On February 10, 2011, the 112th Congress of the United States of America passed House Resolution 84 commemorating the enactment and enduring legacy of the Weeks Act. The Weeks Act established public policy for formal collaborations between state and federal governments to manage forest land in the eastern United States, culminating in the establishment of the eastern National Forests. Initially born of conservation concerns for the vulnerable forested regions of the White Mountains and southern Appalachia, the eastern National Forest system has grown to include fifty-two forests in twenty-six states, comprising nearly 25,000,000 acres of land.
National Forests differ from National Parks in several ways, including how they integrate land use and conservation efforts. National Forests, for example, include the sustainable growth and harvesting of timber and other renewable forest products.
In 1911, much of what residents and visitors now experience as lush, beautiful forests and grasslands, was barren and battered, denuded by short-sighted harvesting practices. Precious top soil was exposed to harsh weather conditions and blew away. Run-off from the damaged land and other side-effects of poor forest management rendered rivers and streams increasingly inhospitable to plants and animals. John W Weeks viewed forests as renewable resources that could be managed to the benefit of their health and longevity, even while meeting the relentless demand for high quality timber, wood pulp, and other forest resources.
John W Weeks served the nation first as a Representative (1905-1913), then a Senator (1913-1919), and finally as the Secretary of War (1921-1925) in the Cabinets of Presidents Harding and Coolidge. Understanding the context in which the Weeks Act was signed into law helps us to see that many things we might take for granted–such as the existence of the forests for recreation, economic gain, and scientific inquiry–are actually the result of one man’s visionary efforts to design and implement a system that would support effective conservation-oriented land management practices. Though he died in 1926, scarcely fifteen years after the signing of the Act named for him, the forests for which he advocated with such dedication already showed signs of recovery. H. Res. 84 honors his public service, inspired vision, and the present day results of his remarkable accomplishment. To read the full text of the Resolution, Click Here.
To keep up with events, exhibitions, educational opportunities, historical and cultural information and other resources related to the Centennial Celebration of the Weeks Act, please visit www.WeeksLegacy.org and http://www.plymouth.edu/center-for-rural-partnerships/weeks-act/