Weeks Act: Centennial Coordinating Committee

The Centennial Coordinating Committee organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 1911 Weeks Act, one of this country’s most significant pieces of conservation legislation. We want to share with you current plans for commemorating this centennial, and to invite your participation in this effort.

We are focused not only on ensuring that this milestone is remembered and honored, but on using the opportunity of the 100th anniversary to look ahead to the next 100 years of conservation.  The Committee comprises representatives from the following: Appalachian Mountain Club, Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, NH Department of Resources and Economic Development, NH Timberland Owners Association, Plymouth State University, Society for the Protection of NH Forests, Weeks State Park Association, members of the Weeks family, and the White Mountain National Forest.

The initial discussions resulted in agreement around several key areas of focus for Centennial events and activities:

  • History
  • Arts
  • Citizen and Community Engagement
  • Education
  • Communications/Media outreach

Our goal is to have a small team of people collaborating in each of these areas.  Each subcommittee will use standing and ad hoc members to develop a plan of action and implement activities in 2011 that focus on the ideas contained in the attached briefing paper.  Some examples include the potential for a lecture series devoted to the history of the Weeks Act; planned service trips and field days devoted to engaging citizens in their public lands; and working with educators to engage school children and families in the history and the future of conservation. The Committee will serve as an information-sharing conduit and overall coordinator of the components of the celebration.

Sub-committee chairs are: History: Dave Govatski; Arts: Frumie Selchen; Citizen and Community Engagement: Susan Arnold; Education: Clare Long; Communications: Colleen Mainville.

We recognize that in these difficult times we are all facing multiple challenges, and that no one has excess time or resources on their hands.  That said, this is a milestone that we cannot let pass without recognition and, more importantly, celebration!

Weeks Act Background

By 1911 much of White Mountain region had been largely clear cut by unrestricted logging.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century fires frequently burned thousands of acres degrading water quality as far south as Lowell, MA effecting commerce and the textile industry. Concerns over losses to logging and textile industries, and burgeoning tourism led to citizen action.  The Appalachian Mountain Club and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest spearheaded an effort to ensure permanent protection of White Mountain region from further degradation and depredation. In 1906, after years of lobbying and intense public pressure, Congressman John Weeks of Massachusetts and Lancaster, NH, joined the effort. Two years later Weeks introduced legislation that became known as the Weeks Act.  Passed by congress in 1911 the Act appropriated 9 million dollars to purchase 6 million acres of land in the Eastern UnitedStates, culminating in the   creation of the White Mountain National Forest in 1918, as well as many other national forests throughout the north and southeast.

Many of the groups instrumental in passage of the Weeks Act, including the SPNHF and the AMC, are still active today and, subsequently, the WMNF has grown from 7,000 acres to almost 800,000. 

Celebrating the Weeks Act Centennial

To commemorate this important anniversary, the Society for Protection of NH Forests (SPNHF), Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), NH Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), Plymouth State University, Weeks State Park Association, and the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), have joined forces to celebrate the Weeks Act Centennial – 100 years of Stewardship and Conservation Leadership. This is an occasion to recognize what has been accomplished and contemplate what is possible over the next 100 years.  The celebration of the Weeks Act and the creation of Eastern National Forests provides an opportunity to promote increased awareness of sustainable forestry, land stewardship and citizen-based conservation.

The purpose of the Weeks Act Centennial is to honor the life and accomplishments of John Weeks and other conservation leaders; the creation of Eastern National Forests; and the public-private collaboration in service of conservation that is the hallmark of the White Mountain National Forest.  The centennial celebration explores the principle of multiple use land conservation, broadens our understanding of the historic events culminating in the formation of the national forest, and engages the public in thinking about forest conservations future.

Some activities planned for the centennial include a celebratory event in White Mountains; ongoing educational events and field trips, volunteer opportunities and service trips, lectures and intellectual inquiry  with historians, conservationists, and others who have helped to shape the history and culture of the White Mountain region.

The Weeks Act is one of America’s most significant pieces of conservation legislation.  It created the much loved landscapes millions of people still value 100 years later.  The establishment of the Eastern National Forests and sound land stewardship were a dream a century ago.  This dream is a reality today that must continue to flourish over the next 100 years as we face a myriad of national and global conservation challenges.   We look forward to this opportunity to honor our past while envisioning our future.

Centennial Committee

Jane Difley, Co-Chair

Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests

Rebecca Oreskes, Co- Chair

White Mountain National Forest

Catherine Amidon

Plymouth State University

Susan Arnold

Appalachian Mountain Club

Robert Bast

Weeks Family

Dave Govatski

Weeks State Park Association

Thad Guldbrandsen

Plymouth State University

Vince Lunetta

Weeks State Park Association

Colleen Mainville

White Mountain National Forest

Frumie Selchen

Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire

Ned Therrien

New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association

Tom Wagner

White Mountain National Forest

Ben Wilson

N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development