Weeks Act Centennial Blog Posts Reveal Another Layer of History

January 28th, 2011 by Alice

Thirty-three years after publishing The Lands Nobody Wanted with Bill Shands (a forest policy analyst, now deceased), Dr. Bob Healy revisits their work around issues related to eastern national forest policy with a series of blog posts hosted on the award winning “Peeling Back the Bark” blog.  The Forest History Society invited Dr. Healy to participate as part of the ongoing celebration of the Weeks Act Centennial.

Here is an excerpt from the first installment:

To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Weeks Act in 2011, Peeling Back the Bark has asked Dr. Bob Healy of Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment to write a series of blog posts in which he’ll reflect on his classic book, "The Lands Nobody Wanted," and the future of the eastern national forests. Readers are invited to post comments and questions for Bob.

We called the book “The Lands Nobody Wanted” because so much of this land, particularly before 1950, was considered of little or no economic value. Much of it was abandoned farmland—hilly, infertile, and heavily eroded. We noted that “land abandoned by owners who could not pay the taxes was acquired by the government very cheaply. Local people were desperate for any activity that would pump money into a community, so they welcomed establishment of forests which provided for federal investment in otherwise unused land and generated badly needed jobs. And national forests provided a work place for President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps.” (p. 16)

Later, of course, the perceived value of the land changed, as did the policy considerations, questions, and needs.  Read more at the Peeling Back the Bark blog: http://bit.ly/h2Hgsc Participation by readers is encouraged.  Feel free to share your thoughts and to ask Dr. Healy questions about his books, eastern national forest history, or current concerns by using the comments section of the blog.

Dr. Healy teaches at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University where he is Professor Emeritus.  He also continues to write about environmental policy and his most recent book,Knowledge and Environmental Policy, was published by MIT Press in 2010.

The Forest History Society is a nonprofit educational institution that links the past to the future by identifying, collecting, preserving, interpreting, and disseminating information on the history of interactions between people, forests, and their related resources–timber, water, soil, forage, fish and wildlife, recreating, and scenic or spiritual values.

New Exhibition Protecting the Forests: The Weeks Act of 1911 Opens at St. Kieran Arts Center

January 22nd, 2011 by Kelly

ST. KIERAN ARTS CENTER                                                                                                                             155 Emery Street, Berlin NH 03581

Joan Chamberlain, Executive Director

1-603-752-1028 www.stkieranarts.org


New Exhibition Protecting the Forests: The Weeks Act of 1911

Opens at St. Kieran Arts Center

Berlin, NH- St. Kieran Arts Center is hosting a new touring exhibition Protecting the Forests: The Weeks Act of 1911 created by Plymouth State University in honor of the centennial of the Weeks Act of 1911, which authorized the federal government to purchase and maintain lands in the eastern United States as national forests.


The Weeks Exhibition opens at St. Kieran Arts Center as part of the North Country Talent Showcase on Sunday, January 30 at 2 PM. The North Country Talent Showcase is a fun and fast-paced variety show celebrating North Country artists and offering something for everyone.  Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children. Doors open at 1 PM.  The Week’s Exhibition runs through March 30 with additional viewing hours 9-4 weekdays, at scheduled performances and by appointment.


“Protecting the Forests” addresses the history, social significance and ecological impact of the Weeks Act through the presentation of historical photographs and prints from glass plates and daguerreotypes accompanied by explanatory text. Research and writing by project humanists Marcia Schmidt Blaine and Linda Upham-Bornstein are the foundation of this educational project.


Prior to 1911 neither federal nor state governments owned any substantial forested lands east of the Mississippi. The tourist industry promoted the White Mountains as a place for quiet rejuvenation and contemplation; but timber, railroad, mining, textile and agricultural groups had different uses for the forest resources.



In early 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests was created to save the mountains. Their forester, Philip Ayres, ran a national campaign arguing that the White Mountains were
a national treasure.”


Even with President Theodore Roosevelt’s explicit support, the bill stalled in Congress until Congressman John W. Weeks took interest. Weeks was a New Hampshire native and a summer resident of Lancaster. He rewrote the national forest bill, combining forest preservation with watershed protection and fire control, and after a series of lobbying efforts the Weeks Act became law in 1911.


PSU Director of Exhibitions Catherine Amidon says the exhibition and related events provide an important opportunity to bring people together, both physically and virtually, to share knowledge and appreciation of the unique culture and heritage of the region. The exhibition has been made available for touring in partnership with the PSU Center for Rural Partnerships, with support from the NH Humanities Council.


St. Kieran Arts Center events and exhibitions are supported in part by grants from the NH State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation/North Country’s Art Ventures Fund, an Anonymous Fund, Libby Family Fund, North Country Region Community Fund and the Stanton and Elizabeth Davis Fund.


For more information and a full schedule of events contact the Arts Center at 752-1028, 155 Emery Street or visit www.stkieranarts.org

Gregg and Shaheen Resolution Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Weeks Act

January 8th, 2011 by Kelly

United States Senate


For Immediate Release:                                                               Contact:   Laena Fallon (Gregg)    202-224-3324

November 30, 2010                                                                                      Dan Jasnow (Shaheen)  202-224-5553



The Weeks Act of 1911 Led to the Establishment of the White Mountain National Forest


WASHINGTON – Last night, a resolution authored by U.S. Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Weeks Act (S. Res. 679) was approved by the U.S. Senate.  In addition to celebrating the law’s centennial anniversary, the bipartisan resolution provides deserving recognition to the law’s author, John Weeks, a Massachusetts Congressman born in Lancaster, New Hampshire.  It also recognizes that the acquisition of the first 7,000 acres of White Mountain National Forest was made possible using the authorities provided by the Weeks Act.  Lastly, the resolution acknowledges the work and cooperation of local conservation groups, businesses, industrialists, and the tourism industry to ensure passage of the original law, and encourages further collaboration and continued support for the White Mountain National Forest.


Senator Gregg, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, stated, “Like many New Hampshire citizens, I am proud to recognize and celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Weeks Act.  It was the single greatest law for the protection of forests in the eastern United States and one of the most important moments in land conservation history.  Passage of the Weeks Act led to the establishment of the White Mountain National Forest, a truly special place in New Hampshire that draws millions of visitors yearly.  It is my hope that remembrance of this important law can encourage ongoing collaboration among federal, state, and local governments, as well as business, tourism, and conservation groups, to continue preserving the many benefits of the White Mountain National Forest so that future generations can appreciate its unique areas just as we have.”


“The importance of the Weeks Law to New Hampshire is difficult to overstate,” said U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen.  “Without it, the White Mountain National Forest and the other eastern national forests as we know them might never have come into being.  Today, the Weeks Law remains a source of inspiration for its foresight, the spirit of cooperation in which it was conceived, and the vast tracts of national forests it preserved for future generations.”


“I want to thank both Sen. Gregg and Sen. Shaheen for recognizing the importance of the Weeks Law and introducing the Senate Resolution that celebrates its 100th anniversary,” said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which was founded in 1901 in part to help build support for the Weeks Law and the creation of the White Mountain National Forest. “Far more than a mere historical footnote, the Weeks Law represents a turning point in the stewardship of New Hampshire’s forestland. Passage of the Weeks Law in 1911 acknowledged at least three critically important points—that we can and should protect our public water supplies by protecting the forests around them, that national forests should not just be a feature of the American West but should be part of the more developed eastern United States as well, and that the federal government has a key role to play in establishing and managing those forests for multiple uses.”


“The Weeks Act was born in the heart of the White Mountains, inspired by the passion of the people, and pushed ahead by a coalition crossing many segments of society,” said White Mountain National Forest Supervisor Tom Wagner. “The Forest is proud to be the evidence of this historical movement and we look forward to the next 100 years as we continue to work with our partners and friends on the environmental and social challenges facing the White Mountain Region.”

Andy Falender, Appalachian Mountain Club President, stated, “I want to thank Senator Gregg and Senator Shaheen for recognizing the significance of the Weeks Law to the history of conservation, and specifically to New Hampshire, given its role in leading to the establishment of the White Mountain National Forest.  The Weeks Law was the result of collaborative citizen action and is a lasting example of what people can accomplish when they work together toward a common goal.  AMC is proud of its role in helping to pass this legislation almost one hundred years ago, and we look to the upcoming centennial of the Weeks Law as an opportunity to reflect on that historic success and to continue working together with our many partners to help steward a healthy and well-managed national forest well into the future.”


Throughout his career in the Senate, Senator Gregg has championed the stewardship of forests in New Hampshire and across the country.  A strong supporter of forest conservation initiatives, such as the Forest Legacy Program, he has worked to protect forestlands including 13 Mile Woods in Errol, Trout Pond in Freedom, Ossipee Pine Barrens, Crotched Mountain, Rossview Farms in Concord, and Willard Pond.

In 2006, Senator Gregg co-authored legislation that established more than 34,000 acres of new wilderness in the Sandwich Range and the Wild River areas of the White Mountain National Forest.  Over his career, he has worked to protect and preserve more than 337,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land throughout New Hampshire.


Senator Shaheen has been a staunch supporter of protecting New Hampshire’s forests for current and future generations to enjoy.  As Governor, Shaheen led efforts to establish the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) which provides grants to protect New Hampshire’s natural, cultural and historic resources.  Since 2000, LCHIP has helped to conserve over 220,000 acres of land in 107 New Hampshire communities.


In the Senate, Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Forest Legacy Programs, two of our country’s most important land conservation programs.  These programs were used to help protect additional forest lands in the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, along the Appalachian Trail and the Quabbin to Cardigan Initiative, which spans one hundred miles from the Quabbin Reservoir northward to Mount Cardigan and the White Mountain National Forest.



Law to form public forests in eastern US turns 100

January 8th, 2011 by Kelly

Law to form public forests in eastern US turns 100

By Kathy McCormack


Associated Press / December 5, 2010


CONCORD, N.H.—A century ago, the idea of the federal government buying private land and turning it into public forest was novel — and controversial.

Now, forest, conservation and education officials are planning field trips, lectures and arts festivals to commemorate next year’s 100th anniversary of the Weeks Act, which led to the creation of national forests in the eastern U.S.

Today, national forests encompass more than 25 million acres in 26 eastern states, the U.S. Forest Service says.

“It is one of the single most important pieces of environmental legislation in the 20th century,” said Char Miller, director of environmental analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. “It helps to establish new relationships between the federal government and the states. … It lays the groundwork for all levels of government to begin to collaborate on environmental issues.”

The law helped shape a national attitude about conserving public lands, but scholars and environmentalists agree that most people don’t understand what it represents.

“It’s probably true that most of us take a place like the White Mountain National Forest for granted,” said Jack Savage, a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which lobbied for the law in the early 1900s. “We assume it’s kind of always been there.”

The 800,000-acre forest in New Hampshire attracts millions of visitors each year, a major draw in a state where tourism is one of the largest industries.

By the turn of the century, the federal government owned forests west of the Mississippi, but much of the land in the East had been privately owned since colonial times. It was heavily cut over, and the land became prone to erosion and fire.

The future of the forests and their watersheds were at stake. In New Hampshire, for example, grand hotels in the north — the White Mountain region — were worried about attracting tourists. In the south, mill owners who relied on water power from rivers wanted to stop flooding.

Enter John Wingate Weeks, who grew up on a farm in Lancaster, which includes part of the White Mountain National Forest. Weeks was a well-known banker in Boston before his election to Congress in 1904, representing Massachusetts. He understood the interests associated with the forest and helped bring them together to propose the bill in 1908.

“He had a lot of connections with businesses. He lived on a mountaintop,” said naturalist David Govatski of Jefferson, N.H., referring to Weeks’ summer home atop Mount Prospect in Lancaster, now part of a state park. Govatski is writing a book about Weeks, who went on to become a U.S. senator and served as Secretary of War before he died in 1926.

Robert Bast, an architect in Hinesburg, Vt., who is a great-grandson of Weeks, said Weeks “could see firsthand and what was happening in the White Mountains in terms of lumbering and logging. On a personal level, it was clear to him that the way this resource was being handled was inappropriate.”

But Congress resisted the bill. Some members felt the government lacked the power under the U.S. Constitution to buy the land. Others didn’t believe that the protection of high-country watersheds could benefit downstream businesses, such as the mills. And then there was House Speaker Joe Cannon’s comment: “Not 1 cent for scenery.”

Studies were done in western forests to prove that there was a relationship between upstream and downstream interests, and negotiations helped toward agreements on the other objections. Eventually, the bill passed and President William Howard Taft signed it into law on March 1, 1911.

The first forest tract bought under the act was part of what became the Pisgah National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. Forests were replanted and erosion controlled, wildfires were reduced through state-federal partnerships and watersheds were protected.

“Without the Weeks Act, we might not have an Endangered Species Act, we might not have a Clean Water or Clean Air Act, we might not have a Wilderness Act because there would have been no precedent for this new relationship between the states and the federal government to cooperate in the ways that the Weeks Act produced,” Miller said.

Planning is under way for Weeks centennial events. In New Hampshire, they’ll include field trips to the forest, educational programs for children and families and a festival called Eight Days of Weeks in August. Plymouth State University featured an exhibit on the Weeks Act this year, which is touring the state.

Rebecca More, a great-granddaughter of Weeks and a history professor at Brown University, said it’s worth taking note of the law a century later, calling it “a classic example of collaboration and compromise across party lines of something that is beneficial for the public.”

“This is a lesson that, unfortunately, is getting lost in the shuffle today,” she said. “This is a lesson for the ages.”


(URL) http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/12/05/law_to_form_public_forests_