Friday, August 7, 2009

Hetch Hetchy and America's Best Idea

This fall Ken Burns' long-awaited film: The National Parks: America's Best Idea will be released .

Burns borrows Wallace Stegner's "best idea" quote for the title. We agree. Maybe that is why we care so much about the legacy of Hetch Hetchy Valley and are dedicated to its restoration.

Hetch Hetchy's legacy goes beyond that of the loss of a serene river crossing a high mountain valley surrrounded by towering cliffs and thundering waterfalls. The debate over damming Hetch Hetchy Valley created an unprecedented nationwide controversy, drawing opposition from more than 100 newspapers and shaping the Sierra Club into a focussed political organization.
It was the loss of this valley that persuaded Congress to place much greater value in its National Parks. Three years after allowing the dam to be built (in large part due to sympathy for San Francisco's 1906 Earthquake), Congress passed the "Organic Act" establishing the National Park Service. Never since has such development been allowed in a National Park.

While the Park Service is usually pretty discreet about this aspect of its history, its website does note that "The Hetch Hetchy was spoiled before the National Park Service was established."

We are looking forward to viewing Burns' film, and hope that it will remind Americans about the importance of our National Parks as well encourage support for the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

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