Aging warrior ready for his final battle
August 6, 2007
A mournful growl creeps into Martin Litton’s baritone voice as he talks of his final battle.
Nearing 91, Litton’s past is littered with proud victories and crushing defeats.
At a Sierra Nevada Alliance conference in Kings Beach, he speaks briefly and bitterly of the waters that flooded Glen Canyon. His baritone lifts with hope as he talks of ancient redwoods that were preserved partly through his efforts.
But today, as Litton talks about towering sequoias that have stood for thousands of years, he speaks of his last environmental battle.
“My thrust in life is to get that monument into the national park system,” Litton says of the Giant Sequoia National Monument, where logging occurred even after a presidential proclamation was issued to protect the forest.
“That’s enough when you are going on 91,” he says.
Recommended Stories For You
His tangled white eyebrows and snowy beard frame a face weathered by decades spent in the bottom of the Grand Canyon commanding one of his fleet of dories that ply the Colorado River each summer.
But his attachment to the Sierra Nevada runs just as deep, formed through nearly a century of forays into the Range of Light.
His goal is to move the Giant Sequoia National Monument into the National Park Service, where he believes it will be protected forever.
He has an open disdain for the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees the national monument that is split between the Sequoia National Forest and the Sierra National Forest.
“Every trick in the book is used to chop those trees down … to change that national monument into an industrial wasteland,” says Litton.
Litton is barrel-chested and stately. Clad in brown from head to toe, he mirrors the giant sequoias he is battling for.
But he knows his time is short. And that there’s little time left for him to lead the charge.
So, like a prophet surrounded by attentive disciples, Litton spreads his gospel. And hopes the battle will go on long after he’s gone.
Martin Litton spoke at the Sierra Nevada Alliance’s annual conference in Kings Beach. The Sierra Nevada Alliance is made up of over 60 member groups throughout the Sierra Nevada that share a vision to protect and restore nature in the Sierra Nevada.
This year’s conference focused on a “Sustainable Sierra,” and took on subjects such as involving youth in environmental groups, restoring Sierra forests, stopping sprawl and how Sierra towns can become energy independent. Hundreds of individuals attended the three-day conference. Litton is the president of the nonprofit group Sequoia Forest Keeper, based in Kernville, Calif.