The Wilderness Idea
Should Hetch Hetchy, a valley within Yosemite National Park, be dammed and flooded to form a reservoir for San Francisco? The first national controversy about America’s wilderness is told through the dramatic story of the two founders of the American conservation movement and the historic battle that drove them apart. This timeless film traces the paths of the leaders of the two factions: John Muir, the brilliant and eccentric founder and first president of the Sierra Club and Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, who defined conservation as the wise management of natural resources. Pinchot argued that the benefits of water and power for the city outweighed the good of an untouched valley, while Muir pleaded for the intrinsic spiritual worth of wilderness. After a long and bitter debate, Congress approved the dam, but the schism in American attitudes that emerged during the dispute lives on. Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature. Directed by Diane Garey and Lawrence Hott. Co-produced by Florentine Films/Hott Productions and the American Experience.