Conserving Nature in This Land

By Russell Kirk

As I wander from state to state, speechifying on everything under the sun, I find that two subjects are most popular with lecture-audiences this year: sex and conservation. The former has always been with us, but the latter topic has taken on urgency, what with the rapid devastation of natural beauties and resources by a civilization (whether in these United States or in Soviet Russia) preoccupied by getting and spending.

Of the organizations that endeavor to save for us our scenic heritage and unspoilt sanctuaries of earth, flora, and fauna, one of the biggest and most energetic is the Nature Conservancy (headquarters at 1522 K Street, Washington, D. C.). Last year alone, the Conservancy was the prime mover in saving some 102,000 acres of this country from devastation. A tax-exempt foundation, the Conservancy at present conducts some 336 conservation projects.

A principal object of the Conservancy is to acquire area that ought to be preserved for future generations, and eventually to convey these areas to public control—federal, state, and local—in perpetuity, or to local preservationist bodies. Welcoming gifts of land, the Conservancy insures that whole regions—like the Kipahulu Valley, in Maui, Hawaii—will be protected in a fashion that no private proprietor could guarantee.

Consider some of the Conservancy’s accomplishments, in many states, during the past year. In Florida, they acquired Blowing Rocks, the curious stretch of barrier reef (4,400 feet of it) on Jupiter Island, Martin County, on the east coast, with its loggerhead turtles and other creatures.

In California, the Conservancy raised money to make a county park of Jack’s Peak, with its rare stand of Monterey pine and its splendid prospect of Monterey Bay and the Carmel Valley.

In Maine, the Conservancy has become proprietor of two-thirds of Lang’s Island, off Vinalhaven, with its picturesque shoreline its moors and its birds.

In Albany County, New York, the Conservancy has insured the preservation of Hannacroix Ravine, a gorge 90 feet deep, blessed with hemlocks and red maples, and rich in wildflowers.

In eastern Ohio, the Conservancy has been given The Wilderness, a forest of 280 acres, with rare plants and interesting rock formations. It will joined with neighboring lovely tracts.

In upper Michigan, the Conservancy acquired the Brisson Tracts, with the Rock River Gorge; these will be added, before long, to the Hiawatha National Forest, near Lake Superior.

In eastern Tennessee, the Conservatory has taken possession of No Business Ridge, through which the Appalachian Trail runs for a mile, amidst the Cherokee National Forest.

In Connecticut, Cottrell Marsh, near Mystic, is 35 acres of unblemished salt march, with 15 acres of woodland by way of frontier; here the Conservancy protects the herons, ducks, and ospreys.

These are only some of the major new projects. In addition, local chapters of the Conservancy have many valuable undertakings, and the Conservancy assists sanctuaries and refuges and charming corners not directly under its administration.

Only very tardily, we have commenced to respect the claims of natural beauty and variety and charm, as opposed to “development” that means obliteration. But it is not yet too late to save much for ourselves and future generations.