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B&C Member Spotlight - Arnold Hague

Yellowstone’s Rock Star 

As a founding member of the Boone and Crockett Club, this quiet geologist wasn’t a hunter, but he was a force for conservation, especially when it came to Yellowstone. 


In 1880, three years before Arnold Hague would survey the iconic geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park, a hungry mule nearly ended his life. Hague was conducting research in the desert of central Nevada when a grazing mule wandered next to his tent. While trying to convince the mule to move along, Hague was kicked in the head just above the temple. Bruised and bleeding, the Yale-educated geologist survived and continued his field work after a couple of recovery days. There was no record of the mule’s demise. 

Hague was a geologist in the late-1800s, studying chemistry, mineralogy, and paleontology. When he entered Yale around 1860, Clarence King, a future founding member of the Boone and Crockett Club, was just graduating. The two men would become colleagues and friends for their entire careers. Upon Hague’s graduation in 1863, the Civil War was still raging. He tried to enlist in the U.S. Army, but he was rejected for “general physical deficiencies.” He spent two years studying in Germany, and once again tried to enlist. This time, according to a short biography by one of his students, President Abraham Lincoln responded to his request personally. “Stay where you are; we shall need such as you later,” Lincoln told him. 

“Although Hague was greatly interested in the preservation of wild animals within the park, he was no sportsman, and said upon one occasion that he had never killed any game or fish in his life. He was not averse, however, to his assistants keeping the camp table well supplied.” —Joseph P. Iddings, Biographical Memoir of Arnold Hague

He stayed in Germany until 1866, returning to Boston when he was 26. Post-Civil War America was a time of reconstruction and of westward expansion—a time when railroads were bringing, among other things, scientific exploration into parts previously unknown to the new Americans on the East Coast. 

Upon his return, Hague’s old school chum Clarence King received Congressional approval for a scientific exploration of a 100-mile wide swath of country encompassing California, Wyoming and Colorado. For years, the men explored rocks, wrote about their observations, and published reports. They would take side trips to explore the volcanic plumbing of Mount Hood and Shasta. In 1877, Hague would spend a year in Guatemala studying mines and volcanoes. Then he traveled to China where he studied the gold, silver and lead mines for the Chinese government. In short, Hague knew dirt—both in solid and molten form. 

When the U.S. Congress  created the U.S. Geological Society (USGS) in 1879, Clarence King was appointed director. Upon returning from China, Hague was appointed a geologist with the USGS. He would spend the rest of his career not simply studying and exploring Yellowstone, but working to set it aside for future generations of geologists and curious Americans. 

Exploring the Magic of Yellowstone 

After surviving his mule encounter in the Nevada desert, Hague was chosen to embark on an adventure that would change the course of conservation in the United States. In 1883, he was the geologist in charge of the Survey of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding environs. He was joined by three assistant geologists and a photographer by the name of William Henry Jackson, whose photographs from 1871 had been the earliest images ever taken of Yellowstone’s iconic geothermal features.


Hague would spend seven summers exploring more than 3,000 square miles of Yellowstone and publish numerous reports, including “Geological History of the Yellowstone National Park,” complete with maps and Jackson’s photos. While researching Yellowstone, Hague gained a unique appreciation for its beauty. “He enjoyed the brilliant tints of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone…and though undemonstrative by temperament he occasionally expressed his enjoyment of beautiful scenery and his pleasure in sharing it with others in a most effective manner,” wrote one of his assistant geologists Joseph Iddings. 

The same year Hague began his survey, the Northern Pacific Railway was completed. In 1882, the railroad reached Livingston, Montana, just 60 miles north of the park’s entrance. Tourists were going to need lodging, food and entertainment during their visits. Industrious types began circling the park, but instead of blood, they smelled money. Mining and logging companies, concessionaires, market hunters and the railroad saw the area as a potential gold mine. Hague had actually found gold, too, near present-day Cody, Wyoming on the eastern edge of the park. Hague would join forces with other members of the Boone and Crockett Club, namely William Hallet Phillips and George Bird Grinnell, in an effort to protect the area from further development and exploitation. 

Protecting the Park 

Yellowstone was officially designated a national park in 1872, but the designation was more of a ceremonial gesture. In the decades following, numerous members of the Boone and Crockett Club would work tirelessly to incorporate actual protections for America’s first national park. And Hague was consistently in the middle of the fight.

In 1887, the newly formed Boone and Crockett Club, with Hague and King as founding members, viewed protecting Yellowstone as their first true test. Seen by lawmakers as an expert on the area, Hague initially proposed expanding the park’s boundaries. There was plenty of resistance among many in industry, and numerous bill’s failed to pass in Congress until the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. In that bill, there was a rider called Section 24, which permitted the president to create forest preserves by executive order. A week after President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill, Hague and Phillips discovered Section 24, notes writer John Clayton in a comprehensive article on the creation of our national forests. Hague pointed out Section 24 to Secretary of the Interior John Noble (a fellow Boone and Crockett member), and by the end of March, President Harrison created the 1.2 million-acre Yellowstone Timber Land Reserve. 

“Because of their work on behalf of Yellowstone, Hague and Phillips became the only two non-hunters ever elected full members of the influential Boone and Crockett Club.” 
—John Clayton, Yellowstone Park, Arnold Hague and the Birth of National Forests

As explained in Creating a National Forest Service, the forest reserves weren’t exactly ironclad protection. In fact, there was no person, agency or budget to oversee the actual management of those new forests. Enter the Magnificent Seven. Actually, it was the seven-member National Forest Commission, of which Hague and a young Gifford Pinchot were both willing participants. In 1896, the commission struck out to the wilds of Yellowstone, the Cascades, the Black Hills and many of the places where new forests had been created thanks to Section 24. Because of the ‘tour de forest’ in 1896, the commission recommended that tens of millions more acres of forests be placed in “reserve.” In fact, on February 22, 1897, President Cleveland proclaimed 13 new forest reserves in the West.

These new forests, especially around Yellowstone, serve the greater good. Regarding those areas surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton, “...tourist demands are much reduced compared to the adjacent national park—and so are regulations on hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, grazing, and logging,” writes John Clayton. “But they remain public lands, protected from residential or commercial development, regulated to promote watershed and ecosystem health, and accessible to all.” 

Member Spotlights

Boone and Crockett Club members have come from a cross-section of famous accomplished people whose lives and careers have written and recorded the history of this country since the late 19th Century. They have been naturalists, scientists, explorers and sportsmen, writers and academicians, artists, statesmen and politicians, generals, bankers, financiers, philanthropists, and industrialists. Their diversity of ideas and activities during their careers have made the Boone and Crockett Club rich in its fellowship and achievements. To read more member spotlights, just click here

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt