Dams, Parks and Politics

Dams, Parks and Politics: Resource Development and Preservation the Truman-Eisenhower Era

Elmo Richardson
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Dams, Parks and Politics
    Book Description:

    This book is a chronicle of the myopia and gamesmanship that dominated Americans' understanding of their environment on the eve of the nation's ecology crisis. Based almost entirely on primary sources, Elmo Richardson's study examines the interplay between the national policies and programs for development and preservation of natural resources in the centralist Truman administration and the localist, enterprise-oriented Eisenhower administration. He shows that the decade examined brought about very little change in the values held by federal policy makers. Although the development of resources was a prominent issue in the elections of 1948, 1952, and 1956, what emerges from Richardson's account is the shallowness of understanding on the part of the decision makers and the public, and the ease with which policy direction could be deflected. The book demonstrates the persistence of the tradition of development and the nonpartisan character of the movement for preservation, which crossed party lines, regional lines, and economic interest groups.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6436-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-18)

    The United States inherited a seemingly inexhaustible fortune in natural resources, yet it has responded to its environment with a dismaying mixture of materialism and inertia. The nation was virtually founded upon a ubiquitous desire for access to the land and its contents. Its amazing growth during the nineteenth century was based directly upon exploitation—immediate, unplanned, full use of soils, minerals, forests, and rivers. Equitable access to these natural bounties rather than constitutional guarantees would be the practical basis for democracy. Subsequently, political institutions were shaped in such a way that they could facilitate the disposition of the public...

  4. Chapter One CVA: THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
    (pp. 19-38)

    Before the end of Harry Truman’s first month in the White House, he made the expansion of regional water power projects a primary domestic goal of his administration. It was, he told a meeting of advisers and legislators, “a subject close to my heart and vital to the future of the nation.” He intended to resume the course set by Roosevelt by seeking congressional authorization of the programs outlined in the Bureau of Reclamation’s wartime surveys. In September 1945 he presented a twenty-one point agenda to Congress, including an appeal to apply the lessons learned at TVA to other river...

  5. Chapter Two THE LAND GRABBERS
    (pp. 39-53)

    Julius Krug became secretary of the Interior in order to preside over the Truman administration’s water and power programs, but he was faced with a significant challenge in the preservation of resources as well. The roots of that problem lay in the general public’s overwhelming postwar desire for unencumbered economic development and in the political resurgence of those elements—Democrat and Republican—which had grown dissatisfied with Harold Ickes’s resource policies. In Congress, they joined under the banner of economy to cut the budgets of the bureaus administering land and resource use and to halt any further centralization of administration...

    (pp. 54-70)

    While the alarms and excursions over CVA were still sounding late in 1949, Julius Krug resigned as secretary of the Interior. There had been talk of his replacement after the campaign of 1948, an event in which he had been noticeably less active than his lieutenant, Under Secretary Oscar Chapman. By the following spring, he very rarely called on the president; by October there was a rumor of friction in the cabinet. Truman declined to answer press questions about it, but there may well have been a mutual feeling of disappointment between the two men after the long, futile CVA...

    (pp. 71-87)

    Positively stated, the issues of resources policy had helped swing the West to the Democrats in 1948. In 1952 these issues were viewed from a negative perspective and discussed as an example of what the incumbents had done and what the challengers would do if elected. The Republicans had several more effective themes on which to concentrate their rhetoric: the Cold War, Korea, internal security, federal spending, and the so-called Truman scandals. Although having less broad appeal, the controversies over water and power development reminded western voters of some of these larger issues. Cattlemen in Arizona and Texas, for example,...

    (pp. 88-113)

    The new secretary of the Interior was the object of heavy-handed prejudice on the part of political pundits long accustomed to the sophisticated procedures of veteran Democrats. Everything he did thereafter was viewed through that initial judgment. It is time for an accurate assessment of his record and an account of the factors that transformed him into a public “villain.” An examination of evidence in official and personal sources establishes three conclusions: First, McKay carried a heavier burden of expectations than any of his predecessors in the twentieth century. Second, his own view of his role, and the determination of...

    (pp. None)
    (pp. 114-128)

    The promise to modify twenty years of federal domination of water and power development was one of the most striking issues of the Republican campaign of 1952. The party’s candidates had called for a reduction in government spending in all areas, foreign and domestic. At the same time, they had implied that they would dismantle federal bureaucracy and restore reliance upon local and private initiative. Dwight Eisenhower asserted that a power policy based upon “partnership” could fulfill these promises. He and his lieutenants did not conceive of that emphasis as a backward step, however, but as a restoration of balance...

  11. Chapter Seven JUST A TINY DINOSAUR
    (pp. 129-152)

    The controversy over storage reservoirs in Dinosaur National Monument drew more public attention to the resource policies of the Eisenhower administration than partnership or Hells Canyon. The latter issues were regional and technically complex. By contrast, the apparent threat to the national park system seemed a clear struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness, a simple choice on a subject that Americans everywhere could understand. The subject had grown heated during the Truman years; now it exploded into a blaze that singed an otherwise popular administration, undermined public trust in its resource policies, and contributed substantially to its first...

  12. Chapter Eight THE GIVEAWAY BRAND
    (pp. 153-170)

    Months before there was evidence that the Republican administration was bent on changing resource policy, Democrats made the subject a special target of their attacks. Their primary purpose was to regain control of Congress in the elections of 1954; consequently they felt there was no time to lose if they were to discredit their opponents by then. Federal resource policy had been their proud possession for twenty years. It had been a dueling ground during the Truman administration and one of the most striking choices involved in the 1952 campaign. Perhaps they hoped to repeat the Clark Clifford strategy of...

    (pp. 171-186)

    Douglas McKay had decided to resign before the Al Sarena investigation. There were occasional hints in his private correspondence and offhand comments that he meant to leave the cabinet at the end of the first term in January 1957. He wanted to retire to a quiet, nonpolitical existence back at his home in Neskowin, Oregon, where he could spend more time with his children and grandchildren. He was exhausted by three years of controversial decisions and partisan harassment. The sense of obligation to serve the president and the party which had caused him to accept the Interior post now seemed...

  14. Epilogue RIGHT MAN ON THE LID?
    (pp. 187-202)

    After Douglas McKay resigned as secretary of the Interior, the White House men quietly but pointedly hung a sign on the department policies reading: “under new management.” They had to tread carefully in choosing a successor and do nothing that would lend credence to the Democratic charge that McKay had been “thrown to the wolves” in Oregon in order to remove the “giveaway” stigma from the administration. Nor could they appear to bow to their critics by appointing a man whose views would be a marked change from the partnership emphasis. As the president told the press in June 1956,...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 203-235)
  16. Primary Sources
    (pp. 236-240)
  17. Index
    (pp. 241-247)