[Robert Underwood] Johnson
Martinez Dec. 6, 1894
My dear Johnson,
I hate this job of thrashing old straw--proving what has already been proved a thousand times--still as must be here goes.
Every good thing--every reservation in this world, public or private needs defense against thieves that walk in darkness or against lawyers that walk bravely forth in the light beneath the dome of the nation's capital. And so it is that no sooner are our forest reserves made for the good of all the people than they are subject to the attacks of lumbermen sheepmen & other selfish seekers of immediate mammon.
No matter how large or how small these national reserves may be, or how beneficent in character, or by whom made
sooner or later they are sure to be attacked & destroyed unless watchfully defended.
The very first forest reserve that I ever heard of, & the most moderate in extent was located in the garden of Eden & included only one tree. The Lord himself laid out the boundaries of it, but even that reserve was attacked & broken in upon. The attacks then of sheepmen & lumberman, unregenerate sons of Adam on the Yosemite National Park are in the natural course of things.
The Camminetti park-destroying bill seems to me one of the most authentic productions of the sheepmen & lumbermen long accusomed to take everything within reach regardless of the rights of others however farreaching
This bill however plausible seems to me only a cunningly devised lawyer's fable--a sounding brass & tinkling cymbal in which the few garden patches & so-called farms located in the lower western margin of the park & the one mine that has ever paid for working are made use of in the interests of lumbermen & sheepmen to get the other three sides of the park cut down,--on the north for lumber, on the south for lumber, & on the east beneath the summit peaks for sheep pasture.
On the other hand the argument for the preservation & intelligent managment of the nation's forests seems to me solid as geometry & has been demonstrated over & over again by the experience of every nation under the sun in which the question has arisen.
In the few years since the Yosemite National Park was organized & defended a wonderful change for the better has been made. The floor of the forest was dust & ashes. The sheepherder made his campfire against trees twenty to thirty feet in diameter which were waving their green domes in the sky at the time Christ walked the earth.
Now these forests--the noblest in the world are saved & the beneficent wealth-bearing wilderness rejoices & begins to look like paradise before the devil began operations there.
No. Instead of contracting the boundaries of the forest reserves let them by all means be extended to comprehend all the fountains of the streams on which they fertility of the lowlands depends
As to the western boundary line below the main forest belt if the few people there really wish to be excluded, let them go. Though I doubt not most of them who have no lumber claims higher up the range are glad of the advantage of being protected from the hordes of sheep that, annually coming & going to & from the upper pastures, used to sweep the hills about their little ranches bare, leaving their few head of cattle to starve or half starve.
All that is urged in the Camminetti Bill & in the memorial of the Mariposa people making out that the greater part of the park is made up of oppressed farmers & farms, mines & miners is only lawyers' bosh.
Original letter dimensions unknown.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [Robert Underwood] Johnson, 1894 Dec 6." (1894). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 6931.
Reel 08, Image 0577
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