While the prevailing attitude of his day was to make the wilderness more accessible to greater numbers of people O.J. Murie believed that "the highest form of communion with nature can be had individually...Alone with nature."
Accordingly, he dedicated his life to keeping the wilderness wild. After a stint in the U.S. military in World War I as a balloonist/forward observer, Murie joined the U.S. Biological Survey - forerunner of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - to conduct field research on land use and on a variety of animals, including caribou, coyote, and elk. He enjoyed the rugged work the job entailed, but disagreed with the Biological Survey's predator-control policies, which set bounties of wolves and coyotes. "I think we should go beyond proving the rights of animals to live in utilitarian terms," he said. "Why don't we just admit that we like having them around?"
Murie's career took a dramatic turn in 1937. Wilderness-protection advocate Robert Marshall enlisted him in creating the fledgling Wilderness Society, dedicated to stemming the decline of North America's wild places. First as a governing council member, then as director, and finally as the organization's president for seven years, Murie spread the wilderness gospel.
Murie received awards from nearly every major conservation organization. But the final tribute to his lifelong dedication to conservation came a year after his death, when President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act of 1964 for which Murie had fought so hard. The act created the National Wilderness Preservation System to contain and protect public lands that were "untrammeled by man." Thanks in large part to Murie's lifelong dedication to the conservation of wild places, millions of acres of land in the United States are managed for the use and enjoyment of the people with their "wildness" intact.
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