David Brower

1912 – 2000

Three times in the middle of the twentieth century, David Brower put his shoulder to the American environmental movement and showed it in a better direction. First, in the late ’30’s, he lead a move in the Sierra Club to encourage low-impact and no-impact use of the wilderness. Then, in the ’50’s, he pushed to save Dinosaur National Monument from being flooded by a dam and, in the process, almost single-handedly created the Sierra Club’s publishing program and gave a huge boost to wilderness river trips by environmentalists. His theory was that you will only fight to save what you know about. But it was in the ’60’s that Brower made his greatest contribution to the movement and to the developing American environmental consciousness. When the Bureau of Reclamation wanted to flood part of the Grand Canyon, he convinced the Club to take powerful, dramatic action.

The Club published full-page newspaper ads in the New York Times and Washington Post against the dam. The next day, the IRS hand-delivered a suspension of the Club’s tax-exempt status. This action boosted the Club’s prestige and membership and helped in the fight to save the Canyon. The ad in question said simply, “This time it’s the Grand Canyon they want to flood. The Grand Canyon.”

Never one to rest on his laurels, Brower went on to found the Earth Island Institute, which he lead until his death. The Institute is a leader in environmental activism and one particularly concerned with spreading the word around the world. For all of this, Brower is honored here in the Ecology Hall of Fame.

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