Not everyone had President’s Day off from work, but I was lucky enough to be out of the office and stomping around the woods Monday. I only mention this because it’s my excuse for missing a timely email that arrived in our OL letters email inbox that same day. It involved a reader’s mother, President Truman, and one of our biggest conservation programs to date.
Many of our long-time readers are familiar with the Outdoor Life Conservation Pledge. We first announced the competition exactly 70 years ago in our February 1946 issue, offering $5,000 in prizes as incentive for readers to compose a 30-word pledge to encourage everyone—not just sportsmen and women—to safeguard the nation’s natural resources.
The deadline for entry was July 31, 1946, but it took us more than two years to sort through and select the winning entries. We even had to periodically publish notes to reassure our readers that we were, in fact, going to deliver on our promises, like this one from our December 1946 issue:
We finally announced the winning pledge on the cover of the December 1948 issue and a dozen prize winners inside its pages. It reads: “I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country—its soil and minerals, its forests, waters, and wildlife.”
recipients and eight additional winners (below).
The impact of that winning conservation pledge continued to ripple across the country in the years to come, inspiring the U.S. Forest Service and many states to officially recognize and adopt OL’s pledge.
In August 1950, we published a short account of continued pledge efforts and an independent conservation competition in Michigan. The son of one of those winners dropped us a line, and an attached photo, on Monday:
“Given that this is the 70th year of the initial presentation of the pledge, I wanted to share that it was my mother, Janet Ensing (Skillman) who won the contest in Michigan to present the plaque to Harry S. Truman with Michigan’s Governor Williams looking on. My mother had completed her Zoology Masters at University of Kansas and began work at the Detroit Zoo shortly after. She is a robust 91 [years of age] and living here in Orlando, Florida, near my home. On today’s Presidents Day, I shared her photo on Facebook.” —Richard Skillman
Here’s the original article covering the presentation, and the photo that he included in his email: