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September 17, 1906|
|Died||March 5, 2010
San Francisco, California
Edgar Wayburn (September 17, 1906 – March 5, 2010) was an environmentalist who was elected president of the Sierra Club five times in the 1960s. One of America's legendary wilderness champions, Dr. Edgar Wayburn was a tenacious and tireless leader of the Sierra Club since the 1940s and perhaps the least-known yet most successful defender of America's natural heritage.
Wayburn was a doctor by training but an ardent conservationist at heart. Born in Macon, Georgia, he moved to San Francisco in 1929 to practice medicine, loved the natural beauty he encountered and was a potent force in its preservation. In 1947 he married Peggy Elliott, and together they were involved in some of the key battles of their time to protect wild places so that future generations can explore and enjoy them. In particular, he played a central role in the establishment of Redwoods National Park and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, as well as in the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Over the years they had four children, two of whom have become prominent environmentalists themselves. Laurie Wayburn co-founded and is the president of the Pacific Forest Trust, and was previously the executive director of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, where she was instrumental in creating the 850,000-acre Central California Coast Biosphere Reserve. Another daughter, Cynthia Roush of Seattle, is vice chair of the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund.
Upon presenting the 1999 Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Clinton said, "Edgar Wayburn has worked to preserve the most breath-taking examples of the American landscape. In fact, over the course of more than a half-century, both as President of the Sierra Club and as a private citizen, he has saved more of our wilderness than any person alive."
In an editorial commending this award, the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The White House has made a well-informed choice in selecting Wayburn, 92, as a recipient next Wednesday of the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. 'We should pass on to future generations the opportunity to enjoy these places and not have them transformed into ordinary places,' Wayburn said when he was notified of the honor. That legacy is more expansive today because of the quiet work of this committed man."
Wayburn was honored at a 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration as the recipient of the inaugural Howard C. Zahniser Lifetime Achievement Award, given to someone whose life of achievement in protecting wilderness most closely parallels those of the person principally responsible for the Wilderness Act.
Wayburn served five times as the Sierra Club's elected President, and was named the Club's Honorary President in 1993. During a half-century of environmental achievements, Wayburn led and won campaigns to protect millions of acres of America's coasts, mountains, forests and tundra. Wayburn has left his mark in the following ways:
- Establishing the nation's largest urban park, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Included in the park's 76,000 acre (310 km²) expanse are San Francisco's beaches, Alcatraz and the Presidio
- Protecting over 100 million acres (400,000 km²) of Alaskan wild lands with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which doubled the size of Denali National Park, created 10 new National Parks, and doubled the size of America's National Park system
- Creating Redwood National Park, and then doubling the park's size 10 years later;
- Increasing the area of California's Mount Tamalpais State Park from 870 to 6,300 acres (3.5 to 25 km²). Mount Tamalpais is now among the state's 10 most-visited state parks
- Establishing the Point Reyes National Seashore
- Establishing Wilderness areas throughout the American West
Wayburn's autobiography, Your Land and Mine: Evolution of a Conservationist, was published in spring 2004. He died on the evening of March 5, 2010 at the age of 103. At the time he was at his home in San Francisco with his family by his side.
- Brown, Emma (March 9, 2010). "Edgar Wayburn, 103, dies; No. 1 protector of U.S. wilderness". The Washington Post.
- San Jose Mercury News (CA) - May 6, 1995
- "Clinton Bestows Medal of Freedom". The New York Times. August 12, 1999.
- "Honor for a Little-Known Giant". The Los Angeles Times. August 5, 1999.
- "Wilderness Act and Conservation Champion Celebrate Birthdays". The Sierra Club. September 16, 2004.
- Wayburn, Edgar (2004). Your Land and Mine: Evolution of a Conservationist. The Sierra Club. ISBN 1-57805-090-1.