Saving God’s creation: Land conservation work has New England roots

BAR HARBOR — Author and historian Ronald H. Epp will lead an exploration of the history of land conservation in New England at the Jesup Memorial Library on Tuesday, June 19, at 7 p.m.

Epp’s talk will begin with the Puritan belief that as agents of God’s will, nature must be subdued for personal needs. Three centuries later, landscape architect Charles Eliot established the first land trust for the enjoyment of the public in perpetuity. Epp will explain how this movement for preserving wild land began with early environmentalists, including Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, Frederick Law Olmsted, John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt. These men were troubled by the contests between religion and society and between nature and culture, and by the advent of industrialization, deforestation, urbanization, population growth and transportation innovations. They began their work to stem this by the creation of land trusts and sanctuaries.

Epp is the author of “Creating Acadia National Park: The Biography of George Bucknam Dorr,” the first biography of Dorr, which was published during Acadia National Park’s centennial year by Friends of Acadia. The debut of the book was a joint talk with FOA at the Jesup that drew over 100 attendees.

Epp is a historian and professor of philosophy with a background in scholarly publishing and academic library leadership. He currently teaches in the Presidents’ College at the University of Hartford. As part of its Distinguished Lectures Series, he has been invited to give a talk this October to the Lenox Library Association on the impact of the Berkshires on the development of the national park on Mount Desert Island.

Epp’s research over the last two decades into the Massachusetts families who influenced the development of conservation philanthropy led to “Creating Acadia National Park.” Dozens of talks at bookstores, libraries, historical societies and museums throughout the Northeast followed. Epp served as a consultant for the Ken Burns documentary “America’s Best Idea: the National Parks” and has uncovered and inventoried hidden collections of documents relating to the history of Acadia National Park and the origins of the National Park Service.

Copies of “Creating Acadia National Park” will be on sale that night courtesy of co-sponsor Sherman’s Books. Contact the Jesup at 288-4245 or [email protected].

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