Protecting the Forest: Weeks Act

Thomas Cole, “The Notch of the White Mountains,” 1839. Courtesy of the NH Historical Society.By 1900, the White Mountain forests of New Hampshire were disappearing at an alarming rate. What was once an area with vast forests and incredible natural scenery was becoming an area blighted by clear cuts and burned-over mountain slopes. Unregulated forestry practices in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries brought devastating results that impacted the environment and the landscape of the White Mountains. Tourism, logging, pulp mills, hotels, hikers, farmers, and railroads all competed for resources in the area. A growing number of advocates called for protection of the White Mountains and its forests. As forest devastation grew, all concerned with the long-term vitality of the White Mountains joined the call for change. What could be done to save the mountain forests? Conservationists called for the purchase of private lands to establish a protected national forest.

In the end, efforts of the forest advocates succeeded in creating a national movement, resulting in the passing of the 1911 Weeks Act. The White Mountains and its forests were saved. Today there is a wealth of photographs, personal accounts, and calls for action that demonstrate the efforts of the forest advocates, the original beauty of the White Mountains, and the negative effects of unsustainable practices on the environment, landscape, and local communities.

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