Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson - Rachel Carson, Linda Lear (1999)

Part II

Chapter 14. Mr. Day’s Dismissal

[1953]

ALBERT M. DAY was named director of the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1946, and under his direction the Service became the premier advocate for the conservation of the wildlife resources of the nation.

When the Republicans won the White House in 1952, they began to institute policies more beneficial to big business than to conservation. Shortly after Oregon businessman Douglas McKay was appointed Secretary of the Interior, Albert Day and other top professional staff of the department were dismissed and replaced by nonprofessional political appointees. Deeply disturbed by this trend and what it portended for the future of the environment, Carson took pen to paper to protest.

Her letter to the editor of the Washington Post displays Carson’s activist instincts, and her skill in raising the standard of political debate. Her letter was picked up by the Associated Press wire service, syndicated across the country, and later reprinted in Reader’s Digest.

image THE DISMISSAL OF MR. ALBERT M. DAY as director of the Fish and Wildlife Service is the most recent of a series of events that should be deeply disturbing to every thoughtful citizen. The ominous pattern that is clearly being revealed is the elimination from the Government of career men of long experience and high professional competence and their replacement by political appointees. The firing of Mr. Marion Clawson, director of the Bureau of Land Management, is another example. There are widespread rumors that the head of the Park Service, who, like Mr. Day, has spent his entire professional life in the organization he heads, will also be replaced. These actions strongly suggest that the way is being cleared for a raid upon our natural resources that is without parallel within the present century.

The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth – soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife. To utilize them for present needs while insuring their preservation for future generations requires a delicately balanced and continuing program, based on the most extensive research. Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics.

By long tradition, the agencies responsible for these resources have been directed by men of professional stature and experience, who have understood, respected, and been guided by the findings of their scientists. Mr. Day’s career in wildlife conservation began 35 years ago, when, as a young biologist, he was appointed to the staff of the former Biological Survey, which later became part of the Fish and Wildlife Service. During the intervening years he rose through the ranks, occupying successively higher positions until he was appointed director in 1946. He achieved a reputation as an able and fair-minded administrator, with courage to stand firm against the minority groups who demanded that he relax wildlife conservation measures so that they might raid these public resources. Secretary McKay, whose own grasp of conservation problems is yet to be demonstrated, has now decreed that the Nation is to be deprived of these services.

These actions within the Interior Department fall into place beside the proposed giveaway of our offshore oil reserves and the threatened invasion of national parks, forests and other public lands.

For many years public-spirited citizens throughout the country have been working for the conservation of the natural resources, realizing their vital importance to the Nation. Apparently their hard-won progress is to be wiped out, as a politically minded Administration returns us to the dark ages of unrestrained exploitation and destruction.

It is one of the ironies of our time that, while concentrating on the defense of our country against enemies from without, we should be so heedless of those who would destroy it from within.