Ernest Swift began his conservation career as one of Wisconsin's first official game wardens and eventually ascended to the leadership of the National Wildlife Federation.
Hard-driving, impatient, and blunt, Swift was a superb administrator who wanted results. And he got them. As head of the Wisconsin Conservation Department in the early 1950s, Swift fought to preserve the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. During his six years as Wisconsin's top conservationist, Swift managed to get no less than 79 of 100 bills written by his agency passed into law - some of them landmark accomplishments.
Later, as a federal official, he fought oil drilling on certain U.S. lands. In 1953, Swift became assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but quit after 18 months, appalled at the bureaucratic trade-offs he witnessed. When the opportunity arose for him to become executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, he jumped at it. For five years, he helped lay the groundwork for the growth of the country's largest conservation organization. His work also helped shape the first U.S. Wilderness Act, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System. A prolific writer, Swift expounded his environmental viewpoints in many publications over the years, and wrote two books, including the classic, A Conservation Saga. Aggressively dedicated to wildlife conservation through scientific management, Ernest Swift played a defining role in shaping modern-day environmentalism.
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