A couple of weeks ago,while watching the PBS special by Ken Burns, America's Best Idea, I learned about the history of the National Park Service including the political challenges facing the lands,monuments, and people involved with perseving these special places for all Americans. I also learned about George Melendez Wright.
George Melendez Wright was the son of a ship captain from San Franciso and El Salvadoran mother. As a youth he enjoyed the northern California outdoors. He earned degrees in Forestry and Zoology from the University of California - Berkeley. It seems only right that he would work for the National Parks Service as a naturalist at Yosemite Park.
However, Mr. Wright, with his scientific background did more than blaze park trails - he blazed a new direction for the Park Service. In 1930, with the help of two colleagues he documented all of the plants and animals in the park. The effort took four years, and he funded much of the work out of his own pockets. Visitors were coming in droves, which is a good thing. But Wright also recognized that the amount and degree of human interaction and impact on this wild place could not be good for the local wildlife. It wasn't. Many species were becoming acclimated to people and would come in very close contact. At the time it was perfectly fine to touch animals, feed bears, systematically kill predators and encroach on wild habitats.
He helped forge new the policies that benefited preserving the wildlife for future generations and protect people from their own curiosity. This formative work led to recommendations that were published in 1932 as Fauna of the National Parks of the United States, a Preliminary Survey of Faunal Relations in National Parks. Eventually, all other parks would conduct and publish a survey of the local fauna and flora. While completing a related work along the US-Mexico border he was killed in an automobile acccident. He was 31 years old.
His legacy continues today. The tradition of environmental stewardship has birthed the works of natural resource managers, scientists, and volunteers on national parks areas. Learn more about George Wright and his leagacy at these links:
George Melendez Wright Biography on the PBS National Parks Website.
George Melendez Wright Biology at the National Park Service Website.The George Wright Society
This post is my submission to the Diversity in Science Carnival #3: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month hosted at Drug Monkey's page.