WSPA shows “The People’s Forest: Story of the WMNF” at the Rialto

July 31st, 2013 by Lynn

    By Edith Tucker

    Master of Ceremonies David Govatski, left, Dr. Catherine Amidon, founding director of the Museum of the White Mountains at PSU; Interim Director Ben Amsden of PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships and producer David Huntley were on hand on Thursday night for the first Coös County screening of “The People’s Forest,” sponsored by the Weeks State Park Association (WSPA).

    LANCASTER – “The People’s Forest: the Story of the White Mountain National Forest,” a new 48-minute documentary by producer David Huntley, had its first showing in Coös County in front of nearly 170 people at the Rialto Theater on Thursday night, thanks to the generosity of the movie theater owners Dave Fuller and Greg Cloutier plus the sponsorship of the Weeks State Park Association (WSPA) that ordinarily presents its programs in the Weeks Lodge atop Mt. Prospect.

    “The People’s Forest” makes it clear that Lancaster native John Wingate Weeks of Newton, Mass., for whom the Weeks Act of 1911 is named, played a pivotal role in the creation of the WMNF by forging a coalition of concerned citizens and stakeholders from all walks of life, including his capitalist colleagues from Massachusetts whom he represented in Congress. A highly successful businessman himself, he recognized that it was under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution that the headwaters of navigable streams could be protected, including the Merrimack River on which vast mills in Manchester and Lowell, Mass. depended, as well as the Connecticut, Androscoggin and Saco Rivers. Southern N. H. and eastern Mass. then as now depended on the water flow and hydroelectric power originating in the northern reaches of the Granite State.

    The movie, that includes vintage footage from U. S. Forest Service archival promotional black-and-white movies plus occasional re-enactments filmed elsewhere, also features a number of New Hampshire experts on why at the turn of the 20th century the White Mountains were stripped of much of their timber, causing erosion and wildfires. This encouraged men and women to fight to have Congress succeed in allowing the federal government to buy land to create the Eastern National Forests. Most of the commentators who were filmed also served as members of the Weeks Act Centennial Committee: Dave Govatski of Jefferson of the WSPA; historian Rebecca More, a Weeks’ descendent; WMNF Supervisor Tom Wagner; Jane Difley, president-forester of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests; Policy Director Susan Arnold of AMC; and Jasen Stock of the N. H. Timberland Owners Association.

    Producer, director, and scriptwriter David Huntley of Moore Huntley Productions, whose great grandfather immigrated to Berlin from Norway in 1903 and worked for the Brown Company for 40 years, wore his Limmer hiking boots for his introductory talk on Thursday night. Huntley said he had worked in the AMC hut system and was thrilled to have been tapped to make the film, which cost approximately $200,000, including monies spent to clean up USFS archival films.

    Huntley thanked the many people who researched the story as well as those at PSU who preserve and make accessible the region’s rich history. A short 14-minute version is already available on the web. The longer version will likely be on TV at some point during the coming year.

    Govatski and More were on hand on Thursday night as were Committee members Rebecca Oreskes of Milan and Prof. Vince Lunetta of Bethlehem, plus WSPA president Dave Tellman of Bethlehem and vice president Lynne Holland of Jefferson, Will Abbott of the SPNHF, and retired county forester Sam Stoddard of Lancaster, a WSPA board member.

    Project partners were also represented, including Dr. Catherine Amidon, founding director of the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University (PSU) and Ben Amsden, Interim Director of PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships.

    The People’s Forest

    July 17th, 2013 by Lynn

      LANCASTER—Weeks State Park Association will host a premiere showing of “The People’s Forest– The Story of the White Mountain National Forest” at the Rialto Theater, Main Street, Lancaster at 7 pm, Thursday, July 25. Included with this new documentary film are two rare, historic short films — “Cloud Busting in the White Mountains” produced in 1920, and “Winter Sports in the White Mountains” produced in 1934. These films serve to illustrate the early days and provide deeper appreciation for this place we call the White Mountains. David Huntley of Moore Huntley Productions produced The People’s Forest. He and David Govatski, retired forester with the USDA Forest Service and member of the Weeks Act Centennial Committee, will introduce the films. Huntley provided the following summary—


      The People’s Forest tells the dramatic story behind the creation of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine in 1918; one of the greatest environmental comeback stories in American history. It’s a fascinating tale of terrible man-made disasters, compelling New Hampshire characters, committed citizen activism, political bravery and fortitude… and the incredible rebirth and restoration of the Granite State’s beautiful natural backbone, the White Mountains.


      In the period from 1880 to 1911, the White Mountains region was ground zero for a vast ecological disaster caused by intensive, indiscriminate logging and a rash of major forest fires.

      The destruction of New Hampshire’s forests sparked one of the nation’s first grassroots conservation movements and setoff a decades-long national battle over the fate of eastern forestlands. In the end, the crisis in the White Mountains helped force a Congressional showdown between some of early 20th century America’s most colorful and influential political leaders, including the Congressman who championed the legislation, John Wingate Weeks, a native of Lancaster, New Hampshire. The result was the Weeks Act of 1911, a groundbreaking piece of conservation legislation that enabled the federal government, for the first time, to purchase private land to protect vital watersheds and forests.

      The program explores how a quite unlikely alliance of citizen groups, environmental activists, business leaders, and members of the pulp and paper industry came to be an incredibly effective force for change and led the charge to save the White Mountains. The role of organizations with deep roots in the state, including the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Appalachian Mountain Club are featured.

      As the film illustrates, the momentous events taking place in the North Country at the turn of the 20th century had effects far beyond the White Mountains themselves. The film relates the story of the devastating floods that struck southern New Hampshire and other New England states in 1895 and 1896. The flooding closed down mills and other factories that depended on waterways like the Merrimack River for vital hydroelectric power. Thousands of people were put out of work as a result. Many blamed the flooding on the effects of deforestation in the White Mountains. The disasters led to the dawning of a new environmental consciousness in New England and throughout the country: people began to realize that natural systems like forests, watersheds, and rivers were inter-related over long distances and in complex, little-understood ways.

      And there were national ramifications as well. The tale of how a major, controversial piece of conservation legislation was passed by a bitterly divided Congress more than one hundred years ago is an especially timely one today, given the nation’s divisive national politics and legislative gridlock. As the film shows, the Weeks Act had a major, enduring impact on the landscape not only of New Hampshire, but the rest of the country as well. The Weeks Act led to the creation of fifty-two national forests and grasslands spread across forty-one states – a total of twenty million acres.

      The People’s Forest is produced by David Huntley/Moore Huntley Productions in collaboration with The Center for Rural Partnerships/Plymouth State University, The Museum of the White Mountains/Plymouth State University, and the Weeks Act Centennial Committee.

      “The People’s Forest” to receive its inaugural screening July 16 at Plymouth State University

      July 2nd, 2013 by Lynn

        Published Date Tuesday, 02 July 2013 01:07

        PLYMOUTH — “The People’s Forest: The Story of the White Mountain National Forest” will premiere Tuesday, July 16 at 7 p.m. in the Boyd Auditorium (Room 144) at Plymouth State University. The screening is free and open to the public.

        Produced by David Huntley and Moore Huntley productions, “The People’s Forest” looks at the mix of man-made disasters, colorful characters, citizen activism and political courage that brought about the protection of our National Forests through the Weeks Act of 1911.

        “While the dramatic chain of events depicted in the program took place well over a century ago” Huntley says,” the people involved and issues they confronted still crackle with unmistakable life and meaning.”

        For “The People’s Forest,” Huntley collaborated with Plymouth State University’s Center for Rural Partnerships and The Museum of the White Mountains. The program was made possible with the generous support of Plymouth State University and inspired by a shorter video produced for The Weeks Act Centennial Committee.

        The main character in “The People’s Forest” is Massachusetts Congressman John Wingate Weeks. Weeks, originally from Lancaster, N.H., had already enjoyed a successful career in finance and banking before his election to Congress in 1905. While he would have a 14-year career as a congressman and then senator, his lasting contribution is the Weeks Act of 1911, which allowed the federal government to purchase private land to protect watersheds and forests.

        As the film illustrates, events in New Hampshire’s North Country at the turn of the twentieth century had effects far beyond the White Mountains, including severe flooding in 1895 and 1896. These floods forced the closing of mills and other factories that depended on waterways like the Merrimack River for hydroelectric power. Thousands of people were out of work and many blamed the flooding on the impact of deforestation in the White Mountains. Citizens began to realize the connections among natural systems such as forests, watershed and rivers.

        Standing in the way of Weeks’ bill was a bitterly-divided Congress which had debated similar conservation legislation in previous sessions. What was new was an unlikely alliance of citizen groups, environmental activists, business leaders and members of the pulp and paper industry. The film shows the Weeks Act’s enduring impact on the landscape of New Hampshire and the United States. In the century since its passage, more than fifty-two national forests and grasslands in forty-one states – more than twenty million acres – are now protected.

        Filmmaker David Huntley specializes in productions in extreme and isolated environments, from the Arctic tundra to the jungles of Central America. He has produced, directed and written for PBS televisions series such as NOVA and Scientific American Frontiers with Alan Alda, and specials and series for the History Channel, Discovery and National Geographic.

        “This documentary of the Weeks Act is a remarkable piece of work,” noted Thad Guldbrandsen, Vice Provost for Research & Engagement at Plymouth State University. “We are fortunate to have worked with David Huntley, a world-class film maker with roots in the White Mountains. I think everyone is going be really pleased with the short video he produced for the Centennial of the Weeks Act, as well as this longer, broadcast length documentary that we expect will reach a national audience.”

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