Harold Anderson

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Harold Anderson was not your average Washington D.C. accountant. He was a hiker, a wilderness advocate and an initiator of the development of The Wilderness Society.


As a leader of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), Anderson was close friends with Appalachian Trail (AT) creator Benton MacKaye. He and MacKaye became concerned with proposals to construct skyline drives along the AT, and he thought the local hiking club could become actively involved in opposing such projects. In this way, Anderson began a tradition that continues to today: avid recreationists acting as wilderness advocates.

Anderson was vocal about his views on how cars were impacting wild areas. In 1930, he wrote an article for the publication American Motorist called "The Recreational Value of Hiking". The essay noted that while the automobile had improved access to wild areas, it also prevented hikers from using country roads as they usually had. He admitted that hikers were therefore traveling deeper within the woods and subsequently coming into closer connection with nature. It is likely that Anderson influenced the idea of designated wilderness areas as completely roadless ones.


While Anderson may be the least well known of the founders of The Wilderness Society, he was one of the first to mention the original concept of the organization, in 1933: "I have been giving a little consideration to a plan to start some sort of organized movement here in Washington to advance the cause of those who are opposed to the unwarranted invasion of our wilderness areas by automobile roads with their train of desecrating abominations."

In 1934, he informed MacKaye of his intent to establish the first national organization dedicated to the protection of wilderness. He wrote, "You and Bob Marshall have been preaching that those who love the primitive should get together and give a united expression of their views. That is what I would like to get started.”

Top photo: Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, 1938 (Harold Anderson in center with pipe). credit: Appalachian Trail Conference.