Introduced by Congressman John W. Weeks, the Weeks Act was passed by Congress in February 1911, and signed into law by President William H. Taft on March 1, 1911 . The act granted the federal government authority to acquire and maintain national forests, such as the White Mountains region, to protect the watersheds of navigable streams. Most of the lands obtained under the Weeks Law were privately owned unlike the national forest lands in the West. The law established a National Forest Reservation Commission to determine what lands would be purchased. The Act appropriated 9 million dollars for the purchase of 5 million acres of forest land in the southern Appalacians and another 1 million in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. By 1918 land purchase in New Hampshire culminated in the formation of the White Mountain National Forest. These were “the lands that nobody wanted” but the Weeks Law saved.
Weeks Act Centennial: Key Message Points
- The Eastern National Forests were established as a result of the Acts passage. It reflections the long-term conservation vision of Philip Ayres, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest, the Appalachian Mountain Club and others in partnership with congressman John Weeks. The 100th Anniversary calls on citizens to consider: What bold vision does today’s generation have for our landscape?
- National Forests were established and continue to be managed as multiple use public resources, providing recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and renewable timber resources. This differentiates the National Forests from the National Parks.
- Sustainable forestry is a critical component of the National Forest then and now, creating a healthy forest with a diverse habitat. – It is too often forgotten that forests are the key to water quality therefore Congress had the constitutional obligation to acquire forestland..
- The protection and sustainable management of the natural resources and our national forests are ultimately about ensuring a high quality of life for people.
- The passage of the Weeks Act was the result of a unique partnership among diverse interest groups, including conservationists, policy makers and industrialists. The 100th Anniversary is an opportunity to remind ourselves to work together toward common goals on a common landscape.