Wallace Stegner was a writer, professor and environmentalist. A passionate advocate for the protection of the West, he taught us by his writing and by example about the accountable life and what it means to be a responsible constituent of the human race.
Stegner once said about his writing, "In fiction I think we should have no agenda but to tell the truth." Stegner's prose has inspired generations of readers to seek their own truth, leaving a lasting legacy of conservation involvement for people on every continent. Over a 60-year writing career that included 30 books, Stegner won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Angle of Repose and the National Book Award for The Spectator Bird. But, perhaps the most important contribution of his writings is the ability to strike a chord within people worldwide to find what Stegner called "something to take the shrillness out of us."
His most famous accomplishment took place in 1960, when he authored "The Wilderness Letter" on the importance of federal protection of wild places. This letter served as a catalyst to the passage of the bill that established the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964, and awakened a national conscience to our spiritual need for wilderness, "a leftover from our frontier origins that could reassure us of our identity as a nation and a people." Protection, not just for recreation or scientific reasons, but for our heritage as human beings, became a touchstone for conservationists everywhere.
As Americans lead increasingly urban lifestyles, Stegner's works grow in importance to the conservation movement. The involvement of people from all walks of life starts with the inspiration to protect the places they know and love, and to preserve its heritage for future generations. Wallace Stegner's legacy lives on as generation after generation finds the passion for wild places in their own hearts.
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