Conservation's First Lady

  • Rosalie Edge (center right) standing with Irma and Maurice Broun (left) and Clayton Hoff.

    Used by permission of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary archives, image courtesy University of Georgia Press.
 

"Fancy how I trembled."

That was activist Rosalie Edge's tongue-in-cheek response to an incident in the 1930s, when an Audubon Society attorney accused her of being a "common scold." A thorn in the conservation organization's side for decades, Edge badgered board members and directors for bowing to sportsmen's influence and ignoring dissenting voices.

Although her name is unfamiliar to most, Edge's legacy pervades today's environmental movement. A New York socialite sparked to action after reading a 1929 paper, "A Crisis in Conservation" -- in which three scientists criticized environmental organizations for not halting the "annihilation" of species -- Edge fought to protect hawk habitat in Pennsylvania and set aside national parks in California and Washington. She influenced the Sierra Club's first executive director, David Brower, as well as The Nature Conservancy's founder, Richard Pough, and supplied data to scientist Rachel Carson, who linked the use of DDT to declining bird populations in her best-selling book, Silent Spring. And yet much of this history would be lost if not for Dyana Furmansky's new book, Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy: The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists.

Furmansky serves up something akin to insider's gossip, touching upon the founding of The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club and Edge's own Emergency Conservation Committee; she also sheds necessary light upon some of Edge's contemporaries. In recent years, for example, the nation's first Forest Service chief, Gifford Pinchot, has been afforded a green halo of sorts, especially in comparison with Bush administration appointees. It's worth remembering, though, that Pinchot was adamant that when it came to forests, "trees and other reserve natural resources were for economic use."

At a time when the future of environmentalism -- and the planet -- is in question, Furmansky's book pays tribute to a woman who protected ecosystems during difficult economic times, penning inflammatory pamphlets to incite public outrage, harassing the staid leaders of organizations such as Audubon, and lending her voice to scientists too nervous to publicly question common practices, such as poisoning and trapping wildlife.

Edge had fire in the belly -- and Furmansky's book serves as a timely reminder that today's conservation movement could use a few more firebrands. 

High Country News Classifieds
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    The Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations to value, conserve, enhance, manage, and protect...
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • NORTH TUCSON FOOTHILLS
    11.63 acres of lush desert foothills on Tucson's near north side, secluded, secure, no HOA. 10 minute walk to Waldorf and Montessori schools, regional bike...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • MS ACCESS DATABASE PROGRAMER
    Looking for an access programmer. Contract position. Send resume with references and rates to: [email protected] www.prospace.biz
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.