Scotland Environment Minister and Children Support Giant Sequoia National Monument

The scope of the global support for the Giant Sequoia National Monument was shown by the strong support the proposed Giant Sequoia National Monument received from people around the world. Some of these global supporters hailed from Scotland, the birthplace of John Muir, whose dream of preserving the entire range of Giant Sequoias is finally coming to fruition with the new National Monument.

On Wednesday April 12th 2000, Scottish Environment Minister Sarah Boyack met children from Bonnington Primary School in the John Muir Grove of Giant Sequoias at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. Guests of honour included Cathy L Hurst, the American Consul in Edinburgh and Professor Stephen Blackmore, (the Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden), Nigel Hawkins - Director of the John Muir Trust, David Picken - Director of the John Muir Award in Scotland and Maud Tiso - Trustee of the John Muir Trust. The other guest of honour was John Muir himself, whose statue was on loan from the Infinite Storm of Beauty Exhibition courtesy of the John Muir Birthplace Trust and East Lothian Council Museums Service.

The event was organized by Graham White of the Edinburgh Environment Centre as the conclusion of a John Muir Award project which the children had undertaken last summer.

The twelve children from Bonnington Primary School attended with class teacher Valerie Connolly and parents, despite this being the school's Easter Holidays. These children have recently completed a John Muir Award project, in the course of which they visited the Giant Sequoias at the Royal Botanic Garden and learned about the historic role which John Muir played in protecting them during the 1890s.

Graham White, Director of the City of Edinburgh Environment Centre, welcomed the Minister, the Consul, children and other guests to the impressive Caledonian Hall of the Royal Botanic Garden and thanked Professor Blackmore for the use of the Botanic Garden's facilities for this event. He introduced Scottish Environment Minister Sarah Boyack and American Consul Cathy Hurst and invited the Minister to say a few words in support of President Clinton's initiative to create a Sequoia National Monument.

Environment Minister Sarah Boyack accepted the children's letters, poems and paintings which they had prepared for the President in support of the historic conservation step which he is expected to take this coming week. She said that as Scottish Environment Minister, it was heartening to think that it was largely as the result of John Muir's scientific survey work of the distribution of the Giant Sequoias, and the subsequent campaign which he led for their conservation, that many of them were initially protected within Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

Speaking directly to the children she stressed that John Muir was a Scottish child, just like any of them, when he set forth from Scotland on his great adventure of emigration to the United States, where he achieved so much and left such a conservation legacy. Casting an eye to the future, she commented that perhaps one of the children present here today, would be inspired to follow Muir's path, to become a great scientist or a conservationist, to help conserve the irreplaceable natural treasures of the Earth, of which the Giant Sequoia were among the most impressive.

It seemed almost certain that President Clinton, was about to declare a Sequoia National Monument, which would have historic significance for the entire United States. But she also added that responsibility for conserving the Giant Sequoias does not rest with America alone, they are a biological treasure for all of humanity, and the whole world would applaud the President's actions in securing them for posterity.

American Consul Cathy Hurst thanked the Minister on behalf of President Clinton and accepted the children's letters and messages of goodwill on behalf of the American people. She said that it was wonderful to realize that children in Scotland were so proud of John Muir, for helping to save so many of America's wildest places, and that they cared so deeply about the Giant Sequoias which they had studied.

She assured all present that she would make sure that the children's letters and their messages of support were conveyed to the White House with all their good wishes.

Photographers from Scotland's national newspaper 'The Scotsman' and from the London-based Times Educational Supplement were present to record the handover of the children's letters and poems to the Minister and the American Consul. BBC Radio Scotland also covered the story on 'Scottish Connection' radio programme.