Letter to Governor James B. Edwards regarding the preservation of the Congaree Swamp, 11 January 1976
The political scandals, armed conflicts, and energy crises that littered the background of the 1960s and 1970s created in Americans a sense of distrust toward both the federal government and industrial society. As a result of recent events, as well as works like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring that inspired environmental awareness, an environmental movement began to take shape. Activists across the country voiced the dangers of unchecked industrial growth and set their sights on political action that would reduce pollution and promote conservation of natural resources.
Environmental horror stories, like that of the contamination of Love Canal, demonstrated the long-term effects of pollution and rallied popular support for environmental legislation. In 1969 Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act that created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and laid the groundwork for future legislation. The EPA was charged with researching the adverse effects of pollution and finding methods to prevent it as well as making policy recommendations to the President. Beyond pollution prevention, the Congress also designated 7.2 million acres of land as protected wilderness, a figure expanded to 56 million acres in 1980.
The national environmental movement worked in communities of all shapes and sizes. In 1969, the owner of a flood plain along the Congaree River in South Carolina considered reviving a dormant logging operation to capitalize on rising timber prices. The Sierra Club launched a grassroots campaign to prevent the destruction of the land, a campaign that proved highly successful with the support of many dedicated local residents. On October 18, 1976, Congress declared the 11,000-acre floodplain, the largest intact tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States, the Congaree Swamp National Monument. In 2003, Congress made Congaree the nation’s 57th national park.
This letter, written by a young girl in Massachusetts, is one of thousands sent by individuals to state and federal governments during the Sierra Club’s campaign to preserve the Congaree Swamp. The uniqueness of the land, along with the habitat it provided, led people of all ages and backgrounds to protest its potential destruction. Ultimately, individual contributions like this contributed to the widespread environmental activism and progressive legislation of the 1970s.
Stone, Katie, to Governor James B. Edwards, 11 January 1976. Congaree Swamp file, 1974-1976. S 553004. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.
Standard 5-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of developments in the United States since the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in 1992.
Indicator 5-6.2 Explain how humans change the physical environment of regions and the consequences of such changes, including use of natural resources and the expansion of transportation systems.
Standard 7-7: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the significant political, economic, geographic, scientific, technological, and cultural changes and advancements that took place throughout the world from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day.
Indicator 7-7.3 Explain global influences on the environment, including the effects of increases in population, the growth of cities, and efforts by citizens and governments to protect the natural environment.
Indicator 7-7.7 Summarize the dangers to the natural environment that are posed by population growth, urbanization, and industrialization.