Green Republican: John Saylor and the Preservation of America's Wilderness

Overview

Green Republican chronicles the life of Congressman John Saylor and his personal legacy as an environmental champion. Saylor believed the wilderness was intrinsic to the American experience-that our concepts of democracy, love of country, conservation, and independence were shaped by our wilderness experiences. Through his ardent protection of national parks and diligent work to add new areas to the parks system, Saylor helped propel the American environmental movement in the ...

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Overview

Green Republican chronicles the life of Congressman John Saylor and his personal legacy as an environmental champion. Saylor believed the wilderness was intrinsic to the American experience-that our concepts of democracy, love of country, conservation, and independence were shaped by our wilderness experiences. Through his ardent protection of national parks and diligent work to add new areas to the parks system, Saylor helped propel the American environmental movement in the three decades following Word War II.

At the height of the federal dam-building program in the 1950s and 1960s, Saylor blocked efforts to erect hydroelectric dams whose impounded waters would have invaded Dinosaur National Monument and the Grand Canyon. During the energy crisis of the early 1970s, Saylor denounced attempts to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. He was the House architect of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Because Saylor represented a coal-mining district, he doggedly promoted the use of coal, instead of atomic or hydropower, to generate electricity, and repeatedly won the support of his constituents over thirteen terms between 1949 and 1973. But he also fervently supported legislation to purify the air and water and redeem stripped lands.

Considered both a maverick and a pioneer, John Saylor won respect on both sides of the aisle because he was direct, hardworking, and passionate about conservation at a time when the cause was not popular. Environmental leaders dubbed him “St. John” because he tenaciously advocated their proposals and battled resistance by resource-use proponents.

Based on extensive research and numerous interviews with Saylor's colleagues and members of the conservationist community, Thomas G. Smith assembles the remarkable story of John Saylor, arguably the leading congressional conservationist of the twentieth century, and a major force in the preservation of America's wilderness.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Smith's book, the only in-depth study of Saylor, fills a noticeable gap in the histriography of the modern environmental movement. The breadth of Smith's research on Saylor is impressive."
--Western Historical Quarterly

“Representative John Saylor was one of the driving forces behind critical environmental legislation in post-World War II America. This absorbing biography probes Saylor's shrewd, sometimes blunt, maneuvers to defend wild places and enact legal protection for some of our most treasured landscapes, from the Allegheny Mountains to the Grand Canyon. With this compelling biography, Thomas G. Smith restores John Saylor to his rightful place in the annals of American environmental history.”
—Char Miller, Trinity University

“Thomas G. Smith does a fine job arguing for the importance of Saylor in the dawn of the environmental age. As much a history of major conservation events as a pure biography, the book provides sufficient context to see Saylor as the maverick he was. Saylor emerges as a man who genuinely cared for nature, before it was popular politically, someone strong enough to stand up to powerful interests and smart enough to emerge victorious. . . . Smith’s research is superb. . . . It stands as first-rate scholarship.”

—The Journal of American History

“With great zeal and tremendous admiration, [Smith] winds through each of Saylor’s political battles on behalf of the environment. . . . Ultimately, it is the very incongruity of his political views that demonstrates Saylor’s importance in issues ranging from the construction of the Alaska Pipeline to the construction of the Kinzua Dam in Pennsylvania. . . . Through Smith’s fine retelling of these political stories, readers learn that John Saylor is a most deserving member of Pennsylvania’s pantheon of environmental heroes.”
—Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography

”Both inspirational and practical, this book is a valuable resource for all who wish to continue the quest to conserve America’s wilderness.”

—Northeastern Naturalist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822962540
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 6/25/2006
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Thomas G. Smith is professor and chairman of the department of history at Nichols College. He is coauthor of Independent: A Biography of Lewis W. Douglas.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2006

    A conservative who favored conservation

    This biography digs deep into the early environmental campaigns between 1954 and 1973, when John P. Saylor (Republican of Pennsylvania) was a bold, unquenchable advocate for the environment in the United States Congress. He was out front on all the big ones: Dinosaur National Monument, the Wilderness Act, the Grand Canyon Dams, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Redwoods National Park, Alaska national parks. I first met Mr. Saylor in 1965 when I was a beginning volunteer activist, playing a minor role in the campaign to defeat two proposed dams in the Grand Canyon. The author uses archival sources to take us behind the scenes in Congress and tell parts of the story I never knew. (I knew the dam proponents didn't have the votes, but there's a lot more to it, and Professor Smith dug it up.) While the importance of coal mining in his district may have helped kindle John Saylor's opposition to hydroelectric dams in the 1950s, it doesn't explain his consistent, tireless leadership in saving wild places over the 20 years that followed. From seeing him in action day after day on Capitol Hill, I know he believed in wilderness and loved fighting for it. Professor Smith's book captures John Saylor's passion, his brilliance and his wit.

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