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The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

imagesAlthough it might seem like establishing our national parks and wilderness areas was probably a bipartisan no brainer, it was not.  In our modern world, there are people who are ambivalent about conservation but can you believe that long ago there were politicians and many wealthy people totally against conservation?  I was astonished when I read The Big Burn by Timothy Egan which is about Teddy Roosevelt, his friend Gifford Pinchot, and their big dreams and achievements of preserving hundreds of millions of acres and establishing the U.S. Forest Service.   They had to battle Congress every step of the way-Congress refused to provide funds for ranger stations or trails and sometimes even for rangers’ salaries!  Many rangers even had to provide their own tools and horses-some even would take up collections to help pay any new recruits.  It took a monstrous wildfire destroying millions of acres of beautiful forests, frontier towns, and costing many lives before some politicians came to their senses and decided to fund the service.   Still, Congress balked at paying rangers’ medical bills from the fire or any back pay to the families who were left behind.   One Congressman even stated publicly that if it weren’t for the conservation movement and more logging companies were allowed to get into those forests and clear cut, there wouldn’t have been any trees to fuel the big fire and so no lives would’ve been lost!  I came away from this book with a lot of admiration for those early rangers and embarrassed at our Congress for their failure to provide basic support to these good men.  Extremely interesting.

Stacy W.

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