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Hugh Hammond Bennett early american ecologist .  RSS feed

 
rose macaskie
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  Hugh Hammond Bennet fought agianst soil erosion in the united states and many of the ideas he fought to defend are the same as those people like bill mollison fought to defend. agri rose macaskie.
 
Brenda Groth
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what a lovely interesting bit of information, thanks Rose

"come later in his life was laid in those early days as a soil scientist.

Bennetts many observations of soil erosion, originating with his home place in Anson County, were beginning to mold deep impressions in his thinking. Years later he would write, "The damaging effects of soil erosion were in evidence to right and left through the rolling farm country encountered in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia during my first two years of surveying, but it was not until 1905 that I began to understand just what was taking place on the land." Bennett was referring to his assignment to Louisa County, Virginia, in 1905 to conduct a soil survey with the assistance of W. E. McClendon. He liked to relate the Louisa County experience, which he regarded as sort of an epiphany, i.e., an awakening or revelation about the processes of erosion:

"Bill McClendon of Bishopville, South Carolina, and I were stirring through the woods down there in middle Virginia when we noticed two pieces of land, side by side but sharply different in their soil quality. The slope of both areas was the same. The underlying rock was the same. There was indisputable evidence that the two pieces had been identical in soil makeup. But the soil of one piece was mellow, loamy, and moist enough even in dry weather to dig into with our bare hands. We noticed this area was wooded, well covered with forest litter, and had never been cultivated. The other area, right beside it, was clay, hard and almost like rock in dry weather. It had been cropped a long time. We figured both areas had been the same originally and that the clay of the cultivated area could have reached the surface only through the process of rainwash—that is, the gradual removal, with every heavy rain, of a thin sheet of topsoil. It was just so much muddy water running off the land after rains. And, by contrast we noticed the almost perfect protection nature provided against erosion with her dense cover of forest."


He sounds like my kind of guy..
 
Brenda Groth
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The 1905 experience in Louisa County, Virginia, was a turning point for Bennett, one that he referred to throughout his life. In his retelling of the event, he made it clear that the immediate situation, the juxtaposition of a good soil with forest cover and a "washed" soil of the same subsoil provided them the crucial clues to this discovery—soil versus no soil. They could see that the "washed" soil had no topsoil when the contrasting soil was friable and soft, with organic matter, among other things. He attributed the strong impression of the experience to the shock of recognizing the true nature of a process he had lived with all of his life.


Also in 1909, as a measure of the Bureau's view of the perishability of soils, whether by erosion, by chemical or physical degradation, or by these factors in combination, the Bureau of Soils published its Bulletin 55. In this Bulletin, Professor Milton Whitney, Chief of the Bureau of Soils, argued that the soil was of inexhaustible and permanent fertility: "The soil is the one indestructible, immutable asset that the Nation possesses. It is the one resource that cannot be exhausted; that cannot be used up." At a later time, Bennett reacted to Whitneys statement: "I didnt know so much costly misinformation could be put into a single brief sentence."

His appearance and what followed it are now legendary. A Bennett biographer, Wellington Brink, graphically describes the event:

"The witness was not cheerful, but he was persistent, informed, and courageous. He told a grim story. He had been telling it all morning. Chapter by chapter, he annotated each dismal page with facts and figures from a reconnaissance he had just completed. . . . The witness did not hurry. He did not want to hurry. That extra ace he needed was not yet at hand. Well he realized that the hearing was beginning to drag. Out of one corner of his eye, he noted the polite stifling of a yawn, but Hugh Bennett continued deliberatively. . . . Bennett knew that a dust storm was on its way. He had newspaper items and weather reports to support this knowledge. But it seemed mighty slow arriving. If his delaying tactics were successful, the presence of the swirling dust—material evidence of what he was talking about—ought to serve as a clincher for his argument. Presently one of the senators remarked—off the record—'It is getting dark. Perhaps a rainstorm is brewing.' Another ventured, 'Maybe its dust.' 'I think you are correct,' Bennett agreed. 'Senator, it does look like dust.' The group gathered at a window. The dust storm for which Hugh Bennett had been waiting rolled in like a vast steel-town pall, thick and repulsive. The skies took on a copper color. The sun went into hiding. The air became heavy with grit. Government's most spectacular showman had laid the stage well. All day, step by step, he had built his drama, paced it slowly, risked possible failure with his interminable reports, while he prayed for Nature to hurry up a proper denouement. For once, Nature cooperated generously."

The committee went back to the conference table no longer in doubt. This was the turning point. The 74th Congress passed without a dissenting vote Public Law 46, The Soil Conservation Act, the first soil conservation act in the history of this or any other nation. It was signed by the President on April 27, 1935.

Hugh Hammond Bennett was many things—visionary, scholar, strategist, politician, tactician, realist, prophet, naturalist, to name a few. He had the uncanny ability to wear the right hat for the right issue at the right time. He was a man who loved the land, but who loved mankind even more. He was a man's man! A tribute by Louis Bromfield, a well- known conservationist and Bennett contemporary, sums it up well: "Hugh Bennett deserves the greatest honor from the American people as one of the greatest benefactors since the beginning of their history."


some good reading Rose..
 
rose macaskie
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    Yeah, i am enjoying it, i hoped someone would write about him and you did. i have very little infrormation on him just enough to know he is interesting but not enough to write about him. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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I have been thinking about eroded soil, i thought, "but if it blows off one place it will blow onto another and that is not to bad" and then i thought, mounths or years later, thats the advantage of age, you think of answers to your questions with time, or you do brainstorming with a group and the combined knwledge makes things quicker or in time you may have ideas about things you had no ideas about before. If there is nothing to hold dust down, no plants to hide under, the dust that lands in another place will be picked up again by the next storm and it will only stay when it falls on a body of water and bodies of water carry things to the sea so our soil will end in the sea.

  The dust storms had such fine dust it got through windows and into clothing i think it was fine because it was largely formed of humates and humic acids that is why it blocked out the sun completly and got through cracks and clothing and there was so much of it because they ploughed land that had not been ploughed before because red indians don't plough. I learnt about the dust bowl at school i think it was the only thing that interested me about geography. agri rose macaskie.
 
Brenda Groth
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the dust storms carried the dust for hundreds of miles out to sea..during the dust bowl days..it got carried way up high in the winds..people on ships could see the dust storms swirling around them..at least that is what i have read
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here in my region in the settler days, the German settlers would stop erosion with piles of brush or rocks which the Anglos called "utchmen's Dumps."  The Anglos made fun of the Germans who worked so hard to preserve their land.  Incidentally the Germans were able to make treaties with the Comanche which the Anglos were not.  Many of the Germans were forced out or killed during the Civil War and their practices discarded in favor of the Anglo practices.  We're trying to revive the practice of Dutchmen's Dumps on our land, by putting brush or rock piles in areas of erosion or potential erosion.  There are so many places on other land where you can see if someone would just put a little brush or rocks, they could stop a gully from forming.  Gullies seem fairly harmless, but they eventually lower the water table, which means the soil dries out faster, springs dry up, and wells have to be dug deeper.
 
Brenda Groth
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Michigan Dept of Transp has gotten into the habit of piling all the rocks that they excavate while building roads, into the drain swales along the expressways now and putting in collection ponds for the water in the low areas, with rocks stopping the erosion to the swales, and also they pile brush in some areas in the woodsy spots along the road, for animal habitat..i was so pleased to see that they did that when they built the new expressway..although expressways are NO WAY a good thing for the environment, they did try to reclaim some of the lost wetlands and protect the sides from erosion..planted trees and wildflowers..impressed me.
 
rose macaskie
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The book i have on agriculture with a introduction by hugh hammond bennett, says that gullies get bigger and eat away into peoples land. The writer was talking of gullies that form on cuttings in roads that will end up eating the land of the farmer whose land borders the road. So, another reason to be against gullies. I suppose the earth that falls into them gets carried to the rivers away  from the land , The gullies i know look like it was rain washing down the hill that cut into the slope and opened them, so i suppose the water would carry off the soil with it. So another reason to fill gullies full of brush and stop them getting bigger.
  I did not know about just chucking in stones or brush to stop erosion, dutch mans dumps, interesting. It seems the germans have a lot of farming practices that could be handy, i am counting sepp holzer as german here  because Austria is close to Germany and they probably share farming techniques. agri rose macaskie.
 
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