The view in Grand Teton National Park from the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. PHOTO COURTESY OF NPS

Rockefellers a force in conservation



The announcement May 22 of David Rockefeller Sr.’s gift of 1,000 acres of land around Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor to the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve is only the latest example of the entire Rockefeller family’s continued dedication to supporting land conservation and related causes.

His father, John D. Rockefeller Jr., donated large tracts to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations for eventual inclusion into what became Acadia National Park. He also funded the design and creation of the carriage road system and the Park Loop Road in Acadia.

Three people were primarily responsible for turning the dream of what is now Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island into a reality. They include, from left, George B. Dorr, Charles Eliot, and John D. Rockefeller Jr. PHOTOS COURTESY OF NPS

Three people were primarily responsible for turning the dream of what is now Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island into a reality. They include, from left, George B. Dorr, Charles Eliot, and John D. Rockefeller Jr.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NPS

In addition to the creation and continued support of the land and garden preserve, the establishment of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust by the late Peggy Rockefeller, and other donations in Maine, the family’s generosity extends across North America, even into the Hawaiian Islands and the Caribbean.

Members of the family have led and served on the boards of conservation organizations ranging from the National Park Foundation to the National Geographic Society, the National Wildlife Foundation and the Pew Oceans Commission.

Earlier this year, David Rockefeller Sr. announced a gift of $4 million to the New York State Office of Parks to endow the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Mount Pleasant. Since the early 1980s, the family has donated more than 1,400 acres in that area to the state. Previously, the family created the Palisades Interstate Park and helped create the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park.

Rockefeller’s late brother Laurance was called “America’s leading conservationist” by Lady Bird Johnson. He helped fund expansion of Grand Teton National Park, which also was a favorite cause of his father, John D. Jr., one of the founders of Acadia National Park. Laurance Rockefeller supported other park efforts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Shenandoah National Park, in Hawaii and in the Virgin Islands National Park.

In 1992, Laurance Rockefeller and his wife, Mary, donated their property in Woodstock, Vt., to become Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. In 2001, the couple’s 1,106-acre JY Ranch in Wyoming became part of Grand Teton National Park.

David Rockefeller Sr.’s sister Abby created the Greenacres Foundation in 1968 to help maintain and protect parks in New York.

Rockefeller’s son David Jr. founded Sailors for the Sea to raise awareness of marine conservation issues. He also has served in the leadership of the National Parks Foundation and on the Pew Oceans Commission.

Rockefeller’s daughter Abby has written extensively about reducing human impact on the environment and has been a champion of the Clivus Multrum composting toilet waste system.

Rockefeller has given millions to support preservation efforts at Colonial Williamsburg and a total of more than $5 million for the Million Trees NYC effort in New York City. In 2008, he pledged $25 million for the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York.

Rockefeller’s late brother Nelson, who served as vice president of the United States from 1974 to 1977, was a champion of conservation causes while he served as governor of New York. He pushed for legislation creating 55 new state parks, launched a pure water program and helped protect Adirondack Park from encroaching development.

Those gifts are in addition to regular annual support of organizations such as Friends of Acadia, College of the Atlantic, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, the Jackson Laboratory and others.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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