Mardy Murie and Olaus at their home, Grand Tetons, 1953
August 18, 1902
|Died||October 19, 2003
|Pen name||Mardy Murie|
|Occupation||Author, ecologist, and environmentalist|
|Subject||Conservation, Wilderness Preservation|
|Notable works||Two in the Far North, Wapiti Wilderness|
|Notable awards||Presidential Medal of Freedom|
|Relatives||see Murie family article, people|
Margaret Thomas "Mardy" Murie (August 18, 1902 – October 19, 2003) was a naturalist, author, adventurer, and conservationist. Dubbed the "Grandmother of the Conservation Movement" by both the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, she helped in the passage of the Wilderness Act, and was instrumental in creating the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She was the recipient of the Audubon Medal, the John Muir Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States.
Born Margaret Thomas on August 28, 1902 in Seattle, Washington, Murie moved to Fairbanks, Alaska with her family when she was five years old. She attended Simmons College (Massachusetts), then transferred to and became the first woman to graduate from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, (now the University of Alaska Fairbanks), with a degree in business administration in 1924. She met Olaus Murie in Fairbanks, and they married in 1924 in Anvik, Alaska. The couple spent their honeymoon traveling over the upper Koyukuk River region by boat and dogsled, conducting caribou research. The couple were the inspiration for John Denver's ballad "A Song For All Lovers."
From 1927 onward, the Muries were residents of Jackson, WY, where Olaus studied ecology, specifically the elk population. Unlike a housewife who greeted her husband at the end of a 9 to 5 day, Mardy was side-by-side with Olaus in the field, studying elk, sheep and numerous other animals in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The couple would camp for weeks at a time in the wild, open valley of Jackson Hole. Olaus' primary goals was to identify pressures on the elk population, causing the startling decrease in the area. Over the course of nearly 40 years, Olaus and Mardy had numerous backcountry expeditions tracking the wildlife in the area. The couple even took expeditions when their three children were still nursing.
After World War II, they chose to buy a dude ranch after Mardy decided she no longer wanted to live in town; she wanted to walk out her back door and into the woods. The Murie Ranch became a hub for conversations and problem solving to protect the wild. Olaus and Mardy took on work as director and secretary of the Wilderness Society and would spend their days - in between taking care of dudes on the ranch - writing letters on behalf of wild spaces and helping draft recommendations for legislation and policy. Scientists and advocates from around the world converged on the ranch to learn from Olaus and to brainstorm solutions with Mardy. One of Mardy Murie's greatest strengths was her ability to build and maintain strong relationships over time. After Olaus died, Mardy traveled to Alaska, Tanzania, and New Zealand studying wild areas, assessing areas for Wilderness qualities and working to protect nature from exploitation.
Books and articles
Two in the Far North, a memoir published in 1962, chronicles Murie's early life in Alaska, marriage to Olaus Murie, and research expeditions in Alaska. Murie also wrote Island Between, published in 1977, and Wapiti Wilderness, published in 1966 with her husband Olaus Murie as co-author. A documentary, Arctic Dance was made about her life.
Work as a wilderness advocate, advisor and consultant
In 1956, Murie began a campaign with her husband to protect what is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The couple recruited U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to help persuade President Dwight Eisenhower to set aside 8,000,000 acres (32,000 km2) as the Arctic National Wildlife Range.
After her husband's death in 1963, Murie began writing and continued the conservation work she and Olaus had begun, writing letters and articles, traveling to hearings and making speeches. She served as a consultant to the Wilderness Society, the National Park Service and the Sierra Club, among many other organizations. Murie returned to Alaska to survey potential wilderness areas for the National Park Service and worked on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act that was signed by President Carter in 1980. That legislation set aside 104,000,000 acres (420,000 km2) of land in Alaska and doubled the size of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Murie Residence in Moose, Wyoming was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, and as part of the Murie Ranch Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. It now houses a conservation institute named for Murie and her husband.
Murie received the Audubon Medal in 1980, the John Muir Award in 1983, and the Robert Marshall Conservation Award in 1986. She was made an Honorary Park Ranger by the National Park Service and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Alaska.
In 1998 President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Just prior to her 100th birthday in 2002, Murie received the J.N. Ding Darling Conservationist of the Year Award, the National Wildlife Federation's highest honor.
Murie died in Moose, Wyoming, on October 19, 2003, at the age of 101.
- "The Wilderness Society". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Sierra Club Remembers Mardy Murie". Sierra Club. October 20, 2003. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- "Margaret (Mardy) Murie" (pdf). Wilderness Society. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- Verylin Klinkenborg (October 24, 2003). "Margaret Murie's Vision". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- "Margaret Murie's Vision". Arctic Dance. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- "Olaus and Mardy Murie". Wilderness Society. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- "Murie Center". Murie Center. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- "Island Between" (PDF). University of Alaska Press. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- Stuart Lavietes (October 23, 2003). "Obituary: Margaret Murie, 101; Helped Save Wilderness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
- Charles Craighead, Bonnie Kreps: Arctic Dance. ISBN 1-55868-686-X, 2002
- Two in the Far North ISBN 0-88240-489-X
- Waipiti Wilderness ISBN 0-87081-155-X
- Island Between ISBN 0-912006-04-8