flying duck logo Oberholtzer – FacetsConservationist

During the lean years of 1931–33, Ober declined to draw his salary from the Quetico-Superior Council because he didn't want to deplete its meager resources. He once observed, “Common sense tells me to drop the whole struggle, but common sense is a very small part of my whole make-up.”

–Ober, 1933

“It was still a place of rare delight—a region apart from the modern world, where man could enjoy the profusion of nature as completely as in the days of Columbus. There was nothing wilder in the jungles of Brazil or the heart of Africa. It was not a somber forest, but a forest threaded with sparkling waterways, flooded with sunshine and peopled with all its ancient creatures.”

–Ernest Oberholtzer, 1929 American Forests

“We preserve our masterpieces of art. Why not preserve also a few masterpieces of Primitive America?”

–From a statement by Frank Hubachek's Twin Cities group of conservationists opposing a plan to build a series of dams in the Rainy Lake watershed, 1927

Ober's 1927 plan to declare the ten-million-acre Quetico-Superior region an International Peace Memorial Forest envisioned “a vast international park, four times as large as Yellowstone and excluding all economic exploitation.”


“The truth is that while some attempts have been made to guard and restore a small part of the material resources of the region, scarcely anything has been done until lately even to recognize - much less protect - those far more unique and precious factors involved in the spiritual resources… a policy of disastrous and needless waste has been pursued, resulting in exhaustion of one form of natural wealth after another and in complete blindness to the higher social and cultural uses. Each exploiter in turn has had an eye single to the one resource he coveted and to his own immediate advantage. He never sees the country himself but sends instead his agents, thus running no risk that he will be converted to the public point of view. His “practical” mind views the so-called 'wild-lifers,'with ill-disguised scorn. By comparison, the pubic interest, which must always look to the future even more than the present, has been ignorant of its inheritance and infantile in its will to live. Private enterprise had run riot like a bull in a botanical garden. It would look as if we could appreciate our blessings only after we stamp them out. To hesitate or bewail is useless. The responsibility rests ultimately upon the public and upon the public alone.”

–Ernest Oberholtzer,1929 American Forests

“It happens that I was called upon to take charge of this movement [serving as president of the Quetico-Superior Council], which I agreed to do for six months, but that was nearly thirty years ago.”


“What was sought through uniform measures in both countries [the U.S. and Canada] was a system of zoning to insure conservation in the use of renewable natural resources and above all preservation for public health and enjoyment of the distinctive wilderness character of the lakes and streams.”

–Ober, 1957

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