George Melendez Wright was born in San Francisco, California, June
20, 1904. At the University of California, Berkeley, he majored in
forestry. In 1927 George Wright joined the National Park Service as
assistant park naturalist at Yosemite, serving under Naturalist Carl P.
Russell. George was married to Bernice (Bee) Ray of Allison, Iowa, on
February 2, 1931. While at Yosemite in 1927-28, George Wright and Carl
Russell often discussed wildlife conservation in the national parks.
Deer in Yosemite Valley, it seemed, were too abundant and tame. Cougars
and other large predators were believed to be very scarce or
nonexistent. Black bears raided campgrounds for food and were fed
garbage each evening. But the National Park Service had no program
devoted to the necessary field research on which better wildlife
conservation and interpretation could be eased.
In 1929 George proposed that there be established a wildlife survey
program for the National Park Service, which would be funded by him
personally until the program's value could be demonstrated. Director
Horace Albright approved the proposal and strongly supported it.
Preliminary surveys of the status of wildlife and the identification of
urgent wildlife problems in the national parks began in 1929. In each
park, effort was made to determine original and current wildlife
conditions, to identify causes of adverse changes, and to recommend
actions that would restore park wildlife to its original status.
In 1932 the department published a report on the survey's preliminary
findings and recommendations, entitled Fauna
of the National Parks of the United States, a Preliminary Survey of
Faunal Relations in National Parks. In 1934 George, with his
wife Bee and their two little daughters, spent several months in
Washington, D.C., working with Assistant Director Harold C. Bryant to
strengthen the research program in the Wildlife Division, Branch of
Research and Education. That summer, the National Park Service was
assigned responsibility for preparing a report on Recreational Use of
Land in the United States. Wright was designated leader of the
project, and the National Park Service gave it highest priority. Many
of the areas later established as local, state, and national parks were
recommended in that report and nationwide planning for public parks and
recreation areas was strengthened.
In February 1936, George was designated as a member of a commission
to formulate plans for the establishment of international parks,
reserves, and refuges along the international boundary between Mexico
and the United States. Soon after, George Wright and Roger Toll,
superintendent of Yellowstone, were returning from Big Bend National
Park, near Deming, New Mexico, when an oncoming car blew a tire and
crashed head-on into their car. They both died as a result of the
accident. The program that George Wright began with his own funds
institutionally established the acquisition of adequate information with
which to manage national parks.
From National Park Service: The First 75 Years