December 28, 2010

 In today’s entry, Seymour wrote about an environmentalist that he deeply admired.


Richard Pough, founder of the Nature Conservancy, died on June 24, 2003.  Pough’s efforts as a nature conservationist led to the establishment of numerous wildlife sanctuaries across the country. He also wrote the Audubon Bird Guide, and led the fight to ban the sale of the feathers of endangered birds (whose feathers were prized in those days as ornaments for women’s hats).

 Pough was one of the first people to raise the alarm about a pesticide that was threatening the wildlife in a way never seen before. According to a 1945 article in the New York Times, Pough reported on tests by the Audubon Society and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service showing that forests in Pennsylvania had lost their birds after being sprayed with DDT. ‘‘If DDT should ever be used widely and without carewould have a country without freshwater fish, serpents, frogs and most of the birds we have now.’’ Rachel Carson’s more widely recognized book on this same subject, ‘‘Silent Spring,’’ was not published until 1962.

 Pough began his conservation career in 1932 when he heard about a hunting spot called Hawk Mountain near where he lived in Philadelphia. He went to investigate, and was horrified to find hundreds of dead hawks. He eventually stopped the hunting when he persuaded a wealthy New Yorker to buy 1400 acres of the land on the mountain, establishing the country’s first sanctuary for birds of prey. If you have ever seen one of these glorious raptors soaring in the wind drafts and thermals over a verdant valley, you will know why he was moved to action.

 Richard Pough is also very close to my heart because later in his career he became the Chairman of Conservation and General Ecology for the American Museum of Natural History. While in that position he oversaw creation of the Hall of North American Forests, which includes a realistic diorama of Stissing Mountain, in the Hudson Highlands in Upstate New York. As a little boy growing up in the city I used to sit in front of this diorama and imagine living in a place with a big lake, soaring hawks, supple white birches, and leaping bass. Many years later, I am fortunate to own a house not 20 minutes from that very spot. I have always strived to be an active conservationist and environmentalist, and I was inspired by the work of people like Richard Pough. 



Posted by: Liz Nealon

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