Broad slate of activities designed to celebrate Weeks Act centennial around N.H.

March 31st, 2011 by Kelly

For full article click HERE

They represent once-in-a-century opportunities, and they’re happening at venues around the state.

Time capsule openings?

Not exactly, but the events slated to celebrate the centennial of the passage of the Weeks Act do provide a glimpse at New Hampshire past, and one of its greatest, citizen-led, legislative victories. They also provide an opportunity to look to the future and imagine what can be accomplished when people of diverse interests unite toward a common goal.

Logging and the Weeks Act

March 31st, 2011 by Kelly

For full link to article click HERE

At the turn of the 20th century, forests in the White Mountains were being clear cut and many were worried about the damage logging had done to the White’s. The Weeks Act of 1911, helped protect these forests by the purchasing of land by the federal government. Over time standards were set as to the amount loggers could log in the state. Although they adapted, there have been challenges to the industry. There has been the debate over logging in road less areas of the White Mountain National Forest as well as the change in industry in the North Country. Paper and pulp mills have been shutting down, while wood pellet and biomass plants have been popping up. Today as we continue our look at the Weeks Act, we get an update on the logging industry, the challenges they face and what the future may hold for them.

Weeks Act Has Been Good for Business

March 31st, 2011 by Kelly

Click for full article HERE

In commemoration of the centennial of the Weeks Act, NHPR is looking at the impact the federal legislation has had on the state and its largest forest. The Weeks Act gave the federal government the authority to buy private land to turn into the National Forest system. While the law is typically appreciated by conservationists, it was business interests that drove its passage. And one hundred years later, the law has had a large and positive economic impact on the North Country, providing jobs and improving the quality of life. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

1936 Weeks Act Commemorative WMNF Map

March 17th, 2011 by Kelly

Courtesy WhiteMountainHistory.org, Collection of Kurt Masters

1936 Commemorative Map

National Forest Legacy Lifts Western North Carolina

March 17th, 2011 by Kelly

Reporter Nanci Bompey writing for the Asheville Citzen-Times in North Carolina explores how the late Geoge Vanderbilt contributed land through the Weeks Act, creating National Forests in the southern Appalachians. Click Here.

A NH Legacy Beyond the White Mountains

March 17th, 2011 by Kelly

ARTICLE FROM THE UNION LEADER
A NH legacy beyond the White Mountains
NEW HAMPSHIRE SUNDAY NEWS
Sunday, March 6, 2011

AS NEW HAMPSHIRE marks the 100th anniversary of a landmark conservation bill and the White Mountain National Forest it established, there are a few lessons worth drawing from the decade-long battle that culminated in the Weeks Act of 1911, and from the career of New Hampshire’s John Weeks himself, as representative, senator, and secretary of war. They bear some relevance to the partisan political maneuverings that define, and too often defile, our politics today.

The first lesson is the importance of independent reason over partisan ideology, even when it is your own. John Wingate Weeks was a Republican in the New England tradition. His commitment was to a party of pragmatism based on moderation and the facts. True to Burkean form, his conservatism did not contain a particular ideological content so much as respect for what had come before and a commitment to moderation, except where the need for change was urgent and reason-based.

Weeks was less concerned with being right himself than with helping a legislative body come to, and then act on, the facts. After 10 years and nearly 50 failed attempts by others in Congress to pass a forest bill, Weeks and his conservation allies sought to shift the debate beyond appeals on the left to preservation of “scenery” and objections on the right based on private property alone.

They brought in lumber interests and the owners of factories and hotels. They fashioned utilitarian arguments around the economic costs of forest fires, flooding and rivers choked by sawdust and silt. Ultimately, they fashioned a modest bill authorizing some $6 million in federal monies to purchase forestlands at the head of navigable streams, and providing cooperation in fire control between federal and state authorities.

House Speaker Joseph Canon, long opposed to the forest bill, trusted Weeks’ business judgment and gave it a hearing in the House, where it passed by seven votes. Sen. Jacob Gallinger of New Hampshire passed a companion bill in the Senate, and President Taft signed it into law. In time, the act would be expanded to protect 25 million acres in 155 national forests.

Summarizing his commitment to reason over ideology in a letter to his son, John Weeks advised against quarreling with those who disagree with you, but rather acknowledging the good they bring. “Agree with (your opponent) when you can, and when you cannot, tell him so frankly and the reasons why.”

The second, related lesson is a hard-nosed commitment to knowledge and the facts. Raised on a small farm in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where hard work in the barn and one-room schoolhouse was the order of the day, John Weeks developed an immigrant’s appreciation for industry and education, along with his love of the outdoors. Knowledge, the authority to speak and be heard, were no birthright: They were things you worked to attain.

From these formative experiences came Weeks’ straightforward definition of a leader: “A man is a leader, legislatively, when he knows more than those who are serving with him.” He did not care much for great oration, pleasant though it may be to hear, for it “depends more on verbiage than… a careful and fundamental study” of the subject. Such was his experience with the forest bill which, he concluded, “was not passed by one … or any half-dozen men,” but by many “who devoted special attention and talents to this desire.”

At a time when slick commercials, staged events and a hefty war chest are often the main ingredients in political success, it is difficult to imagine a politician getting ahead with the kind of prerequisites John Weeks had in mind: “(A leader) does not need to be an orator, have wealth or any other qualifications than to have the facts.”

Concluding his letter to his son with a little advice on the latter’s entry into politics, Weeks advised that one study the rules, attend committee meetings and “above all things, do not attempt to speak unless you know exactly what you are talking about … Do not get the idea into your head that you are working … for future political preferment. That will take care of itself, if you make good.”

It took John Weeks six years since his election to Congress to sufficiently master the facts and “make good” on the legislative achievement we remember today. A century on, it’s a lesson worth considering.

Daniel Weeks is president of Americans for Campaign Reform, a bipartisan group chaired by former senators Bill Bradley, D-N.J., Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., Warren Rudman, R-N.H., and Alan Simpson, R-Wyo. He is the great-great-grandson of John Wingate Weeks.

Celebrating the Birth of Natural Forests

March 17th, 2011 by Kelly

More than 43 million people visit national forests east of the Mississippi each year, according to the United States Forest Service, but few know that their origins lie in the Weeks Act, signed into law 100 years ago, on March 1, 1911.

Considered one of the greatest laws for the protection of national forests and one of the most important and successful efforts in land conservation history, the legislation authorized federal funds to buy eventually more than 25 million acres of private forest land in 26 Eastern states.

This year, to commemorate the act, a collective of groups organized as WeeksLegacy.org, has scheduled activities and events throughout the year, including field trips to the forests, lectures and arts festivals, touring exhibits, educational programs, trail cleanups and more. Among this month’s highlights: a lecture in Hillsborough, N.H., by Rebecca Weeks Sherrill More, a great-granddaughter of John Wingate Weeks, who created the act.

Visit full link to the article in the New York Times

Law That Gave Us White Mountain National Forest Turns 100

March 4th, 2011 by Kelly

Law That Gave Us White Mountain National Forest Turns 100

On March 1st, 100 years ago President William Howard Taft signed the Weeks Act into law.
The historic legislation led to the creation of our eastern national forests.
Much of the effort to pass the law began here in New Hampshire, as a reaction to widespread deforestation.
New Hampshire Public Radio’s Amy Quinton has this look back.
Some historians dub the Weeks Act one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in the 20thcentury.
Char Miller is Director of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
“It established for the first time, especially on environmental issues, that the federal government and the states had the capacity to forge a new relationship and that new relationship was based on the federal government buying private land which it’d never done before and use that land to create national forests, which it had also never done before in the East 1:50
The end result has been the creation of more than 26 million acres of national forests in the eastern United States.
But to truly understand why the Weeks Act is so important, one has to understand what New Hampshire was like at the end of the 19thcentury.
At St. Kieran Arts Center in Berlin, a photography exhibit commemorating the 100thanniversary of the Act, illustrates just that.
Historian Marcia Schmidt Blaine with Plymouth State University points to a picture of what was once Zealand, New Hampshire in the White Mountains near the headwaters of the Pemigewasset.
Logging tycoon J-E Henry owned a 10-thousand acre tract there in the 1880’s.
“this was one of JE Henry’s towns where he had lots of people come, created a town, people lived there, they had a school, they had stores, then when he had taken all the wood he could out of the area and moved on to Lincoln, the town died.”
Historian Linda Upham-Bornstein with PSU says unscrupulous sawmill loggers would decimate the forests.
It’s hard to believe these days, but even Crawford Notch was clear cut.
“ The saw mill loggers, the J-E Henry’s were only there to clear cut, cut the logs, saw mill them, ship them on the trains to Portland or Boston, they did not care what happened to the forests after they were gone, they made their money and left.”
And they often left slash behind, the remnant branches which easily became kindling for fire.
In the late 1800’s, the fires came with a vengeance, burning thousands of acres.
Schmidt-Blaine points to another picture in the exhibit.
“So you’ve got a picture of an area that had been burned several times and what you see are the remaining rocks, because the fire was so dramatic and so hot that it burned everything that was flammable.”
The exhibit describes a blackened, gnarled landscape.
And since the trees were gone, nothing held back the water from rains and snow.
Flooding was commonplace.
In 1896, the flooding was so bad along the Merrimack River that the largest cotton mill in the nation, Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, had to close, laying off six-thousand workers.
Politicians and the public back then were reluctant to interfere with private property rights.
But the Reverend John E Johnson, an Episcopal missionary, came to North Woodstock and changed some minds.
Historian Char Miller says Johnson saw poor New Hampshire families struggling to survive because of the timber industry.
“In the end they did what lumber companies did everywhere, which was to leave when the getting was good and what they left behind were communities that had depended upon that labor but were left adrift once they disappeared. Worse, those who stayed had very little ability to recover economically, and those were the people that Johnson was most deeply worried about.”
In 1900 Johnson wrote a pamphlet calling the New Hampshire Land Company the Boa Constrictor of the White Mountains.
The pamphlet was quickly picked up by the New England Homestead magazine and reached some 40-thousand homes.
PSU Historian Marcia Schmidt Blaine.
“What he did was to create one villain, one group you could look at and name that’s the problem, that’s what we need to end, and he woke up enough people that in 1900 he wrote it and in 1901 the Society for the Protection of NH Forests were created because of his work.”
The first thing the Society for the Protection of NH Forests did was to hire forester Philip Ayres.
A well-educated historian, organizer and publicist, Ayres became the main lobbyist to stop the deforestation and create a national forest.
He took pictures and showed them to whoever would listen.
Schmidt-Blaine says he talked to timber owners, logging operators, mill workers, tourists and assembled a coalition of supporters.
“He went to grange meetings, he went to women’s clubs, he went to anybody that would listen to him and talk to him and he found out what people wanted and that was to have a working forest.”
In 1903, a drought helped Ayres appeal for immediate federal action.
He wrote in his journal: “May 15th, Whitefield, town encircled by forest fires. June 3rd, Groveton, Mills closed and all men gone to fight fire. June 5th, Grange, showers of fine ashes constantly falling.”
By the time it was over, 200-thousand acres of what was left of New Hampshire’s forests burned.
That’s when the Congressional battle began says Schmidt-Blaine.
“In 1903, New Hampshire’s Congressmen introduced the first bill to save the White Mountains, there was also a bill to save the southern Appalachians, and at first those two were working at odds”
Eventually, by joining forces with the southern interests, a bill to allow the federal purchase of forests was born.
But getting it through Congress was tough and took years.
The House Speaker at the time, Joe Cannon, had famously said, “Not one scent for scenery.”
Enter John Wingate Weeks, for which the bill was named.
He was a Massachusetts congressman who was born and had a family home in Lancaster, New Hampshire.
Historian Char Miller says Weeks played a coalescing role.
“He becomes the face of a bill that’s obviously going to benefit his old neighborhood. I think it’s also valuable that he was a banker and Cannon could stand back and say, ‘well the economic interests say this is okay and its going to be framed around economic language’. Weeks just cut away all of that aesthetic language.”
Weeks’ bill simply said that Congress would appropriate funds to purchase land for the conservation and improvement of the navigability of a river.
The bill didn’t mention the Appalachians or the White Mountains.
And so proponents could say not one cent was going for scenery, it was going to promote commerce by protecting the flow of rivers.
The bill passed and President Taft signed it.
In 1913, the federal government bought its first tract of land in what would become North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest.
Later that year, federal officials began buying land in the White Mountains.
The Weeks Act authorized federal purchases of land which eventually became 48 national forests.
“This is a picture of John Weeks around the time of the Weeks Act…”
As Schmidt Blaine walks through the centennial exhibit she says the east would look different today if it weren’t for the Weeks Act.
“It created a working forest, one that we can recreate in and we can enjoy but that people can still survive based on the forest.”
And as Thad Guldbrandsen, Director of the Center for Rural Partnerships describes it, without New Hampshire, the Weeks Act may never have happened.
“It’s this landscape that inspired it, it’s the unique relationship between economy and environment that people here understand that made all of it possible.”
The photo exhibit “Protecting the Forests: the Weeks Act of 1911” will be at the St. Kieran Arts Center in Berlin until March 31st.
After that it will be at the National Forest Service in Campton.
For NHPR news, I’m Amy Quinton.

100 Years Later, Weeks Act is a Lesson in Bipartisanship for Today

March 4th, 2011 by Kelly

100 Years Later, Weeks Act is a Lesson in Bipartisanship for Today
By Daniel Weeks

As New Hampshire marks the hundredth anniversary of a landmark conservation bill and the White Mountain National Forest it established, there are a few lessons worth drawing from the decade-long battle that culminated in the Weeks Act of 1911, and from the career of John Weeks himself, as Congressman and Senator from Massachusetts, and later Secretary of War. They bear some relevance to the partisan political maneuverings that define, and too-often defile, our politics today.

The first lesson is the importance of independent reason over partisan ideology, even when it is your own. John Wingate Weeks was a Republican in the New England tradition. His commitment was to a party of pragmatism based on moderation and the facts. True to Burkean form, his conservatism did not contain a particular ideological content so much as respect for what had come before and a commitment to moderation, except where the need for change was urgent and reason-based.

Weeks was less concerned with being right himself than with helping a legislative body–whether the Newton Board of Aldermen, where his political career began, or the United States Congress–come to, and then act on, the facts. After ten years and nearly fifty failed attempts by others in Congress to pass a forest bill, Weeks and his conservation allies sought to shift the debate beyond appeals on the Left to preservation of ‘scenery’ and objections on the Right based on private property alone.

They brought in lumber interests and the owners of factories and hotels. They fashioned utilitarian arguments around the economic costs of forest fires, flooding, and rivers choked by sawdust and silt. Ultimately, they fashioned a modest bill authorizing some $6 million in federal monies to purchase forestlands at the head of navigable streams, and providing cooperation in fire control between federal and state authorities.

House Speaker Joseph Canon, long opposed to the forest bill, trusted Weeks’ business judgment and gave it a hearing in the House, where it passed by seven votes. Senator Jacob Gallinger of New Hampshire passed a companion bill in the Senate, and President Taft signed it into law. In time, the Act would be expanded to protect 25 million acres in 155 national forests nationwide.

Summarizing his commitment to reason over ideology in a letter to his son, John Weeks advised against quarreling with those who disagree with you but rather acknowledging the good they bring. “Agree with [your opponent] when you can, and when you cannot, tell him so frankly and the reasons why.”

He believed that all men and women were entitled to their opinions, but that not all opinions were entitled to the truth–a fact that applied equally to himself as to the other side: “The way to cure a communist is not to suppress his speech but to argue him out of his position,” Weeks wrote. “If you cannot argue him out of it, he may be right and you wrong.”

The second, related lesson is a hard-nosed commitment to knowledge and the facts. Raised on a small farm in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where hard work in the barn and one-room schoolhouse was the order of the day, John Weeks developed an immigrant’s appreciation for industry and education, along with his love of the outdoors. Knowledge, the authority to speak and be heard, were no birthright: they were things you worked to attain.

From these formative experiences came Weeks’ straightforward definition of a leader: “A man is a leader, legislatively, when he knows more than those who are serving with him.” He did not care much for great oration, pleasant though it may be to hear, for it “depends more on verbiage than… a careful and fundamental study” of the subject. Such was his experience with the forest bill which, he concluded, “was not passed by one…or any half dozen men,” but by many “who devoted special attention and talents to this desire.”

At a time when slick commercials, staged events, and a hefty war chest are often the main ingredients in political success, it is difficult to imagine a politician getting ahead with the kind of prerequisites John Weeks had in mind: “[A leader] does not need to be an orator, have wealth or any other qualifications than to have the facts.”

Concluding his letter to his son with a little advice on the latter’s entry into politics, Weeks advised that one study the rules, attend committee meetings, and “above all things, do not attempt to speak unless you know exactly what you are talking about… Do not get the idea into your head that you are working…for future political preferment. That will take care of itself, if you make good.”

It took John Weeks six years since his election to Congress to sufficiently master the facts and ‘make good’ on the legislative achievement we remember today. A century on, it’s a lesson worth considering.