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April 2001

David Brower’s Last Interview

Activist and former backpacker David Brower reflects on his life in the political trenches and on the trails.

BP: Besides changing the mandate of the Forest Service, what else do you think should be done to improve the stewardship of U.S. recreational land?

DB: My bright idea is that we should take the BLM, rename it, and give it a new mission. As the National Lands Service, it would have to be concerned with not only public land, but also private land. People have to get the idea that land is not theirs. For the generations down the line, we can’t trash (those lands) now-we owe it to the people who are not here yet, not to mention all the other species. The planet’s too beautiful to screw up.

We need a new conservationism. It has to mean more than using up resources at a slower rate. We have to hang on to the things we cannot replace and restore nature as best we can.

BP: So what is it that keeps you motivated to keep fighting for change?

DB: I go back to a quote from Father Thomas Berry. He said, “Put the Bible on the shelf for 20 years and read the Earth.” I’ve spent a great deal of time reading the Earth and have found that I am still a “gee whiz” kid. Even at my advanced age of 88.1, I’m still impressed with it.

BP: What are your favorite quotes about wilderness?

DB: “Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we yet know how to ask.” That quote is by Nancy Newhall from This is the American Earth. “When man obliterates wilderness, he repudiates the life force, which put him on this planet in a bad way, and in a truly terrifying sense, he is on his own.” That’s from J.H. Rush. Thoreau said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Without wilderness, the world is a cage.

BP: What groups do you think are on the cutting edge of wilderness preservation?

DB: Earth First!, The Sierra Club, California Wilderness Coalition, Friends of the Earth, Earth Island Institute, Conservation International.

BP: What do you read to stay abreast of preservation issues?

DB: I read Wild Earth; it is the best of the bunch, along with Earth First! News and the publications of the organizations I mentioned.

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