By Herm Hoops
Echo Park is in the heart of Dinosaur National Monument at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. It is a place of bucolic beauty, and it is also the site of the most significant conservation battle of all times.
To understand the battle for Echo Park one must go back to the late 1800s in California and the Yosemite Valley. In the latter part of the nineteenth century John Muir and other early conservationists launched a campaign to protect and preserve significant lands as national forests and parks. For Muir the goal was to keep the lands in their natural state. However, to attract needed public support, Muir and his supporters accepted the notion of some development so as to make the parks more accessible. This meant roads, railway connections, parking areas. The vast majority of the park lands, however, were to remain untouched, pristine in the language of conservationists.
The controversy over damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley, within Yosemite National Park, to provide water to San Francisco pitted leaders of the new conservation movement – and competing definitions of conservation – against each other.
When the Sierra Club, under David Brower, and the Wilderness Society, under Harold Zanhieser learned in the 1950s that a dam was proposed within another National Monument they began educating their members by taking river trips down the Yampa River. The subsequent battle over the Proposed Echo park dam spanned nearly fifty years and spilled into the National Media. Opponents of the dam, including Park service personnel, were investigated by the McCarthy Committee – as hydro energy development was considered by some to be directly related to National security. In the end Echo Park and miles of the green and Yampa Rivers were spared, but the damming of the Colorado River through Glen Canyon proceeded.