Margaret Murie: (1902-2003)
The Grandmother of
American Conservation

Connie Wolfman

Mon Apr 04 2022 07:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

In 1924, Margaret Thomas was the first woman to graduate from what is now the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; that same year she married celebrated biologist Olaus Murie. During their honeymoon, the newlyweds traveled 500 miles by dog sled through the heart of Alaska’s Arctic region, conducting research on caribou, studying birds, and launching what would ultimately become an historic 40-year work partnership.
 
In 1956, the couple initiated a campaign to preserve the land that is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, gaining the support of President Dwight Eisenhower, who authorized the protection of 8 million acres. Murie continued her environmental crusade after her husband’s death in 1963. She testified before Congress in support of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act; passed in 1980, the act provides protection to an additional 104 million acres of Alaskan wilderness.

Growing up on the Alaskan tundra, Mardy Thomas fell in love with the stark beauty of the wilderness. In 1924, she was the first woman to graduate from what is now the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and that same year she married celebrated biologist Olaus Murie. During their honeymoon, the newlyweds traveled 500 miles by dogsled through the heart of Alaska’s Arctic region, conducting research on caribou, studying birds, and launching what would ultimately become an historic 40-year work partnership.

In 1956, the couple initiated a campaign to preserve the land that is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ultimately gaining the support of President Dwight Eisenhower, who authorized the protection of 8 million acres.

Murie continued her environmental crusade after her husband’s death in 1963, consulting with the National Park Service and the Sierra Club. She testified before Congress in support of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which passed in 1980 and provided protection to an additional 104 million acres in Alaska.

Revered as one of the earliest architects of environmental preservation, Murie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1998.