National Geographic : 1914 Jul
CONSERVING THE BEAUTY OF NATURE The government of the United States has begun to use effectively its constitu tional powers for improving the environ ment of the people by conserving broad scenes of extraordinary natural beauty and single beautiful or striking objects which, without the protection afforded them by government, might be lost to future generations. The national parks are reserved by act 'of Congress; the President, by executive order, may and does order the preservation of smaller areas or single objects under the title of national monuments. State legislatures have begun to provide State reservations, and have authorized municipalities, or special districts, to acquire both large and small parks. Chartered bodies of trus tees have been authorized by State legis latures to acquire and hold considerable areas for perpetual public use. THE PLAN FOR A NATIONAL MONUMENT AT MOUNT DESERT On the beautiful island of Mount Des ert, not far from the northeastern ex tremity of the Atlantic coast of the United States, there is at this moment opportunity for establishing a national monument of unique interest and large serviceableness. The island is the loftiest piece of land on the Atlantic coast of the United States, and has a sharply differ entiated surface of hills and valleys, a climate midway between that of the neigh boring lands and that of the surrounding sea, abundant water, and in favorable spots a highly productive soil, well suited for growing a wide variety of trees, flow ering shrubs, and herbaceous plants be longing to the temperate and subarctic regions of the world. Private initiative and enterprise have long since demonstrated the peculiar fit ness of the Mount Desert climate and soils for horticultural and arboricultural uses, and leading botanists and garden experts have testified to the remarkable thriftiness of plants grown upon the is land, as well as to the unusual beauty and rich coloring of their blooms. A body of trustees, called the "Han cock County Trustees of Public Reserva tions," has already acquired the wooded slopes and rocky summits of many of the principal hills, and holds them for per petual public enjoyment. Possession, too, has been secured by public-spirited pri vate persons of considerable areas excep tionally fitted for the growth and exhi bition of all varieties of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants which the landscape architect might use in developing all across the continent, in northern climates, parks and gardens for the enjoyment of city populations. Here, too, all the bird food plants could be appropriately culti vated and bird sanctuaries provided. The cultivated tracts would have a noble back ground of rocky cliffs and lofty hills, and down the valleys and gorges visitors would look out from time to time over the near bays or the distant ocean. Here, in short, could be brought together under highly favorable conditions and in great variety the botanical and zoological ma terials of the landscape and garden de signer. If the government of the United States should set aside as a national monument a large area on this picturesque and unique island, it would help to consecrate for all time to the improvement of the human environment one of the most beautiful and interesting regions in the whole country; and in so doing it would take appropriate part in resisting and overcoming the destructive influences on modern civilization of urban life and the factory system. The powers of the national govern ment have thus far been exerted to these conservation ends chiefly in the Far West, where population is sparse and the evils of city life and the factory system are little developed. Is it not just and highly expedient that these beneficent powers should now be exerted in the East, where manufacturing industries occupy the ma jor part of the population and the de structive effects of city life have long been manifest?