Arthur Carhart

Arthur Carhart: Wilderness Prophet

TOM WOLF
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46nw1k
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    Arthur Carhart
    Book Description:

    Arthur Carhart (1892 -1978), America's first champion of wilderness, the first Forest Service landscape architect, and the most popular conservation writer of mid-century America, won none of the titan status of his contemporary Aldo Leopold. A political maverick, he refused to side with any major advocacy group and none has made him its saint. Carhart was a grassroots thinker in a top-down era. Arthur Carhart, the first biography of this Republican environmentalist and major American thinker, writer, and activist, reveals the currency of his ideas. Tom Wolf elucidates Carhart 's vision of conservation as "a job for all of us," with citizens, municipal authorities, and national leaders all responsible for the environmental effects of their decisions. Carhart loved the local and decried interest groups - from stockmens' associations to wilderness lobbies - as cliques attempting blanket control. He pressured land management agencies to base decisions on local ecology and local partnerships. A lifelong wilderness advocate who proposed the first wilderness preserve at Trappers Lake, Colorado, in 1919, Carhart chose to oppose the Wilderness Act, heartsick at its compromises with lobbies. Because he shifted his stance and changed his views in response to new information, Carhart is not an easy subject for a biography. Wolf traces Carhart's twists and turns to show a man whose voice was distinctive and contrary, who spoke from a passionate concern for the land and couldn't be counted on for anything else. Readers of American history and outdoor writing will enjoy this portrait of a historic era in conservation politics and the man who so often eschewed politics in favor of the land and people he loved.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-045-6
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
    WILLIAM BLAKE
  4. INTRODUCTION: ITʹS OUR JOB, A JOB FOR ALL OF US
    (pp. 1-12)

    Arthur Carhart’s centrist ideas about water and wilderness make him a good guide for some of the choices ordinary citizens must make today. Conservation politics have become polarized in ways that may benefit the blindly partisan but that will only harm our public lands. As we look to a future where climate change will dominate land management, we should give the past a vote by examining Arthur Carhart’s life. We should keep in mind Carhart’s prophetic way of linking water and wilderness.

    Climate change is affecting our public lands—particularly the high-altitude areas we have designated as Wilderness.² Which changes...

  5. CHAPTER ONE LIFE WAS SURE RUGGED
    (pp. 13-32)

    In June 1978, as the eighty-five-year-old Arthur Carhart lay dying among the avocado groves in faraway southern California, the citizens of his hometown were holding the Centennial Celebration for Mapleton, Iowa. Couples danced to the music of an orchestra. At the intermissions, a barbershop quartet crooned the old tunes Carhart and his lifelong friend, Charles G. “Judge” Whiting, sang on their senior class day in 1910.² Thanks to the advent of the automobile and improved roads, young Carhart had witnessed many scenes like this Centennial Celebration. Between high school and the Great War, as he struggled to find himself, Carhart...

  6. CHAPTER TWO ECONOMIC EFFICIENCY OF FOREST MANAGEMENT
    (pp. 33-44)

    Carhart had a practical touch, a knack for fitting people and landscapes with each other. He used basic sciences like bacteriology to improve this fit, not only in 1917 with the U.S. Army but also in 1919 with the Forest Service, when he discovered the shocking sanitary conditions at Squirrel Creek—future site of the first Forest Service auto campground—and at Trappers Lake.

    Carhart’s solid education had prepared him to combine the visionary and the practical. He provided this staccato version of his many activities during wartime:

    Then enlisted as musician in army. Sent to Chickamauga Park, Ga. Headquarters...

  7. CHAPTER THREE ULTIMATELY TO PERFECT THE SCENE
    (pp. 45-58)

    Ella Carhart’s ardent ambitions for her son quickly bore fruit. As the Carharts’ speeding train brought the Rocky Mountains ever closer, it seemed to become a chariot of fire. Such feelings only intensified when Arthur Carhart realized that Colorado was heavily industrialized and urbanized and that its once-forested watersheds were devastated. Who were the warriors who could restore the watersheds and their people to health?

    “Would to God that all the Lords People were Prophets” (Blake, Milton). Public lands recreation would make men and women to match the mountains. Carhart, a professional singer, knew the uplifting, populist power of the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR TRAPPERS LAKE, CRADLE OF WILDERNESS
    (pp. 59-80)

    In 1919, Arthur Carhart’s imagination and foresight helped make Trappers Lake “the cradle of wilderness,” as Roderick Nash has said. In 1975, fifty-six years later, Congress designated the Flat Tops Wilderness, including Trappers Lake. In 2002, the Big Fish Fire burned all the timber around the lake, consuming 17,000 acres of the watershed. In 2005, the Colorado Division of Wildlife started reintroducing Colorado River cutthroat trout to Trappers Lake as part of a new management plan that begins at the top of the watershed.²

    Trappers Lake has a history as checkered as the concept of wilderness itself. Can it be...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE PLANS MUST BE BIG AND BOLD
    (pp. 81-106)

    After his month or so at Trappers Lake, Carhart returned to Denver and Vee in mid-October 1919. There is no record of his homecoming after such a long absence or of their domestic relations during this period. During this time, however, Ella Carhart started weaving grandmother-in-waiting hints into her letters to Arthur and Vee.

    For the time being, there was apparently more exhilarating work: Carhart was writing. In addition to the spate of wilderness-related memos mentioned in earlier chapters, he also wrote an essay for his colleagues titled “Landscape Appreciation.” This is the sort of aesthetic effusion Aldo Leopold produced...

  10. CHAPTER SIX MY DISAPPOINTMENT COMES FROM EXPECTING TOO MUCH
    (pp. 107-128)

    Carhart spent December and early January preparing for the National Conference on Parks, set to be held in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 11–12, 1921. As a native Iowan and the Forest Service’s sole recreation engineer, Carhart was an understandable choice to represent the Forest Service, however unofficially. James Good, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, had been a Republican congressman from Iowa since 1909, so he was a lobbying target for Carhart and his allies in state and federal forest agencies.

    After a brief visit with his parents in Mapleton, Carhart continued his homecoming campaign by returning to...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN HOG WILD ON RECREATION
    (pp. 129-138)

    Carhart’s stint in the U.S. Army showed that he could serve a cause. His later federal work showed that he could function in a bureaucracy, although never smoothly. After he left the Forest Service, he spent the next fifty-six years serving the cause of conservation with honor and distinction—and a fierce sense of independence. As George Carhart had warned his son, leaving the Forest Service would exact a pound of flesh. Carhart paid this price in terms both emotional and financial. The Carharts, for example, did not move into their own house in Park Hill until June 1927.

    Always...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT THAT THREADBARE THEORY ʺLEAVE NATURE ALONEʺ
    (pp. 139-154)

    Carhart once wrote: “And sometimes I wonder why in the devil I’m driven to be three men: landscape architect, greenhouse executive and key pounder! I’d a darnedsight rather go fishing!”² Conservation advocacy was an important part of Carhart’s key pounding. He was beginning to see that the writing skills he had developed while in the Forest Service might not only serve the cause of conservation but could also contribute to his goal of making enough money to buy a brick house in Park Hill and to open a greenhouse in Cañon City.

    While Chapter 9 examines Carhart’s development as a...

  13. CHAPTER NINE A GOOD BAD BOOK
    (pp. 155-168)

    Arthur Carhart wrote because he had to write, both as compulsion and as compensation. As a free-thinking reformer, he was too busy to distinguish between the two. As a populist, he knew the importance of maintaining a well-informed electorate. He was too good-natured and egalitarian to be a snob, especially when it came to plain English versus professional jargon.² George Orwell was referring to writers like Carhart when he wrote that there was such a thing as a “good bad book” that “has no literary pretensions but remains readable when more serious productions have perished.”³ By the time he left...

  14. CHAPTER TEN I AM GOING TO WRITE A WOLF BOOK
    (pp. 169-188)

    Mary Austin was a prominent regional writer in Carhart’s time. Born in Illinois in 1868 (a year before Carhart’s mother), she and Carhart aspired to share a new regional culture composed of Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo ways of adapting to a harsh environment. When Austin encountered Carhart’s book on the ways of the wolf, she was working on her autobiography, in which she described a mystical childhood union with nature very much like Carhart’s 1919 experience at Trappers Lake.²

    Austin settled in Santa Fe in 1923, the year the Bureau of Biological Survey’s traps and poisons killed one of the...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN OH, FOR ANOTHER TR
    (pp. 189-204)

    During most of the 1930s, Carhart earned his way as a writer. Laboring in the basement office of his home, he pounded out articles about forestry, landscaping, and outdoor sports, especially fishing. Working for one cent per word, he created romance fiction under contracts that required him to produce two stories a month: one 25,000 words long and one 15,000 words long. He also published six books, including some novels that sold moderately well and some books on do-it-yourself landscaping. His production amounted to 1 million words per year during the period 1931–1937, when he finally took a break...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE GETTING TOWARD HALF A CENTURY
    (pp. 205-222)

    Carhart developed a sure sportsman’s touch after he left the Forest Service. He became an expert hunter and fisherman, capping his authority with practical research on game management from 1937 to 1942. Through his writing, he turned the ardor of sportsmen toward the cause of conservation. Carhart pushed a conservation credo, but (like any good campfire cook) he made his lean and gamy message palatable by wrapping it in the bacon of lore and legend. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Carhart had his own radio shows on various Denver-based stations, where he mixed politics and practicalities as deftly as he...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN A PERVERSE HABIT OF CALLING THE SHOTS IN ANY DIRECTION
    (pp. 223-242)

    Shunned by the Wilderness Society, Carhart made a virtue—and a career—of being an increasingly curmudgeonly outsider. In early 1955, Carhart received an invitation to become a director of the Citizens Committee on Natural Resources. After mulling it over for a month, he accepted, joining a prestigious group that included Sigurd Olson, Joe Penfold, Howard Zahniser, Olaus Murie, Alfred Knopf, Ira Gabrielson, Newton Drury, J. N. “Ding” Darling, David Brower, and Horace Albright.

    In spite of chronic poor health, Carhart maintained a rigorous writing schedule that kept him both cantankerous and happy.² He reveled in the role of curmudgeon....

  18. CHAPTER FOURTEEN AN OLD BUCK, ALWAYS OFF THE RESERVATION AND HUNTING LONELY
    (pp. 243-264)

    Having ridden out the Depression at his typewriter, Carhart retained a vivid sense of the value of a dollar to the end of his life.² Arthur and Vee had inherited their parents’ old-fashioned work ethic, and they fully intended to toil as long as they were able. They had taken George Carhart into their home. They entered their old age beset by health problems. Carhart gamely “played hurt,” remaining productive until his stroke in 1966 and then persevering until his death at age eighty-six in 1978.

    Family prevailed. A few months after Vee’s death from cancer on January 29, 1966,...

  19. CONCLUSION: NOW A WELL-KNOWN CONSERVATION GIANT
    (pp. 265-270)

    Arthur Carhart knew that every interest group strives to socialize costs and privatize benefits. In contrast, he rose to national prominence as a spokesperson for the public interest, for the common person. He was a voice for moderation in conservation politics. He was never partisan. Whether he was writing about water or wilderness or grazing, his voice was distinctive and contrary, as if he were a twentieth-century Walt Whitman, a kindly curmudgeon of an uncle, appealing to the democratic best in us.

    I happen to be an American citizen, equal owner with you in these public lands, interested in their...

  20. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 271-278)
  21. PARTIAL CARHART BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 279-282)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 283-294)