January 27, 2015
(Yeah, I’m behind. Tell me news.)
New Year’s felicitations from Yellowstone National Park.
The Yellowstone in winter is best, the old timers tell me. I agree.
Published on Jan 1, 2015
Winter landscapes in Yellowstone inspire artist and NPS employee Lynn Bickerton Chan. Produced by NPS/Neal Herbert. 600
January 23, 2015
Flights Arriving Daily! Birds are funneling into Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex Photo: A Mize/USFWS; from @USFWSPacSWest
Photo from last fall. Some of the ducks probably overwinter. Others continued south, and will be arriving at Klamath NWR soon, again, heading north.
Our public lands at work.
November 26, 2014
Turns out there are real turkeys in Alabama. They’ve expressed some concern that Judge Roy Moore impersonates a turkey in court.
A Thanksgiving salute from the denizens of our public lands.
From Interior Department’s Twitter feed: Here’s a handsome pair of wild turkeys to celebrate #Thanksgiving! Photo at Eufala NWR by Michael Padgett #Alabama
- Eufala National Wildlife Refuge: “The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1964 through community support and in cooperation with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is located on both banks of the Chattahoochee River in southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. Named after the city of Eufaula, the refuge offers a variety of wetland and upland habitats for diverse fauna. A prominent feature of the abundant wetlands is Lake Eufaula (Walter F. George Reservoir) and several feeder streams”
November 21, 2014
From our public lands, from the Twitter feed of the U.S. Department of Interior:
@Interior caption: Fall foliage and snow-capped peaks make for a stunning shot of Conway Summit #California @BLMca #nature
In my winter drives through the desert mountains of the Great Basin I often marveled at how a dusting of snow could turn a landscape generally painted in tones of brown with a little green into almost black and white. Then there are those black and white landscapes slashed by stunning gashes of color, or tinted subtley.
Conway Summit shows the stunning gashes of color this week. Grays, whites, blacks — and gold and pink. It’s in the western part of California, near Nevada and Mono Lake:
Conway Summit (el. 8,143 feet (2,482 m)) is a mountain pass in Mono County, California. It is traversed by U.S. Highway 395, which connects Bridgeport and the East Walker River on the north side of the pass to Mono Lake and Lee Vining to the south. It marks the highest point on U.S. 395, which also traverses high passes at Deadman Summit and Devil’s Gate Pass.
Conway Summit is named after John Andrew Conway, a settler in the area in 1880. Geographically, it was formed from an upland plateau by the sinking of the land in the Mono basin area. The Sawtooth Ridge of the eastern Sierra Nevada, topped by 12,279-foot (3,743 m) Matterhorn Peak, rise to the west of the pass; Green Creek and Virginia Lakes, in the Sierra Nevada to the west of the pass, are two local destinations for fishing, camping and aspen trees. The Bodie Hills and the infamous Bodie ghost town lie to the east.
This scene comes from our public lands, the undifferentiated lands held in trust by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and managed for multiple uses. You and I may look at this photo and marvel at the beauty of America, and say a little prayer of thanks for our public lands. Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz see potential for high-dollar vacation residences throughout this scene, if only the land could be sold off.
June 6, 2014
You’ll be hard pressed to find a photo with more brown #bears in it than this one @KatmaiNPS. #Alaska pic.twitter.com/j3QpP5u30G
Fishing brown bears, and one seagull, in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, from the Department of Interior’s Twitter feed.
Thanks to Bill Martin, Jr., and Eric Carle, author and illustrator respectively of the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education pulled this book from reading standards suggested books, because the board confused Bill Martin, Jr., with another Bill Martin who had written socialist texts. The book was eventually reinstated.
May 20, 2014
Photo after photo, I come increasingly to understand why my oldest brother, Jerry, wanted to spend his life and eternity in the Yellowstone.
Wholly apart from the thermal “features” and geological wonders, the area is just smashingly beautiful day in and day out, in even the mundane areas away from the celebrated features.
Here’s a part of the Madison River, just flowing through its streambed, at sunset.
Yellowstone National Park’s Twitter feed: Spring sunset on the Madison River. pic.twitter.com/8nZSxJvBeZ
May 20, 2014
A family off to find and settle their homestead, 1886. Photo from the National Archives
History and demographics of the United States were forever changed when the Homestead Act became law early in the administration of President Abraham Lincoln, on May 20, 1862.
With Congress paralyzed and unable to act to do even minor good things now, it’s astonishing to think how the Congress of 1862 could do so much to open the American west, in the middle of the American Civil War. Perhaps Congress was able to act because legislators from the South were absent, and did not oppose progress.
In any case, the Homestead Act encouraged Americans who lacked property to strike out for the western territories and states, to make a new life, to found new towns, cities and farms, and fulfill what some call the nation’s “manifest destiny.”
The bill that became the Homestead Act, H.R. 125, in the 37th Congress, 1862. Image from the U.S. National Archives
Here’s the history from the National Archives:
The notion that the United States government should give free land titles to settlers to encourage westward expansion became popular in the 1850s. During that time the U.S. House of Representatives passed numerous homestead bills but southern opposition in the Senate prevented enactment. In 1860, during the 36th Congress, the Senate narrowly passed a homestead act but President James Buchanan vetoed it and the Senate failed its override attempt.
When the 37th Congress convened for its brief summer session in 1861, now without members from seceded states, it was preoccupied with Civil War-related legislation. The House took up briefly the homestead issue in December but postponed further consideration of it until the following February. The House finally passed the Homestead Act on February 28, 1862 by the large margin of 107 to 16. The act worked its way through the Senate until May 6, 1862 when it passed easily by a vote of 33 to 7. After a few minor changes in conference committee—which both houses agreed to without controversy—Congress sent the final legislation to President Abraham Lincoln who signed the act into law on May 20, 1862.
The Homestead Act encouraged western migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of land in exchange for a nominal filing fee. Among its provisions was a five-year requirement of continuous residence before receiving the title to the land and the settlers had to be, or in the process of becoming, U.S. citizens. Through 1986, when the last claim was made in Alaska, the Homestead Act distributed 270 million acres of land in the United States making it arguably one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history.
- The Homestead Act of 1862 (ingallswilder2.wordpress.com)
- The Homestead Act, one of the 100 important documents in American History (National Archives)
- Off The Mark (brainiac-conspiracy.typepad.com)
Photograph of Daniel Freeman on his homestead, circa 1904; in 1863 Freeman, then a Scout for the Union Army, became the first American to file an application for a homestead, in Nebraska; Library of Congress photo
- Teaching with Documents: Lesson plans and support materials for teaching about the Homestead Act, from the U.S. National Archives (NARA); be sure to see the first homestead application, from Daniel Freeman
- Library of Congress, Primary Documents in American History: The Homestead Act
- Homesteading and migration: Documents from the U.S. National Archives Migration in History exhibition and materials, including homesteading documents for Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp’s brother, and for Charles P. Ingalls, the father of author Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Homestead National Monument, in Nebraska; women were allowed to own homesteads, more than 50 years before they got the vote
- More documents at America’s Story (Library of Congress): “The Homestead Act Went Into Effect”
- For most of the history of homesteading, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was the principle agency that took the applications and administered the program; BLM’s on-line exhibition for the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act in 2012 holds interactive media presentations, and more information
- “The Plow that Broke the Plains;” homesteading and “free land” played a huge rule in the creation of the Dust Bowl; this post at Great Plains Trail discusses that and the federally-produced documentary on the disaster
Much of this post has appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub before; the Homestead Act deserves commemoration.