Without diminishing the work of the later conservation thinkers, Judd says it’s important to look at the broad social and intellectual background of American conservation ideas that were being developed by naturalists such as Nuttall and the hundreds of others who worked and wrote in the century before America’s first national park was established in Yellowstone in 1872. In his newest book, The Untilled Garden: Natural History and the Spirit of Conservation in America, 1740-1840, Judd argues that “America’s conservation giants” drew on ideas that these early explorer/naturalists developed in their expeditions a generation before. …
When they wrote, Judd says, they followed a tradition of the travel journal used by earlier explorers and set down things in order, as they encountered them. They regularly combined scientific data with their own reactions to the setting, and often noted the smell, feel and taste of a place in their observations.
Many of these explorers had been sent to America by wealthy European collectors, and they took scrupulous notes on natural settings in which they found specimens so that they could be successfully transplanted to their patrons’ gardens.
“They made no distinctions in describing the people, the plants, the animals and their surroundings,” Judd says. “This is the foundation of modern ecology. It’s all interrelated stuff. It all fits together in some form. The role of the naturalist is to find that connection.”
(excerpted from: Cataloging Eden - Pioneering work of early naturalist explorers laid the groundwork for American conservation by Rich Hewitt in Spring 2012 UMaine Today)