Basse Beck

July 5, 1896 - September 1, 1974

Coal mining and coal-generated electricity were serious undertakings in Pennsylvania in the 1800s and early 1900s. However, with those mines came mine drainage, which turned streams and rivers orange while killing vegetation and wildlife. Power plants built dams on rivers like the Susquehanna, blocking passage for migratory fish like shad. Basse Beck, from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, was disgusted with what he saw happening from this pollution and infrastructure. As chairman of the North Central Division of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, he became a tireless advocate for cleaning the streams and preventing future damage.

Basse was the principal owner of radio station WKOK and general manager of the Sunbury Daily Item newspaper. He used his position with the paper to write numerous columns under the header, “Up and Down the River,” that highlighted environmental damages to the streams. He also worked closely with Pennsylvania legislator Franklin Kury, a long-time champion for environmental rights, on bills and outreach efforts. Together they worked to restore spawning runs for migratory fish on the lower Susquehanna River. Kury was a sponsor to the Scenic Rivers Act, which had a strong impact on improving water quality in the watershed.

In his book, Clean Politics, Clean Streams: A Legislative Autobiography and Reflections, Kury wrote about Basse, “I did not realize until later, but Basse Beck was one of the first to challenge the coal and electric power companies on behalf of the environment.” Beck had quite the effect on not just Kury, but so many others