Each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of five hundred or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation. We hear of cow-commons and ministerial lots, but we want men-commons and lay lots, inalienable forever….
All Walden Wood might have been preserved for our park forever, with Walden in its midst, and the Easterbrooks Country, an unoccupied area of some four square miles, might have been our huckleberry-field…. As some give to Harvard College or another institution, why might not another give a forest or huckleberry-field to Concord?
–Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau is well known as America’s philosopher-naturalist. Here he gives an early statement of the need to set aside natural land. By the mid-1800s, many people were lamenting the loss of the country’s wild lands, but few took the next step of recommending preservation. In this passage and also other writings of his later years, Thoreau did. He not only states that every town (what in the Midwest we call a township) ought to set aside a 500- to 1000-acre preserve, but also notes that the protection should be in perpetuity (“inalienable forever’) and suggests a method–by charitable donation to the town government.
This passage was in his journal for October 15, 1859, but he was also including it, slightly reworked, in his last book, eventually published in 2000 as Wild Fruit.