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Metcalf and the Wilderness Act of 1964, Part 2

Page history last edited by Jeff Malcomson 8 years, 6 months ago

National conservation leaders and Senator Lee Metcalf meet during the week of August 6-12, 1961, to discuss legislative strategy regarding the proposed national wilderness preservation system bill. Pictured in Senator Metcalf’s office around his desk are: (left to right, standing) Alden J. Erskin, president of the Izaak Walton League; Phil Schneider, president of the International Association of Game, Fish and Conservation Commissioners; Tom Kimball, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation; Carl W. Buchheister, president of National Audubon Society; (left to right, seated) C.R. Gutermuth, chairman of the Natural Resources Council of America; Senator Metcalf; and Ira N. Gabrielson, president of the Wildlife Management Institute, August 8, 1961.  Lot 31 B16/2.06




Metcalf and the Wilderness Act of 1964 (continued)


Metcalf's Transition to the Senate, 1958-1960


From 1958-1960, Lee Metcalf became concerned with the Murray-Metcalf Bill—the first federal aid to education bill—as well as his mine safety bill and many other major pieces of legislation he sponsored in Congress during that period. As a member of the House Interior Committee, he continued to be involved with hearings on the Wilderness Bill, as well as some of the other natural resource protection legislation he had introduced years before. Yet during this interval, he was helping to research, plan, and coordinate activities related to the Wilderness Bill behind the scenes. Metcalf corresponded regularly with conservation leaders about progress on the Wilderness Bill in committee hearings and on the floor of the Congress. He also conducted his own research in the Library of Congress, frequently pouring over piles of books and magazines on tables in the library. He liked doing his own research to make sure the information he relied on for important issues and legislation was accurate.[53]


Rep. Metcalf also met with national conservation leaders to plan activities and actions related to the Wilderness Bill and other natural resources issues. One such meeting occurred around 1959, when Metcalf met in Washington, D.C., with Stewart M. Brandborg, assistant conservation director at the National Wildlife Federation; Anthony Wayne Smith, Washington attorney, and president and general counsel of the National Parks Association; Metcalf; Howard Zahniser, executive secretary of The Wilderness Society; Joseph Penfold, conservation director at the Izaak Walton League; and Daniel Poole, editor of "Outdoor News Bulletin" and president of the Wildlife Management Institute . All of these men corresponded or called Metcalf regularly about and for information on the Wilderness Bill. Metcalf also preferred meeting in-person with people instead of writing letters all the time.[54] Since many of these national conservation leaders were based in Washington, D.C., they would meet up with Metcalf often (though, due to lack of documentation, we do not know how frequently they met for certain).


When Metcalf ran for re-election in 1958 to the House of Representatives and in 1960 to the U.S. Senate, he spent much of his campaign time and media focused on his work on conservation. Metcalf said in one radio campaign commercial regarding conservation in the 1950s:


Montana’s forests and national parks are scenic areas that have become playgrounds for thousands of Americans. As your Congressman I have sought to preserve these priceless assets for the people of Montana. I shall continue to make them available to the sportsmen and the tourists.


Our forests and our streams and our mountain valleys must be managed for the benefit of all the people. As you Congressman I shall fight to keep them inviolate for you and your children.[55]


Towards that end, Metcalf began making inspection trips of both private and public forested areas, looking over logging practices and forest road construction. One such trip was in the late 1950s, when he toured the operation on the Northern Pacific Railway’s land—including the operations at Upper Hyalite Creek south of Bozeman, Montana—during a winter inspection trip of forested areas in Montana. Metcalf was given the tour by S.G. Merryman, Northern Pacific Railway Manager of Timber and Western Lands.[56]


The Wilderness Bill ran into roadblocks in Congress from 1958-1960, thanks largely to several major and influential congressmen who sat on the Interior and Agriculture committees in both houses of Congress. The opposition came despite the fact that in the U.S. Senate field hearings on the Wilderness Bill in “Oregon, California, Utah, and New Mexico during November 1958 . . . 1,003 letters were received favoring the bill and only 129 in opposition.”[57] Such men as Sen. Clinton P. Anderson (Senate Interior Committee) and Rep. Wayne Aspinall (chairman of the House Interior Committee) controlled the debate over the Wilderness Bill for years, strongly influencing the strength of the bill and the length of time it took to pass the bill. Little would be accomplished in Congress on the various versions of the Wilderness Bill until 1961, after the next presidential election.


In 1960, Sen. James E. Murray announced he would retire from the U.S. Senate, opening up his Montana seat to Rep. Lee Metcalf. Murray had been one of the most influential members of the Senate Interior Committee. The loss of Murray from the committee left Metcalf without a state colleague on the opposite congressional house’s committees dealing with conservation measures. Metcalf chose to run for Murray’s Senate seat to keep it in the hands of the Democratic Party for Montana. However, he would be leaving the House Interior Committee, in which he had earned some influence, right as the Wilderness Bill was being hotly contested.


1960 also saw the peak influence of Metcalf in Congress up to this time in his congressional career. He would run his Senate campaign based largely on his record and work on education and conservation. Since he was so influential in Congress, he and Senator John F. Kennedy had begun to work with each other. When Kennedy was running for President in 1960, he and Metcalf discussed issues relating to conservation, and Kennedy’s stance on conservation issues if he were to win the Presidency. Between September and October 1960, Rep. Lee Metcalf and Sen. John F. Kennedy shot a television program together on conservation for Kennedy’s campaign. On October 4, 1960, Kennedy named Rep. Metcalf to his 1960 presidential campaign’s Natural Resources Advisory Committee, a group of more than twenty people advising Kennedy on natural resource issues to advance his campaign policies. On October 21, 1960—two and a half weeks prior to the national elections—Metcalf wrote the senator regarding conservation and possibly speaking at the Society of American Foresters’ 60th anniversary meeting in Washington, D.C.:


Conservation has the power to impart to an administration a quality of character which makes it stand out in history. It is the hallmark of the domestic success of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. . . .


I sincerely believe you could set the tone for your Administration by this approach. Through the medium of conservation the needs and aspirations of our people can be galvanized—the challenge of tomorrow translated in a visible way. At the same time, important conservation objectives in forestry and other conservation work could be activated immediately.


I hope that this idea meets with your approval and offer my cooperation in any way that you desire.[58]


Lee Metcalf won election to the U.S. Senate in 1960, and took office in January 1961. He was named to the Senate Interior Committee, filling the void on that committee left by Senator Murray. It did mean, though, that Metcalf left the House Interior Committee, which became the arena in which the Wilderness Bill found its strongest resistance from 1961-1964. Kennedy also won the presidency, and made conservation one of his administration’s later tenants.


Metcalf and the Push for Passage of the Wilderness Act, 1961-1963


In 1961, now-Senator Lee Metcalf continued to work with conservationists planning for the Wilderness Bill fight in the U.S. Congress. National conservation leaders and Senator Lee Metcalf met in Metcalf’s office during the week of August 6-12, 1961, to discuss legislative strategy regarding the proposed national wilderness preservation system bill. The conservationists present were Alden J. Erskin, president of the Izaak Walton League; Phil Schneider, president of the International Association of Game, Fish and Conservation Commissioners; Tom Kimball, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation; Carl W. Buchheister, president of National Audubon Society; C.R. Gutermuth, chairman of the Natural Resources Council of America; and Ira N. Gabrielson, president of the Wildlife Management Institute.[59]


The future for the Wilderness Bill seemed bright in 1961, with a supportive President Kennedy who “indicated his desire to develop a sound program for the conservation and utilization of our nation’s resources."[60] Kennedy was involved in conservation legislation, and planned to do more in his first two years in office. However, the political hot issues of atomic weapons, the expansion of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the space race, and civil rights took his time away from working for conservation in the way he and Metcalf originally envisioned.


In December 1960 after winning the U.S. Senate election, Lee Metcalf phoned George Ostrom of Kalispell, Montana, and asked George to come to Washington, D.C., to serve as Metcalf’s principle legislative aide on the Wilderness Bill. Metcalf had remembered a conversation with Ostrom on September 22, 1954, at the dedication of the U.S. Forest Service Aerial Fire Depot and Smokejumper Center in Missoula, Montana. Ostrom, one of two Forest Service smokejumpers taking part in the dedication, was talking with all the officials and politicians on the event’s speaker’s stage. At some point, Ostrom got to talking with one of the speakers he vaguely recognized as being Lee Metcalf. Metcalf and George Ostrom’s father had known each other, but George had not gotten to know him personally. Ostrom started talking about the problems with the management of Montana’s wilderness, including issues such as the Forest Service colluding with local logging firms for monopolies on logging activities. Metcalf and Ostrom talked for an hour that day, and Ostrom did not hear from Metcalf until 1960.[61]


The two men’s conversation was very influential on Senator Metcalf, leading him as a U.S. Representative in the 1950s to become one of the Congress’ top conservation proponents. Metcalf needed a special legislative researcher with knowledge of wilderness and natural resources to specifically locate records and information for Metcalf to use in committee hearings and on the Senate floor. George Ostrom went on to spend two years—1961 to 1963—working in Metcalf’s office only on the Wilderness Bill.[62] Starting in January 1961, Metcalf was now ready for the final push to pass the bill.


Major national and state conservationists met in Montana throughout 1961 and 1962 to discuss the Wilderness Bill and other conservation issues. The Conservation Education Association’s National Conference was held in Missoula on August 13-16, 1961, at the University of Montana. Senator Metcalf spoke at this conference on development proposals on the Upper Columbia River, continuing his on-site diplomacy on behalf of conservation with conservationists.[63]


However, there were grumblings by Montanans and other Westerners over the new version of the Wilderness Bill, introduced in Congress  in 1961 at the start of the 87th Congress (in the Senate, introduced by Senator Clinton P. Anderson as S. 174). The bill had been significantly watered down from early 1950s versions which had raised strong opposition from cattle owners, private land owners, and other interested groups. Montanans complained in 1961 that no congressional committees were holding hearings in Montana, despite holding hearings in other western states. There was also the sense about the Wilderness Bill concept that “a lot of westerners bluntly feel the program would give eastern theorists too much say over practical western matters.”[64]


In 1961, Senator Metcalf, to coincide with the spirit of the Wilderness Bill, embarked on a personal odyssey against one of the most drastic changes in American society—the increased construction of federal and state highways. In 1961, Metcalf had been receiving correspondence and reports about highway construction damaging fishing streams in Montana and other western states. Metcalf was provided with the a report by the Montana Fish and Game Department, prepared on November 15, 1961, entitled “Destruction of Natural Fish Habitat Is Ruining Montana’s Fishing Streams,” which documented from a 1961 survey of 24 Montana streams that the state had lost 78.40 miles of stream in 1961 alone.[65] National Audubon Society Assistant to the President Charles H. Callison, a long-time national conservationist advocate with several conservation groups, wrote to Metcalf on November 30, 1961:


I think you have hold of something quite worthwhile in investigating the possibility of extending the Coordination Act to highway construction. The effect of highway engineering on streams and sometimes on marshes and other important forms of wildlife habitat is growing increasingly serious. Count on the National Audubon Society to support such legislation.[66]


Montana relied heavily on its world-class trout streams to attract recreationists and tourists, adding financially to the state as other economic opportunities in the state began to flounder. Montana’s State Highway Department was not cooperating with the Montana Game and Wildlife Commission in constructing highways without damaging rivers and streams. The highway department—along with many others across the United States at this time—pushed rock and dirt from the construction of the road and bridges into the streams, killing off fish and ruining spawning grounds.


Metcalf wrote to the Undersecretary of the Department of the Interior James K. Carr on November 27, 1961, expressing his concerns over highway construction’s effects on natural resources and environments. Undersecretary Carr replied that:


We have given considerable thought to the ideas expressed in your letter of November 27, with respect to the damage done to fishing streams by highway construction in Montana and other states. We thoroughly agree with your thought that this situation ideally would be remedied by State legislation. The State highway departments exercise management control over the highway program. If the situation here is to be remedied by Federal law, it would mean that legislation would have to incorporate provisions in Bureau of Public Roads’ procedures similar to those in the Coordination Act for Federal water resource projects.


The Fish and Wildlife Service has maintained, nevertheless, close contact with the Bureau of Public Roads in an endeavor to make the road-building fraternity conscious of the need for preserving fish and wildlife values. The Service has apprised all State fish and game departments of its efforts along this line, notified them as to the policies and procedures of the Bureau of Public Roads, and made suggestions to them as to how to work toward conservation in connection with the highway program. . . .


Obviously, something further should be done.[67]


On January 30, 1962, in response to the Undersecretary’s letter, Metcalf introduced S. 2767 (which he researched and produced with his staff) “To amend title 23 of the United States Code relating to highways in order to require the approval of the Secretary of the Interior to surveys, plans, specifications, and estimates for projects on the Federal-aid highway systems for the purpose of protecting fish and wildlife and recreation resources.”[68] The bill became known as the “Save Our Streams” Bill—or the SOS bill for short—and it would be one of the most important pieces of conservation legislation introduced in the 1960s. Metcalf figured what good would it do to protect wilderness, forests, and parks if highway construction in and around these areas damaged the wildlife habitats upon which these natural areas relied. He said in one article that “Highway construction . . . is ruining many superb fishing streams.”[69] The SOS bill was an important companion to the Wilderness Bill, and it drew a great deal of both opposition and support in Congress, as well as by the public.


Lee Metcalf began a national campaign for the SOS bill, seeking research materials he could use in committee hearings on behalf of his bill. He wrote to national, state, and local conservation groups, game and wildlife departments, and public officials requesting “Any pictures that you can send me in support of S. 2767, [which] would be very helpful in presenting the case before the committee.”[70] Metcalf’s Senate office files would end up holding photographs of highway construction damage to rivers and streams in Montana, California, Utah, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He explained in a statement on the U.S. Senate floor in February 1962 his impetus for introducing the bill:


In Montana, leaving this question [of managing highway construction and stream protection] in the hands of the State has meant leaving it in the hands of the Highway Department which has demonstrated no concern for protecting valuable natural resources. In the words of Director Walt Everin of the Montana Fish and Game Department: ‘We have made several requests to the Montana Highway Department that sections of proposed highways be rerouted to avoid damaging trout streams. To date, we have not had a major request granted.’[71]


Metcalf’s 1962 SOS bill died in the Senate Public Works Committee when the 87th Congress adjourned in December 1962, and he had to reintroduce the bill in 1963.[72] On June 12, 1963—in coordination with the Interior Department—the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads issued “instructional memorandum 21-5-63.” The memorandum stated that in order to protect streams, rivers, and fish and wildlife habitats, the Bureau of Public Roads would require on federally-funded road projects that:


. . . the State highway department of every State shall adopt, in a timely manner, a procedure to be followed in the locating, planning, design, and construction of Federal-aid highway projects so as to afford protection of fish and wildlife resources. This procedure shall contain provision for suitable coordination between the activities of the State highway department and the activities of the appropriate State agency charged with the responsibility for the conservation of fish and wildlife.[73]


Metcalf would continue to fight for a “Save Our Stream” bill through 1966, but the Bureau of Public Roads’ mandate essentially accomplished the same objective as Metcalf’s bill—to assure that state highway departments planned road construction with conservation of natural resources in mind. It was a major victory for Metcalf, and helped slowly to end unnecessary destruction to America’s valuable inland waterways.


The U.S. Senate passed their version of the Wilderness Bill, S. 174, on September 6, 1961, by a vote of 78-8 in favor of the measure. What seemed like a major victory for conservationists was squashed when the bill was received for hearings by the House Subcommittee on Public Lands, chaired by Rep. Gracie Pfost (D-ID), an opponent of the earlier versions of the Wilderness Bill.[74] The optimism of support for the bill changed drastically in 1962. Despite a speech by Senator Metcalf’s executive secretary Vic Reinemer to the Montana Wilderness Association in Anaconda, Montana, on January 13, 1962—in which he said there was growing support for the Wilderness Bill—the signs in Congress were quite different. By April 1962, the House of Representatives was entertaining the Senate version of the Wilderness Bill and eight House versions of a Wilderness Bill. In the first week of May 1962, the House Subcommittee on Public Lands held three days of hearings regarding the bill. Montana U.S. Rep. Arnold Olsen served on the House subcommittee, and would have kept Metcalf informed on developments regarding the measure.[75]


By June 1962, the House Subcommittee on Public Lands would end up having held nine days of public hearings on the Wilderness Bill. Democrats on the House Interior Committee were being accused by the bill’s early proponent Rep. John P. Saylor (the top Republican on the committee) of trying to kill the bill in committee. The subcommittee chairman Rep. Walter S. Baring (D-NV) showed “no enthusiasm for the wilderness bills.”[76] Ironically, Democrats in the Senate Interior Committee for the most part supported the bill. The House Interior Committee ultimately did not approve the measure as passed by Senate. Hopes for a national wilderness preservation system seemed greatly diminished. House Interior Committee Chairman Wayne Aspinall, instead, substituted the Senate bill with a much-altered version Aspinall wrote, and the House Interior Committee approved this bill (though it was never voted on or debated on by the House of Representatives).


One reason for the endless delay over the bill was what had been lost out of the Wilderness Bill from when it was first introduced in the Senate and House in 1956. Originally, the Wilderness Bill that Humphrey, Saylor, and Metcalf introduced called for a National Preservation System Council, which would:


. . . serve as a nonexclusive clearinghouse for exchange of information among agencies administering areas with the [National Wilderness Preservation] System. The Council shall make, sponsor, and coordinate surveys of wilderness needs and conditions and gather and disseminate information, including maps, for the information of the public regarding use and preservation of the areas of wilderness within the System.[77]


By the end of 1963, the Wilderness Bill also included stipulations excluding all wilderness areas from the bill within national forests except fifty-four set areas, as least until a wilderness study and special legislation for each wilderness area could be approved by Congress. The altered bill would allow mining operations in wilderness areas until January 1, 1984. Lastly, the bill included language giving the President the power to allow public projects within wilderness areas:


. . . the President may, within a specific area and in accordance with such regulations as he may deem desirable, authorize prospecting for water resources, the establishment and maintenance of reservoirs, water-conservation works, power projects, transmission lines, and other facilities needed in the public interest, including the road construction and maintenance essential to development and use thereof, upon his determination that such use or uses in the specific area will better serve the interests of the United States and the people thereof than will its denial.[78]


The new, watered-down version of the measure began facing less opposition in the Senate and House Interior Committees from 1962 to 1964. Still, several versions of the bill with these new stipulations in them continued to fail in committee.


Fresh life was breathed into the Wilderness Bill fight at the dedication of a cedars grove on behalf of the great American wilderness advocate and historian Bernard DeVoto. DeVoto and Metcalf had known each other prior to DeVoto’s death in 1955, largely due to Metcalf’s work to stop the D’Ewart grazing bill and the Ellsworth Timber Bill in Congress. DeVoto would write about these attempts at what he termed “land grabs” in relation to his study of the settlement and development of the western United States.


On September 9, 1962, conservationists and friends of Bernard DeVoto established the DeVoto Memorial Cedar Grove in the Clearwater National Forest, along the Lochsa River at Lolo Pass on the Idaho-Montana border. Charles H Callison, Assistant to the President of the National Audubon Society, gave the main address at the grove dedication and called for a “revival of the Wilderness Bill.”[79] Sen. Lee Metcalf was at the grove dedication, and had pictures taken of him standing by the DeVoto memorial plaque. Metcalf spoke at the event, also calling for the Wilderness Bill to pass, citing DeVoto’s theories and struggles over conservation issues. After the event, DeVoto’s wife Avis contacted Metcalf, thanking him for being at the event and asking his continued support for the Wilderness Bill in Congress.


At the start of the first session of the 88th U.S. Congress, the bill S. 4 (the Senate version of the Wilderness Act introduced by Senator Clinton P. Anderson) was reintroduced to the Senate in January 1963, and referred to the Senate Interior Committee on January 4, 1963. Hearings on the National Wilderness Preservation System Act were held on February 28 and March 1, 1963, by the committee. In the opening hearing at 10 A.M. on Thursday, February 28th, a subcommittee of the overall Interior committee met in Room 3110 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building with the following senators present: Clinton P. Anderson (D-NM); Alan Bible (D-NV); Ernest Gruening (D-AK); Quentin Burdick (D-ND); Lee Metcalf (D-MT); George McGovern (D-SD); Thomas Kuchel (R-CA); Gordon Allott (R-CO); Millwood Simpson (WY); Peter H. Dominick (R-CO); and E.L. Mechem (R-NM).[80]


Senator Clinton P. Anderson presided over the hearing, and made the following statement, which exhibited how frustrating the debate over the bill had become:


The hearing today marks the 10th hearing that this committee has held on the wilderness bill since June 1957—six in the field and four here in Washington. We have accumulated 2,487 pages of printed testimony and exhibits, exclusive of maps. . . .


We are here today to determine if there is anything new which can be said on the subject. In announcing this hearing, I asked witnesses to confine themselves insofar as possible to new material. It is an old bill. S. 4 is identical to S. 174 which passed the Senate last year except for one word. We changed forest ‘superintendent’ to forest ‘supervisor’ at one point to comply with official terminology. I shall not impose on available time to restate the often restated provisions of the bill.[81]


After the hearings were completed, the Senate Interior Committee recommended the bill by an 11 to 4 vote, and sent it to the Senate floor, where it passed 73 to 12 on April 9, 1963.[82] The hearings were not without heated moments amongst the Democrat and Republican committee members, however.


The biggest reason the Wilderness Bill did not pass the House Interior Committee until 1964 was a worry by Republican congressmen that there was not enough definition within the Wilderness Bill as to administrative responsibilities. House Interior Committee Chairman Wayne Aspinall had sent a letter in 1962 to President Kennedy, as well as submitting a press release, stating that Aspinall would not agree to the bill’s passage. Aspinall "had become convinced that the Executive-Legislative relationship in this area should be defined first, before proceeding to the consideration of individual uses. . . . ‘The emotion surrounding wilderness preservation should not interfere with the question of whether Congress or the Executive shall have the general authority to designate land uses.’”[83] Aspinall continued holding steadfast to this viewpoint into 1963.


In the Senate Interior Committee's hearings on S.4 on March 1, 1963, Sen. Lee Metcalf participated in a fight involving Sen. Gordon Allott of Colorado:


Sen. Gordon Allott, R-Colo., who says he does not oppose a national wilderness system, charged again that the bill would turn over congressional powers to the executive branch. Anderson complained he was getting tired of 'constant interferences' that the bill would be unconstitutional. Sen. Lee Metcalf, D-Mont., joined in denying the bill would result in unconstitutional delegation of power. But Allott said he had never said it was unconstitutional, adding that his criticisms were based on a ‘basic and fundamental difference in philosophies of government.'[84]


At one point in testimony on the Wilderness Bill in the Senate Committee by Interior Secretary Stewart Udall on March 28th, Udall referred to a decision by Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman to remove and add areas to what became the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area on the Idaho-Montana border, intimating that the Idaho and Montana senators mentioned no issues they had with Freeman’s decisions about what areas to include in the wilderness. Metcalf raised an objection, stating that he had problems with Freeman’s decisions despite having been consulted. Metcalf stated that his objections were not listened to and had no strength under the current wilderness-designating legislation on the books under federal law. Metcalf would explain his reason for the need of the Wilderness Bill in regards to the arbitrary nature of wilderness designation at the executive level:


No, I don’t want to say that the Secretary of Agriculture did not consult and did not advise with the Senators from Montana and Idaho, because he did. He made the final decision and we did not have a thing to say about it. But if this bill [S. 4, Wilderness Bill] had been in effect, as it is written, that decision would have had to come back to Congress for ratification and approval. I regard this bill as a restoration of some of the powers to Congress that have been delegated to the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Interior, and the President. . . .


I would like to have had a little more choice of some of the areas that were left in and some of the areas that were taken out, and I would rather have it come back to Congress and have Congress say something about it. My only point in bringing this up was that the Secretary of Agriculture made the decision and there was no opportunity for Congress to exercise its prerogatives as many Senators feel that we should.[85]


Even members of the press and the public were getting tired of the Wilderness Bill debate and delay, as many supported it: “It is a mystery why the Wilderness Bill has not long since cleared the House.”[86] Such fights over the true meanings of involved parties’ statements, the understanding of legal rights related to wilderness issues by men of differing viewpoints, and political maneuvering all were responsible in the early 1960s for delaying the passage of the Wilderness Act.


Tensions were so high regarding the Wilderness Bill, that every little statement and fact made by a congressman from the other side of the political aisle were questioned and attacked. Whatever a congressman involved in the wilderness bill fight could do to show that a congressman was wrong on a particular point, or that the congressman did not understand aspects of the bill, he did. This was especially true as it applied to Lee Metcalf, viewed as one of the strongest proponents of the bill in Congress. Sometime between 1961 and 1963, Senator Metcalf’s Wilderness Bill legislative aide George Ostrom contacted a high-ranking official in the Department of the Interior, in order to get some information from him for Metcalf’s use during Senate floor debates on the bill. Not being use to Washington politics, Ostrom wrote the information down from the phone conversation, read it back to the man to check its correctness, and passed the information on to Metcalf.  Metcalf went on the Senate floor for a debate on the Wilderness Bill using the information Ostrom provided.[87]


An unidentified Republican Senator attacked Metcalf, and challenged Metcalf to back up what he said. The next day, the Interior official Ostrom spoke with came onto the floor and denied having said the things Senator Metcalf had stated in session. Metcalf returned to his office steaming, went up to Ostrom’s desk, and yelled at Ostrom, “Next time you give me information, you had better be ready to defend it. Any information you have needs to be able to be defended all the way up to the Supreme Court.” Ostrom was angry with the Interior official over lying and with himself for the poor procedure.[88]


Guy M. Brandborg, the famed conservationist largely responsible for the formation of the Montana Wilderness Association, once wrote about his experiences sometime between 1961 and 1963 while watching the Senate debate the Wilderness Bill. He titled his observations “The Wilderness Battle—As Seen From The Gallery.” Brandborg, whose son Stewart had been the assistant conservation director at the National Wildlife Federation and would become the executive director of The Wilderness Society, had worked with Senator Lee Metcalf since 1955 to create the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area on the Idaho-Montana border. Brandborg wrote about Metcalf while watching two days of Senate floor debate on S. 4:


At that point [Senator Allott asked why affirmative action of Congress shouldn’t be applied to primitive areas] Senator Metcalf moved in and turned that argument around to the advantage of the wilderness advocates. ‘The very purpose of the review is to protect the interests which have been created,’ said Metcalf, ‘The people involved have had an opportunity during all of these past years to go in and prospect the lands. They have not lumbered in these areas. They have not built roads into these areas. By and large, substantially they have been administered in the same manner as wilderness areas or national parks for 30 years.’


‘What we are seeking, under techniques which have been established for many years in the Congress, is to quickly take care of those lands that have a basic wilderness use, and then provide that in respect to any future creation of a wilderness area Congress will, as the Senator from Colorado [Allott] desires, affirmatively authorize such creation and establish the boundaries in the same way as a law passed.’


This sort of colloquy continued through the debate. At one point Senator Metcalf . . . cited court decisions and definitions to clarify some of the language in the bill. The importance of this ‘legislative history’ is that government administrators, in carrying out the laws passed by Congress, look to such records of debate for guidance in determining the intent of Congress and establishing agency regulations.[89]


Metcalf, therefore, was using the Congressional Record as a means to lay out legislative, executive, and judicial history related to actions regarding wilderness areas in America. He knew that future federal administrators would use the Wilderness Bill debate to make their decisions on wilderness issues, and saw this as opportunity to create law without an actual bill. In Metcalf’s papers, he has research records sent from the Library of Congress on how European countries managed their wilderness areas and forests. Some of the information and statistics he learned from this research he would insert into the Congressional Record or discuss during Senate floor debates, to provide Senators with an international perspective on natural resource management. Metcalf was truly a visionary as far as legislative history is concerned.


The Senate-version of the Wilderness Bill, considered the more liberal version of the bill, was referred to the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs on April 10, 1963. The House Interior Committee could not accept the Senate bill. Rather, four representatives introduced House versions of the bill on November 19, 1963, with the one finding the most support termed the “Dingell Bill” (H.R. 9162), after its sponsor Rep. John D. Dingell, Jr. (D-MI). This was the version of the Wilderness Bill created following discussions of President Kennedy’s administration with House Interior Committee Chairman Wayne Aspinall. These discussions were had after Aspinall threatened from 1962 to 1963 to kill the bill again in the House. It was on this version of the Wilderness Bill that the House Interior Committee Subcommittee on Public Lands held field hearings in mid-January 1964 at Olympia, Washington; Denver, Colorado; and Las Vegas, Nevada.[90]


Metcalf's Wilderness and Conservation Legacy


Eventually, the House of Representatives version of the Wilderness Bill was brought to the floor for a vote, passing 373 to 1 on July 30, 1964. By the time the bill had passed the House, Howard Zahniser, the original author of the Wilderness Act and its greatest proponent, died of heart failure at age 58 on May 5, 1964—a week after testifying at a congressional hearing. Zahniser alone wrote “66 drafts of the Wilderness Act between 1956 and 1964 and steered it through 18 hearings.” The House’s passage of the Wilderness Bill was not the end, however, as a last-minute effort by the House of Representatives forced the House and Senate to hold a special conference regarding the bill.[91]


Lee Metcalf’s direct role with the Wilderness Bill ended when the Senate passed S. 4 Wilderness Act on April 9, 1963. However, Metcalf was still frequently communicating with conservation leaders and his fellow congressmen. He also wrote newspaper and journal articles on natural resources management and wilderness issues during this time period, particularly for the Sierra Club. Still, the Wilderness Bill was not the only major component of the National Wilderness Preservation System—there also was an act before Congress to finance the creation of outdoor recreation facilities for the states and federal agencies.


The bill was called the Land and Water Conservation Fund bill (S. 859). This bill developed out of a project founded in 1958 in lieu of Lee Metcalf’s outdoor recreation bill of 1956 and 1957. The project was called the “Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC). After three years of research, the Commission developed specific recommendations for a national recreation program. The ORRRC report of 1961 emphasized that State and local, as well as Federal, governments and the private sector were key elements in the total effort to make outdoor recreation opportunities available.[92] The bill was introduced to Congress by President Kennedy in 1962, “during the second session of the 87th Congress. No action was taken in that Congress, but on February 14, 1963, President Kennedy again proposed legislation that would establish a ‘Land and Water Conservation Fund’ to assist States in planning, acquisition and development of recreation resources and to finance new Federal recreation lands.”[93]


Metcalf became a heavy supporter of this bill, which saw some opposition due to claims that the bill would cost too much. One of the program’s main sources of funding was a yearly Outdoor Recreation Sticker, which would cost members of the public seven dollars for an entire year. The sticker granted access for its owner to any national park, national recreation area, national forest, and any other federal land areas which charged an entrance or use fee. The owner could use the sticker as long as he had it on his person. Metcalf promoted this sticker vigorously, primarily due to the access it granted in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks for Montanans. The bill would be used by Metcalf to help acquire federal wildlife refuge lands and improved recreation facilities in Montana.


Although Lee Metcalf had not introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund bill in Congress, he was one of the bill’s co-sponsors, and did a lot of work for the bill in the background as the Senate debated the bill in the summer of 1964. The bill—seen very much as a companion bill to the Wilderness Act—was important to the Department of the Interior, which had struggled to improve or create recreation areas on its federal lands, as witnessed through the Mission 66 program to improve facilities and trails in national parks for the anniversary of the National Park Service. On August 14, 1964, Edward C. Crafts, Director of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in the Interior Department, wrote to Senator Metcalf to thank him for his role with the bill in Metcalf’s capacity as the Acting President Pro Tempore of the Senate:


This is just a thank-you note for your help the other day when the Land and Water Conservation Fund bill was being considered on the Floor of the Senate. I was in the gallery throughout the debate and you were on hand every time when a vote came up. I know you also did a good bit of work behind-the-scenes. I want you to know that I appreciate the help you gave us.[94]


The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was signed into law by President Johnson on September 3, 1964—the same day as the Wilderness Act. Unfortunately, Metcalf’s role with the bill has been forgotten.


On June 18, 1964—one day before the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964—the House Interior Committee voted 27 to 0 in favor of recommending a House compromise version of the Wilderness Bill—H.R. 9070, introduced by Rep. John P. Saylor—to the House floor for consideration. H.R. 9070 was introduced in the House by Rep. Saylor on November 7, 1963, and beat out the Dingle Wilderness Bill for final consideration by the House. There were still issues with the House Wilderness Bill; however, it was the first Wilderness Bill approved by the House during the 1960s.[95] The bill was amended by the House before to its passage on July 30, 1964. Prior to a conference committee on the bill, Senator Metcalf responded to a constituent letter about the pending wilderness bill, stating that “Be assured that I will do whatever I can to see that the best possible Wilderness bill is passed.”[96]


In order to resolve differences between the House H.R. 9070 and Senate S. 4 bills, a special House-Senate Conference Committee was insisted upon by the House of Representatives. Members of the committee were assigned on August 7, 1964, and a Conference report (H. Rept. 88-1829) was submitted to the House and Senate on August 20, 1964. The conference report was agreed to by both houses of Congress on August 20th. On August 21, 1964, Senator Lee Metcalf, the Permanent Acting Pro Tempore of the Senate, signed the Wilderness Act on behalf of the U.S. Senate as presiding officer. In a ceremony outside in the White House Rose Garden on September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1964. President Johnson made the following statement regarding these bills: “This is a very happy and historic occasion for all who love the great American outdoors, and that, needless to say, includes me. The two bills that I am signing this morning are in the highest tradition of our heritage as conservators as well as users of America's bountiful natural endowments.”[97]


With the enactment of the Wilderness Act, as it came to be called, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture were tasked with surveying roadless areas and primitive areas within national forests, national parks, wildlife refuges, national monuments, and other federal lands under the control of the Interior and Agriculture Departments. In general, the agencies had ten years from September 1964 to review and recommend to the President that these areas be classified as wilderness areas or have other designations made. The President would apprise Congress of his recommendations on each area included in the review, and these areas could only become wilderness following an act of Congress. Nine million acres of federal land was automatically placed into wilderness status, and these areas were part of the ten-year review period.[98]


Although this was the case, university forestry schools and land management programs across the United States largely were not instructing students on land and forest management in relation to the new Wilderness Act. At the famed University of Montana’s School of Forestry, future U.S. Forest Service employee and wilderness advocate Bill Cunningham—a Montanan—was mid-way through his undergraduate program at School of Forestry when the Wilderness Act of 1964 was signed into law. Cunningham recalls that he and his fellow students were not really aware of the Wilderness Act, and the Forestry School did not promote the act or train its students in responding to the Act’s stipulations as it related to the Forest Service. The school continued to teach Cunningham and his fellow students how to manage lumber supplies, formulate and meet timber quotas, and working on timber contracts with private companies [99]. Just because the Wilderness Act had been enacted, did not mean it was immediately followed by the agencies administering federal wilderness areas and forests.


As a sign of respect for The Wilderness Society and the close working relationship he had with them, Senator Metcalf sent with a letter the pen he used to sign the Wilderness Act into law. Stewart M. Brandborg, a friend of Metcalf and the Executive Director of The Wilderness Society, wrote Metcalf a few weeks after the enactment of the Wilderness Act, describing Metcalf’s role in the struggle over wilderness preservation:


Dear Lee,  I was deeply touched by your thoughtfulness in sending me the pen with which you signed the Wilderness Act and your very nice letter. The Society will cherish both of these and preserve them among the records and other significant items that we have collected through nearly 30 years of our work in wilderness preservation. Your letter has particular significance along with those written by Zahnie, Olaus Murie, and the great leaders who have given so much to the Wilderness Bill effort. In a personal way I want to tell you how much I appreciate your kind words in reference to my appointment as Executive Director of the Society. This means a great deal to me. I have just returned from an extensive trip in the west. I had a number of fine visits with conservationists in Montana during my stay there and need badly to go over a number of things with you in the near future. I will hope to catch you at the first opportunity and at a time that is convenient from your standpoint. Again, I want to tell you how much I was touched by your thoughtfulness in writing and in sending the pen with which you had this final part in clearing this landmark legislation for the President’s signature. It was so wonderfully appropriate that you were the one who represented the Senate in this historic action.[100]


Lee Metcalf ended the fight over the Wilderness Act the way he began it: with the great admiration of national conservation leaders who appreciated everything he had done for wilderness and natural resources preservation.


The fight over the Wilderness Act was not over, as individual wilderness areas and proposed wilderness areas had to face an inventory and review. The Agriculture Department delayed beginning its full wilderness area review until 1970, four years before the deadline set by Congress. Because of their lack of fulfilment of the Wilderness Act’s stipulations, Senator Metcalf devoted the last eight years of his life introducing and pushing for passage of a number of Montana-focused wilderness studies or wilderness area bills, including the Great Bear Wilderness bill, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area, and the Montana Wilderness Study Act. Metcalf did not want the slow action of federal agencies and party politics to allow for the gradual spoiling of Montana’s wilderness. Metcalf had a hand in the classification or passage of every acre of wilderness in Montana by the time of his death in January 1978. He was recognized in his lifetime by major conservation and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Wilderness Federation, National Wildlife Institute, The Wilderness Society, and many other groups. His legacy would be as one of the first true environmentalists in American history. Even so, his active role in the struggle for the Wilderness Act has long been forgotten—until now.


Return to Senator Lee Metcalf (1911-1978)




53. Brandborg, G.M. “The Wilderness Battle As Seen From The Gallery,” [no date]. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 486, Folder 2.


54. Lot 31 B5/13.03, Lee Metcalf Photograph Collection. Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives.


55. [Conservation], radio campaign transcript #3, [1950s]. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 629, Folder 3.


56. Lot 31 B5/7.05-.09, Lee Metcalf Photograph Collection. Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives.


57. Nash, Roderick, Wilderness and the American Mind (Yale University Press, 1965): pp. 225.


58. Letter, Rep. Lee Metcalf to Senator John F. Kennedy, October 21, 1960. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 117, Folder 10; “Metcalf Appointed To Kennedy Group,” Montana Standard (Butte, Montana), Wednesday, October 5, 1960, pp. 2.  


59. Lot 31 B16/2.06, Lee Metcalf Photograph Collection. Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives.


60. Letter, Lawrence F. O’Brien, Special Assistant to the President, The White House, to Sen. Lee Metcalf, September 28, 1961. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 34, Folder 6.


61. “Stories Four and Five,” Notes from phone interview with George Ostrom, former U.S. Senator legislative aide to Senator Lee Metcalf, with Matthew Peek, August 14, 2013. Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives.


62. Ibid.


63. “Topflight Conservationists To Speak at Missoula Meet,” Montana Standard (Butte, Montana), Friday, August 11, 1961, pp. 4.


64. “Watered-Down Wilderness Bill Not Expected to Draw Much Opposition at Hearing in Idaho,” Montana Standard (Butte, Montana, Sunday, October 22, 1961, pp. 16.


65. Welch, Eugene B. Destruction of Natural Fish Habitat Is Ruining Montana’s Fishing Streams. Montana Fish and Game Department, November 15, 1961. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, Folder 3.


66. Letter, Charles H. Callison, Assistant to the President of the National Audubon Society, to Sen. Lee Metcalf, November 30, 1961. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, [unknown folder]. 


67. Letter, Undersecretary of the Interior James K Carr to Sen. Lee Metcalf, December 15, 1961. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, Folder 3.


68. Metcalf, Lee, S. 2767 (Save Our Streams Bill), January 30, 1962. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, Folder 3.


69. “Highway Construction Endangers Recreation Resources,” Sports Afield, April 1962, pp. 16. Sent with letter by Michael Hudoba, Sports Afield Washington Editor, to Sen. Lee Metcalf, March 26, 1962. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, Folder 3.


70. Letter, Sen. Lee Metcalf to Karl W. Onthank, President of Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, March 29, 1962. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, Folder 1; Letter, Sen. Lee Metcalf to Charles Hjelte, Editor of Colorado Outdoors, Department of Game and Fish, April 6, 1962. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, Folder 1.


71. Statement by Senator Lee Metcalf on the floor of the U.S. Senate, no date [given in February 1962 due to textual clues and original notation at top of first page]. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, Folder 3.


72. “Metcalf Bill Would Shield Fish, Wildlife in U.S. Road Projects,” Montana Standard-Post (Butte-Anaconda, Montana), Tuesday, January 29, 1963, pp. 3.


73. Metcalf, Lee, statement and accompanying documents. “Coordination of Activities of Highway Builders and Conservationists,” Congressional Record, Thursday, July 18, 1963 (Vol. 109, No. 109) (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1963). Statement in Congressional Record attached to Letter, Lawrence N. Stevens, Acting Director of Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, Department of the Interior, to Senator Lee Metcalf, June 3, 1964. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 386, Folder 14.


74. “If Hearings Reopen: New Wilderness Fight Seen,” Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana), Sunday, March 12, 1962, pp. 13.


75. “Fight Seen: Wilderness Bills Due in Congress,” Helena Independent Record (Helena, Montana), Monday, April 30, 1962, pp. 2; “Capital City News in Brief”, Helena Independent Record (Helena, Montana), Monday, April 15, 1962, pp. 3; “Closer To Congress: Wilderness Bill Support Mounting, Says Metcalf,” Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana), Sunday, January 14, 1962, pp. 3.


76. “Attempts Made To Bottle Up Wilderness Bill,” Kalispell Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Montana), Friday, June 1, 1962; “Negotiating: Decision Seen Soon On Wilderness Bill,” Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana), Tuesday, July 30, 1963, pp. 18W. 


77. Metcalf, Lee W. H.R. 11751, A bill to establish on public lands of the United States a National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole people . . . . June 13, 1956 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956): pp. 18.


78. Nash, Wilderness, pp. 225-226; “Special Provisions, Section 4.1” Wilderness Act, Public Law 88-577 (16 U.S. C. 1131-1136), 88th Congress, Second Session, September 3, 1964.


79. “DeVoto Grove is Established—Revival of Wilderness Bill Urged,” Montana Standard-Post (Anaconda-Butte, Montana), Tuesday, September 11, 1962, pp. 2. 


80. National Wilderness Preservation System Act: Hearings before the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, United States Senate, Eighty-Eight Congress, First Session, on S. 4, bill to establish on public lands of the United States a National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole people . . . . February 28 and March 1, 1963 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963).  


81. Ibid, pp. 1.


82. “Wilderness Bill Passed By Senate,” Kalispell Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, MT), Wednesday, April 10, 1963.


83. Aspinall, Wayne, “Congressman Aspinall Invites Administration To Submit Land Management Plan,” Press Release, October 15, 1962. Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, United States House of Representatives. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 615, Folder 2. “Negotiating: Decision Seen Soon On Wilderness Bill,” Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana), Tuesday, July 30, 1963, pp. 18W.


84. “Wilderness Bill Debated,” Albuquerque Tribune (Albuquerque, New Mexico), March 2, 1963, pp. A-6.


85. Senator Lee Metcalf statement during testimony by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, National Wilderness Preservation System Act: Hearings, February 28, 1961, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963): pp. 26.


86. “Editorial: House Interior Committee Stalls on Wilderness Bill,” Nevada State Journal, Monday, July 8, 1963, pp. 4.


87. “Story Four,” Notes from phone interview with George Ostrom, former U.S. Senator legislative aide to Senator Lee Metcalf, with Matthew Peek, August 14, 2013. Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives.


88. Ibid.


89. Brandborg, G. [Guy] M. “The Wilderness Battle—As Seen From The Gallery,” no date [circa 1961-1963 from subject content]. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 486, Folder 2.


90. Zahniser, Howard. “Memorandum for Members and Cooperators,” The Wilderness Society, February 13, 1964. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 486, Folder 3.


91. Nash, Wilderness, pp. 226; Wilderness Legislative History Timeline of 88 S. 4., National Wilderness Preservation System Act, September 3, 1964, University of Montana, Wilderness.net (Viewed at http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/documents/legislativehistory/88_577_BTR.pdf); “Howard Zahniser,” Former Council Members, The Wilderness Society (Viewed at http://wilderness.org/bios/former-council-members/howard-zahniser).


92. National Park Service, “A Quick History of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Program: 1964 and All That” (Viewed at http://www.nps.gov/ncrc/programs/lwcf/history.html).


93. Ibid.


94. Letter, Edward C. Crafts, Director of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation of the Department of the Interior, to Sen. Lee Metcalf, August 14, 1964. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 487, Folder 15.


95. Brandborg, Stewart M., Acting Executive Director. “Special Memorandum: House Committee Reports Wilderness Bill,” June 29, 1964. The Wilderness Society. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 486, Folder 3.


96. Letter, Sen. Lee Metcalf to Catherine McCarty, State Committeewoman of Dawson County Democratic Central Committee (Glendive, Montana), July 20, 1964. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 172, Folder 2.


97. Johnson, Lyndon B. “Remarks Upon Signing the Wilderness Bill and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Bill,” September 3, 1964. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=26481.


98. “Interior To Begin Studies Under New Wilderness Act, Udall Says,” Press Release, United States Department of the Interior, November 20, 1964. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 486, Folder 3.


99. Notes from in-person interview with Bill Cunningham of Choteau, Montana, former U.S. Forest Service junior ranger and wilderness legislation lobbyist for The Wilderness Society, with Matthew Peek, Thursday, March 6, 2014. Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives.  


100. Letter, Stewart M. Brandborg, Executive Director of The Wilderness Society, to Sen. Lee Metcalf, September 28, 1964. Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives. MC 172 Lee Metcalf Papers, Box 486, Folder 3.


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