Remembering Martin Littonby Senator Barbara Boxer
Posted on 2014-12-12
BOXER. Madam President, I ask my colleagues to join me in
honoring the memory of Martin Litton, a legendary conservationist and
great outdoorsman who died on November 30 at the age of 97.
Clyde Martin Litton was born in Los Angeles on February 13, 1917. As an English major at UCLA, he met his future wife, Esther, and became a conservation activist--forming a student group that kept roads out of California's wildlands. After graduating in 1939, he worked as the publicist for an Arizona dude ranch and as a tour guide at the Los Angeles Times. When war broke out, he joined the Army Air Corps and became a glider pilot flying missions behind enemy lines. In gentler times, he piloted his own plane and loved taking environmental and political leaders for wild rides into the wild.
After the war, Martin returned to the Times as a freelance writer, filing stories and photos from long backpacking trips with his wife and young family. He later worked at Sunset magazine, first as travel editor and later as senior editor.
In 1952, David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club--which had hitherto been a hiking and outdoors group with little involvement in public policy--enlisted Litton to help him fight the Bureau of Reclamation's plan to build two dams at Dinosaur National Monument, and the group successfully lobbied Congress to scuttle the plan by 1956. That battle helped transform the Sierra Club into the powerful national advocacy organization we know today, with Litton supporting the Club's activism as a member of the national board from 1964 to 1972.
Along with his good friend Brower, Litton is widely recognized as one of the founders of the modern environmental movement. Brower called Martin his ``environmental conscience'' because he never compromised his principles as he led the conservation movement to some of its greatest victories. With his eloquent writing, beautiful photographs, and fiery rhetoric, he inspired the efforts to keep dams out of the Grand Canyon, a ski resort out of the Sierras' pristine Mineral King Valley, and logging out of the Giant Sequoia National Monument. He was instrumental in the creation of Redwood National Park in 1968; 2 years later, dissatisfied with the park's boundaries, he led the successful fight to protect an additional 48,000 acres.
A longtime oarsman and whitewater enthusiast, Litton also started a company in 1971 to take tourists through his beloved Grand Canyon in small wooden boats. He maintained an active role in Grand Canyon Dories and at 87 became the oldest person ever to pilot a boat through the Canyon.
A fierce and determined defender of our nation's wildlands, Martin Litton was a force of nature--and a force for the preservation of nature. On behalf of the people of California, who have benefitted so much from his life work, I send my deepest gratitude and condolences to his beloved wife, Esther; children John, Donald, Kathleen, and Helen; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Martin's memory and legacy will live on with everyone who loves America's priceless natural heritage, which he did so much to preserve and protect.