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

April 5th, 2011 by Kelly

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

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Weeks Act of 1911 established the eastern national forest system and led to the creation of the White Mountain National Forest, today a multiple-use landscape of nearly 800,000 acres managed for recreation, timber harvesting, wildlife habitat protection, wilderness values, and watershed protection for the benefit of the public.

The legislation was named for bill sponsor John Wingate Weeks, a Massachusetts Congressman and native of Lancaster, N.H., who shepherded the measure through Congress.

The landmark legislation came about largely through citizen action. As noted in an earlier column, logging played a key role in White Mountain history, and the region was, and still is, prized for its timber. But indiscriminate and unsustainable logging practices of the day led to huge forest fires and stream-choking erosion.

A diverse cross-section of society supported the Weeks Act, including members of the general public; such organizations as the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Appalachian Mountain Club, which were instrumental in the legislation’s passage; and mill owners downstream, who were dependent on the water power of flowing rivers to manufacture goods.

The need for the legislation was apparent to many, and that need brought together conservationists, manufacturers, policy makers, and others to work toward the common goal of protecting the region’s forests.

The centennial serves as a reminder of what can be accomplished when a diverse collection of people are united in a common goal on a common landscape—certainly a lesson for the future as we look to the next 100 years.

A wonderful repository of Weeks Act-related information, including photos, essays, event listings, news articles, and video can be found at www.weekslegacy.org. Hosted by NH Public Television and created by a diverse group of organizations, the website includes such specific areas of focus as arts and culture, history, and education, while the Memories section encourages visitors to share stories of their connection to the White Mountain National Forest.

The Events section lists Weeks Act-related events and activities, such as the exhibition, “Protecting the Forests: The Weeks Act of 1911,” now at the St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts in Berlin. Call 752-1028 to confirm hours.

The display is on loan from Plymouth State University in collaboration with the Center for Rural Partnerships.

Rob Burbank is the Director of Media and Public Affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch. His column, “Outdoors with the AMC,” appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News.