1912 – 2000
NCCC Board 1957 – 2000 (43 years)
First Executive Director of Sierra Club (1952-1969)
“If exploiting natural resources and worshiping technology was the dogma of modern times, then Brower was the apostate.
“His mission was to show people how their lives were intertwined with their surroundings and make them aware of their responsibility and relationship with those finite resources:
“ ‘We seek a renewed stirring of love for the earth. We plead that what we are capable of doing to it is often what we ought not to do. We urge that all people now determine that an untrammeled wildness shall remain here to testify that this generation had love for the next.’
“That was David Brower’s credo, his single-minded pursuit and, occasionally, his joyful victory.”
David Brower is profiled in For Earth’s Sake: The David Brower Story, 1989, (c) John De Graaf, used with permission.
Other NCCC board members appearing are Grant McConnell, Polly Dyer and Harvey Manning.
David’s efforts to save the Glacier Peak Wilderness from a proposed open pit copper mine were documented by John McPhee in 1971 in the first chapter of his book Encounters with the Archdruid. NCCC’s Patrick Goldsworthy made the arrangements for Brower to hike from Holden to Image Lake (near the proposed mine) and the Suiattle Valley with author McPhee and a mining engineer.
You can read the first 20 pages of the chapter, “A Mountain,” describing this trip can be read via Google Books by clicking on the book’s cover.
A Few Recollections of Dave Brower and the North Cascades
I first knew of Dave in 1939, reading in the Saturday Evening Post his sensational story of the Shiprock ascent. I knew about him in 1951, when a Shiprock comrade became my comrade on peaks of the North Cascades. I met the man himself at board meetings of the North Cascades Conservation Council, beginning in 1960 (the year of his epochal This Is the American Earth). Through the decades thereafter I served among his legion of acolytes (or whatever the equivalent is for Archdruids). In 1957 our locals (plus Dave) founded the North Cascades Conservation Council. In the early 1960s, as it grew obvious we locals had to “go national,” Dave’s leadership became paramount. He knew all the buttons of all the players in the national game. He pushed them. And thus, in 1968 was created the North Cascades National Park.
– Harvey Manning
Dave Brower was among the first of our contemporaries to advocate that the North Cascades be a National Park Wilderness and not an administrative Wilderness under the Forest Service. Most of us on the NCCC Board of Directors were skeptical. Remember, this was before the Wilderness Act of 1964 gave statutory guarantees. From our experience, the National Park Service had not had a particularly good record for protecting areas. Many of us felt Wilderness under the Forest Service, though having only administrative status, might be far safer.
Dave dipped into his Sierra Club “hip pocket” to come up with a few dollars to send some young people to photograph the Glacier Peak and general North Cascades areas. One was David Simons, who was accompanied on these backpacking/photo excursions by John Warth of The Mountaineers. Brower then put 20-year-old Simons to work researching the laws and policies, advantages and disadvantages of wilderness protection under the two agencies. Dave Simons concluded that over the long run, the National Park Service had much stronger requirements (and a better record, if I remember correctly) than the Forest Service for preserving and protecting wild country. I treasure the memory of the little note attached to my copy of Simons’s then still-confidential study. Dave Brower had written, “Two Daves can’t be wrong.”
Most of you know Dave produced the film, Wilderness Alps of Stehekin. Though making no pretense to be a professional, he had put together other films, such as Two Yosemites (contrasting the dammed and flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley with its unflooded twin, Yosemite.)
After an NCCC board meeting in Yakima, we all stopped off at Chuck and Marion Hessey’s in Naches to see Dave’s first film footage. I think Chuck probably had the only movie projector available back then. He made the first North Cascades movies. I particularly recall beautiful sequences of cross-country skiing. Dave’s initial effort was disappointing — he had focused mostly on alpine areas, showing very little of the forests, the targets of the Forest Service’s logging plans. He soon remedied that oversight. I’ve always been tickled, too, that the Happy Wanderer, the musical theme of Wilderness Alps of Stehekin, Dave transcribed from his personal album on his home record player. Everyone knows it was Dave who “twisted Harvey Manning’s arm” to write, in record time, The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland — an Exhibit Format that served as a political tract, influencing Congress and the President. One of its centerpiece photos is from the Sierra Club outing in the Glacier Peak area, an outing Dave promoted in order to ensure that some club members of the club from afar learned in person the need for wilderness protection. Let me close with some quotes from the November 11, 2000, editorial in the Seattle Times.
“If exploiting natural resources and worshiping technology was the dogma
of modern times, then Brower was the apostate.
“His mission was to show people how their lives were intertwined with
their surroundings and make them aware of their responsibility and
relationship with those finite resources:
“ ‘We seek a renewed stirring of love for the earth. We plead that what we
are capable of doing to it is often what we ought not to do. We urge that
all people now determine that an untrammeled wildness shall remain here
to testify that this generation had love for the next.’
“That was David Brower’s credo, his single-minded pursuit and, occasionally,
his joyful victory.”
— Polly Dyer
See the full homage to David Brower in The Wild Cascades Winter 2001 edition