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Claim: Ronald Reagan once said (in reference to forest conservation efforts), "If you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all."
Origins: When Ronald Reagan first ran for public office, in the California gubernatorial election of 1966, environmental topics were high on the list of voter concerns. Curbing air pollution, protecting undeveloped rivers from being dammed for commercial interests, and conserving what remained of the magnificent Redwood forests in the northern part of the state were significant campaign issues, and, as journalist Lou Cannon noted in his history of Reagan's governorship, Californians had some good reasons to believe that the actor-turned-politician might give those issues short shrift:
Reagan's knowledge of environmental issues, except for air pollution, was minimal. Even the geography of the north coast, where trees outnumbered people, eluded him. During the 1966 campaign, a reporter asked Reagan a question about the Eel River (a battleground between those who wanted to dam its middle fork and those who sought to preserve it as a wild river). Reagan asked where it was. The reporter told the embarrassed candidate that he was standing alongside it.How much of the remaining fraction of California's old-growth redwood forests should be preserved against commercial logging interests and converted to protected national parkland was a hot-button political issue at the time, pitting the timber industry against conservationists:
These splendid trees, rising to heights of more than 300 feet, flourish in a narrow coastal zone influenced by the Pacific Ocean fog. They were an early causes forIt was in this context that candidate (not yet governor) Ronald Reagan, while speaking before the Western Wood Products Association in San Francisco on
The lumber companies had long opposed a national redwoods park. By the time Reagan took office, however, the industry had retreated under conservationist fire to the more defensible position of accepting a small national park in return for unrestricted logging outside of it. "Small" was the operative word. Timber executives claimed that a large park would eliminate thousands of jobs. Using jobs as their battle cry, they mobilized business and labor support in the two counties (Del Norte and Humboldt) where land would be set aside for the Redwood National Park.
I think, too, that we've got to recognize that where the preservation of a natural resource like the redwoods is concerned, that there is a common sense limit. I mean, if you've looked at a hundred thousand acres or so ofWhile the issue candidate Reagan was addressing was a legitimate
Why Reagan said what he did, and why he was so seemingly unresponsive to the conservationist side of the redwoods issue was something of a puzzle, according to Cannon:
Conservationists would have been even more frightened had they realized how perfectly this vacuous comment expressed Reagan's opinion. The conventional view of Reagan'sEventually, as is often the case, the issue was settled by a political compromise worked out through federal government. In 1968, Congress authorized the creation of the
Why he believed what he said, however, remains a mystery. Reagan, who was often attuned to nature, was strangely insensitive to the magnificence of the redwoods, long recognized as natural wonders of the
Reagan had a stubborn
Last updated: 7 June 2006
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