Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks

It’s safe to say Bob Marshall had left a lasting impression and significant legacy by the time of his death at the age of 38. Although he served only briefly in government—in the 1930s he was chief of forestry in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and then head of recreation management in the Forest Service—his ideas about wilderness preservation have had a lasting impact on wild places across the nation. Best known as the founder of the Wilderness Society, Marshall, with his brother George (and their guide Herb Clark) were the first Adirondack 46ers. The book Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, edited by the Adirondack Almanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown, presents a variety of Marshall’s writings related to the region.

Bob Marshall’s father was Louis Marshall, considered a key player in the founding of the New York State Forest Ranger program and the State Ranger School in Wanakena. Bob Marshall grew up in New York City but spent youthful summers formulating his wilderness ethic in the Adirondacks. Although he was a prolific writer, only eleven of his articles or journals have been published, and so Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks in an important contribution to the history of the Marshalls, wilderness preservation, and the Adirondacks.

The material presented in the book includes his accounts of pioneering High Peaks climbs, explorations south of Cranberry Lake, his take on the forever wild Forest Preserve, and more obscure material such as profiles of Herb Clark and nineteenth century surveyor Mills Blake, notes from dinner with Albert Einstein, and passages from an unfinished novel. Contextual material includes three essays by George Marshall, a piece by Paul Schaefer, and contributions from Adirondack historian Phil Terrie and environmentalist Bill McKibben. A final short essay argues for the establishment of the 409,000-acre Bob Marshall Great Wilderness south of Cranberry Lake. The wilderness area, nicknamed “The Bob” and a pet project of the Adirondack Council (they supported the book’s publication), would include 441 lakes and ponds, more than 70 miles of river, and enough room to repatriate cougars and wolves.

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