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J. Horace McFarland

1859 - 1948

J. Horace McFarland
  • In 1904, McFarland became the first president of the American Civic Association, an influential national group that became instrumental in promoting the improvement of cities and preserving America's natural beauty.
  • McFarland fought for the establishment of the National Park Service, worked hand-in-hand with John Muir on the preservation of Yosemite, and to protect Niagara Falls and the Everglades, and promoted city planning and zoning to prevent sprawl.
  • J. Horace McFarland, as President of the American Civic Association, was a major supporter of John Muir and the Sierra Club's effort to prevent construction of the O'Shaugnessy dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley, Yosemite.
  • McFarland, though exhausted by the failed campaign to protect Hetch Hetchy, worked to turn defeat into a new opportunity. Within a few days, he wrote a personal letter to President Wilson in which he paved the way for getting the president's support for the development of a national parks system. Later, Congressman John Raker of California, who championed the Hetch Hetchy bill, became a sponsor of the bill proposing the creation of the National Park Service; and Franklin K. Lane, who was city attorney for San Francisco during the Hetch Hetchy conflict, became McFarland's ally when the National Park Service was first proposed (by 1913 Lane was secretary of the interior). Six years and three secretaries of the interior later, the National Park Service was established under the 1916 Act. McFarland's dedication to the service never waned. He served on the Department of the Interior's Educational Advisory Board for the parks and also as a member of the National Park Trust Fund until his death in 1948.
  • McFarland was a founding leader of the American Civic Association who took the "Harrisburg Plan" to beautify cities all across the United States. He led the campaign to protect Niagara Falls which was threatened by construction of hydroelectric plants that would divert water from above the Horseshoe Falls. He was also a founder and president of the American Rose Society, which had an international impact on the propagation of roses.
  • Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit wrote, "J. Horace McFarland was one of the first Americans to sound the call for environmental and scenic protection. He served as a vigorous leader in formulating and disseminating ideals of preserving - not merely conserving - natural resources. With John Muir and a few others he stood almost alone in stressing how "fair use" conservation strategies would not be enough to keep America unspoiled for future generations."
  • Book Reference: J. Horace McFarland: A Thorn for Beauty by Ernest Morrison (1996).

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