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 From Conservation to Preservation Grant the Naturalist By the turn of the twentieth century, with the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium firmly established as the largest and most popular institutions of their kind in the world, Madison Grant decided he could devote more time to his studies of North American mammals. He had not written about natural history since “The Vanishing Moose” in 1894 (the year before he founded the Zoological Society). But beginning in 1901, and for the next four years, he produced a series of erudite monographs on the large fauna of North America, including “Moose,” “The Caribou,” “The Rocky Mountain Goat,” “Notes on Adirondack Mammals,” and “The Origin and Relationship of the Large Mammals of North America.” Grant’s articles on mammals covered in detail their evolutionary history, physical characteristics, geographic distribution, and habits in the wild. The articles were scholarly in tone and thoroughly accurate, and they earned Grant a high reputation among naturalists. Without ever formally studying biology or paleontology, Grant could plausibly discuss anything from the effects of glaciation to the evolution of palmated antlers. And while he may not have been the scientist he or his friends thought he was, Grant was an excellent popularizer . In particular, he had a marvelous talent for explaining Darwinism to the sophisticated layman. When telling the story of mammalian evolution, he could weave together in a comprehensible fashion arcane facts about geology,speciation,parallelism,andprehistoricclimatic changes—with a few hunting anecdotes and quotes from the Nibelungenlied thrown in for good measure. Three themes continually reappeared in Grant’s natNo greater conservationist than Madison Grant ever lived! Horace M. Albright, director of the National Park Service ural history writings: typology (the concept that for each genus there was a classic “type”—a sort of platonic ideal—which was invariably the largest and “handsomest” version of the animal); deterioration (the claim that even the “types” were degenerating as a result of trophy hunters killing the largest bulls); and invasive species (the idea that Americans must prevent the introduction of Old World animals, as they could mingle with native animals and form “a mongrel race,” or even completely drive out the native species). Grant’s writings from 1901 to 1905 made him a recognized expert on the fauna of North America.1 One decade later, guided by the principle that “the laws which govern the distribution of the various races of man and their evolution through selection are substantially the same as those controlling the evolution and distribution of the larger mammals,” Grant would apply to Homo sapiens his ideas about typology, deterioration, and foreign species, and the effort would earn him a new reputation as an expert on anthropology and the prophet of scientific racism.2 Game Refuges In the meantime, as Grant continued to study the fauna of North America, he recognized far in advance of most of his compatriots that habitat destruction would pose a mortal danger to the continued viability of wildlife during the twentieth century. Grant saw that the continent’s wetlands were being drained by agriculturists, its forests ravaged by lumbermen, its soil depleted by homesteaders , its native plants despoiled by ranchers, its riparian areas poisoned by miners, and hitherto untouched areas of the continent invaded by railroads. He realized that the forces of development threatened to destroy within a matter of years what remained of the American wilderness, and thereby do far more harm to the native fauna than armies of market hunters had ever done. The word “melancholy” appears very often in Grant’s nature writings, and it was with melancholy that he warned that “sooner or later the development and population of the country at large will reach a point when there will be no room for the larger forms of mammalian life.”3 By the first decade of the twentieth century, having ended unsportsmanlike and market hunting, Grant decided that the time had come to promulgate a new initiative: the creation of game refuges. These would be inviolate sanctuaries set aside by the federal government in discrete locations throughout the country within which animals could roam and breed undisturbed by hunters or settlers. “However efficient the game laws may be,” explained Grant, “the only permanently effective way to continue in abundance and in individual vigor any species of game is to establish proper sanctuaries.” The Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium were in essence game refuges—they just happened to be located in the midst...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781584658108
Related ISBN
9781584657156
MARC Record
OCLC
667076920
Pages
508
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-31
Language
English
Open Access
No
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