold Bradley, a retired chemistry professor who made it his mission to prevent Dinosaur National Monument from suffering the same fate as the Hetch Hetchy Valley. (See sidebar)

Continued on page 3

A proud tourist points at her National Parks windshield stickers, 1922; David Brower in Glen Canyon, 1966; Dayton Duncan's son, Will, standing at edge of canyon. Bryce Canyon National Park, 1998

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THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA is a co-production of

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