A Spokesman for the Trees

March 3rd, 2010 by Lauren
Philip W. Ayres Philip Ayres Collection, Milne Archives and Special Collections, University of New Hampshire

Philip W. Ayres Philip Ayres Collection, Milne Archives and Special Collections, University of New Hampshire

In early 1901, supporters created the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests [SPNHF]. According to its constitution, the group’s primary objective was “To preserve intact the scenic beauty in selected places throughout the state where the forest is an essential element, particularly upon the high and steep slopes in the mountains.” Farmers, bankers, ministers, surveyors, editors, legislators, foresters, members of women’s clubs along with corporate, government, and civic leaders; and even the head of the Berlin Mills Company supported the new association.

In late 1901, SPNHF hired 41-year-old history PhD, social worker, and newly-minted forester Philip W. Ayres to be its forester, publicist, and manager. Ayres accepted the job on one condition: that the SPNHF allow him to advocate for a national forest reserve.

Ayres went on the lecture circuit, speaking to any group, from schools to chambers of commerce, that wanted to hear about the White Mountains. He “assembled a coalition made up of diverse elements—loggers and pulp manufacturers, nature lovers, hotel owners, political leaders, literary figures, and just about anyone else who could see the economic and environmental advantages to saving the White Mountains.” Ayres argued that the White Mountains “were a national treasure.”

There were six great lumber companies, each with a well-equipped logging railway, stripping the White Mountains with the most scientific efficiency that Yankee ingenuity could invent. [SPNHF] wanted to save at least a portion of it, and needed a forester. I suggested a National Forest in the White Mountains as the most direct and only adequate remedy.

—Philip W. Ayres

Special Collections, Dimond Library

Lantern Slides, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests Collection, Milne Archives and Special Collections, University of New Hampshire

Special Collections, Dimond Library

Lantern Slides, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests Collection, Milne Archives and Special Collections, University of New Hampshire

Special Collections, Dimond Library

Lantern Slides, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests Collection, Milne Archives and Special Collections, University of New Hampshire