MBA/RMC Community Meeting Forum – The Conservation and Business Ethics of Marsh, Billings and Rockefeller
For the first MBA/RMC Community Meeting Forum of the Spring 2018 semester, Christina Marts, Deputy Superintendent of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont, will lead a discussion on the combined conservation and business philosophies of George Perkins Marsh, Frederick Billings, and Laurence Rockefeller. Marts’ work focuses on conservation and partnerships, community engagement, and working agricultural and forest cultural landscapes.
Marsh, Billings, and Rockefeller represent three generations of environmental stewardship that lived at the historic site property. According to the website, “The history of park is not only the history of a special house and property and the families who lived there. Rather, the park reflects a rich continuum of social history and land stewardship practices that continues to evolve. As the property was handed down from generation to generation, so were George Perkins Marsh’s revolutionary ideas about man’s long-lasting effects on the environment.”
George Perkins Marsh was born in 1801 in a wooden farm house on the property that is now the national park. He was deeply affected by the deforestation in Vermont at the time, including on Mount Tom which rises behind the mansion. “His observations about how changes in one part of an ecological system can harm the system as a whole would stay with him throughout his career.” He is the author of Man and Nature, published in 1864, which influenced forestry policy and the founding of the conservationist and environmental movements.
Frederick Billings was born in 1823 in Vermont and grew up near the mansion. Marsh’s writings had a profound impact on the life. He spent over 10 years in the west and started advocating for the establishment of national parks. When he returned to Vermont he saw that deforestation had left the hills and valleys nearly bare, and the land was greatly eroded. When he read Man and Nature, Billings saw that Marsh’s warnings about man’s impact on nature were playing out in Vermont. In 1869, he bought the farm that had once belonged to the Marsh family, worked to return the forest to Mount Tom, and created a template for farming, timber harvest, and recreation without ruining the land.
Laurence Rockefeller was born in 1910 in New York City, the fourth of the six children of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. From a young age he was very interested in the natural world, and as “one of the foremost conservationists and philanthropists of the twentieth century, he combined the ecological philosophy of George Perkins Marsh with the practical conservationist approach of Frederick Billings.” He served as chairman of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission under President Eisenhower, was a special emissary for President Johnson in the effort that led to creation of the National Redwoods Park, and he was chairman of President Nixon’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Environmental Quality, He also played a critical role in the creation and development of several national parks. He moved to the mansion in 1951 and in 1992 he donated it and over 500 acres of forestland to the National Park Service. The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park opened in 1998.