Storytelling’s power to inspire water conservation exploredCandace KrebsAg JournalIn 1888, a one-armed explorer with a fascination for the rug...

Storytelling’s power to inspire water conservation exploredCandace KrebsAg JournalIn 1888, a one-armed explorer with a fascination for the rug...Storytelling’s power to inspire water conservation explored
Candace KrebsAg Journal


In 1888, a one-armed explorer with a fascination for the rugged intermountain West — and a keen insight into how contentious water would become — co-founded a new organization for the purpose of expanding education and knowledge about the natural world.

That is how John Wesley Powell, the namesake for one of the West’s most important — and increasingly threatened —reservoirs, is tied to one of the world’s most influential magazines on nature and culture, the National Geographic.

Powell’s foremost obsession was water. Not only did he create the first comprehensive watershed map, but at a national irrigation congress in 1893 he declared the West was over-appropriating its water, telling the assembly “you are setting up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights” that would loom over future generations.

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, left, conducts a virtual interview with Gary Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners, during the third annual Water in the West Symposium hosted by Colorado State University’s new SPUR campus in Denver.
Highlighting Powell’s devotion to science, his foresightedness and his willingness to speak up was the starting point for the recent annual Water in the West Symposium, hosted by Colorado State University’s new SPUR campus in Denver. Keynote speaker Gary Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners and former president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, related Powell’s story as he sketched out a history of how early exploration of the West led to formation of the National Park Service and an ethic of conservation that was soon interwoven into the American mindset.
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