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Archive for October, 2010

The 25th anniversary of the iconic film franchise Back to the Future and the Blu-ray release of the trilogy on October 26 got us thinking about what forestry and logging were supposed to look like today as predicted by the best minds of the mid-20th century.

Some of those same minds had predicted that we would all be driving flying cars or have individual jetpacks to get to work. I don’t know about you but I’m still relying on the internal-combustion engine to get around. And that’s the problem with committing predictions of the future to paper. When organizations like the Forest History Society hold on to those documents, it’s easy to look back at them and assess how close to (or far from) the mark the writer was.

Logger of the future

So let’s look at two sets of predictions. The image above isn’t a storyboard of a scene from Back to the Future. It’s a sketch of a forester treating a tree in 1975. Well, that was the prediction in 1955. For their film, People, Products and Progress: 1975, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked several organizations in 1955 to make future predictions about transportation, home life, and the workplace. To furnish a sequence on the lumber industry they called upon the National Lumber Manufacturers Association for help. The NLMA might have called their segment “Better Living through Chemicals.” They predicted foresters would use radioactive materials, hormones, and “other stimulating substances” to do things like pre-season the wood, make it fire resistant, and even change the color of the wood while the tree is still growing. Maybe they didn’t get all of that correct, but maybe what hasn’t come to pass still could through a combination of chemical injections and genetic modification.

The NLMA’s description of the sawmill of the future is fairly accurate in terms of using scanning equipment to assess the best way to cut a log. And although we aren’t yet cutting lumber with lasers it seems only a matter of time. They got the part right about helicopter logging, but using an ordinary helicopter isn’t as exciting to contemplate as using this contraption, a strange marriage of 19th- and 20th-century technologies.

Helistat

This combination of multiple helicopters and blimp seemed like a good idea at the time. Alas, one of its flight tests failed in spectacular and tragic fashion and the program ended in 1986.

In 1980 the American Forest Foundation made a stab at predicting what the industry would look like in both 2010 and 2020. In 1980, to generate interest in National Forest Products Week, they issued what appears to be a press release that described working in 2010. For a separate project they produced a poster that made predictions about 2020. You’ll want to read the poster and the press release to see the subtle differences between the two in describing the future.

Some of it has already come to pass, like the use of handheld computers in the field and computers to aid in harvesting timber. The discussion of the “paperless society” in the press release is one worth revisiting in light of the internet and technology’s impact on how we read. (Are you reading this on your phone or a Kindle?) Interestingly, the artist wasn’t much of a visionary. You can clearly see the influence of Star Wars on the artist’s rendition of a logger. He looks like Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing fighter pilot uniform wielding a light saber—or is that a logging saber?

logging of the future

It’s interesting to note the emphasis on transportation in these various visions. More than a century ago Biltmore Estate forester Carl Schenck declared that “forestry was a problem of transportation” and that “good roads are needed to practice forestry!” Talk about back to the future! The vision of hovercraft lifting logs out of hard-to-access areas brings to mind the closing line from Back to the Future, when Doc Brown tells Marty, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” If Doc were a forester, he might instead proclaim: “Roads? Where we’re logging, we don’t need roads.”

Will lasers be used to cleanly cut timber? Will robots load lumber onto hovercraft that haul lumber? Will trees be genetically engineered to produce different grains and colors? What are your predictions for the future of forests, wood utilization, and forest management? Leave them in the Comments area and we’ll come back in 25 or 30 years and see if you were right.

 

“Back to the Future” of logging and timber management

The 25th anniversary Blu-ray release of the film franchise Back to the Future got us thinking about what forestry and logging were supposed to look like now from the perspective of the mid 20th-century. Weren’t we all supposed to be driving flying cars or have individual jetpacks to get us to work? At least that’s what was predicted in the 1960s. And that’s the problem with committing predictions of the future to paper. When organizations like the Forest History Society hold on to those documents, it’s easy to look back at them and assess how close to (or far from) the mark the writer was.

So let’s look at two sets of predictions. The image above (or below) isn’t of a spaceman or of Doc Brown from the film. He’s a logger in 1975. Well, that was the prediction in 1955. For their film, People, Products and Progress: 1975, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had asked several organizations to make predictions about transportation, home life, and the workplace. To furnish a sequence on the lumber industry they called on the National Lumber Manufacturers Association for help. The NLMA might have called their segment “Better Living through Chemicals.” They predicted foresters would use radioactive materials, hormones, and “other stimulating substances” to do things like pre-season the wood, make it fire resistant, and even change the color of the wood while the tree is still growing. So maybe they didn’t get all of that correct, but maybe what hasn’t come to pass could still through a combination of chemical injections and genetic modification. [link to book?]

The description of the sawmill of the future is fairly accurate in terms of using scanning equipment to assess the best way to cut a log. And although we aren’t yet cutting lumber with lasers it seems only a matter of time. They got the part right about helicopter logging, but using an ordinary helicopter isn’t as exciting as using this contraption, a strange marriage of 19th- and 20th-century technologies. It failed its one flight test in spectacular and tragic fashion.

In 1980 the American Forest Foundation made a stab at predicting what the industry would look like in 2010. Some of it has already come to pass, like the use of handheld computers in the field and computers to aid in harvesting timber. You can clearly see the influence of Star Wars on the artist’s rendition of a logger. He looks like Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing fighter pilot uniform wielding a light saber—or is that a logging saber?

It’s interesting to note the emphasis on transportation in these various visions. Biltmore Estate forester Carl Schenck declared more than a century ago that “forestry was a problem of transportation” and that “good roads are needed to practice forestry!” The vision of hovercraft lifting logs out of hard-to-access areas brings to mind a line from Back to the Future, when Doc Brown tells Marty, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” If Doc were a forestry professor, he might instead proclaim: “Roads? Where we’re logging, we don’t need roads.”

What are your predictions for the future of forests, wood utilization, and forest management? Will lasers be used to cleanly cut timber? Will hovercraft be used to haul lumber?

 

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This week marks the 50th anniversary of National Forest Products Week, a designation created to recognize the importance of forest products to America’s growth and economic development, as well as the forest industry’s contributions to improved forest management and forest utilization. This annual observance dates back to September 13, 1960, when Congress passed a joint resolution providing for the establishment of an annual National Forest Products Week to be held each year on the week beginning with the third Sunday in October. (It was perhaps without irony that it was Representative E. L. “Tic” Forrester from Georgia who presented the proclamation in the House for approval.) President Eisenhower signed the first proclamation two days later, calling on the people of the United States “to observe the week beginning October 16, 1960, as National Forest Products Weeks, with activities and ceremonies designed to focus attention on the importance of our forests and forest products to the Nation’s economy and welfare.” Upon signing the proclamation Ike was presented with a commemorative clock made from 10 different species of American wood (see photo below).

Eisenhower Forest Products Week

President Eisenhower being presented with a commemorative clock by the National Lumber Manufacturers Association in 1960 after signing the proclamation.

The state of Minnesota, which has a long history of promoting forest products and forest preservation, passed its own proclamation in 1960. Governor Orville Freeman, who signed the proclamation, went on to become secretary of agriculture under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, placing him in charge of the U.S. Forest Service for eight years.

The National Lumber Manufacturers Association and the Concatenated Order of the Hoo Hoo were big promoters of National Forest Products Week in its inaugural year. The observance continued to expand nationwide the following year when President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation in 1961, and official observances continue today. On October 15, 2010, President Obama issued a proclamation for the 50th anniversary of the Week, which reads in part:

“Since the first communities and settlements in our Nation, forests and their products have played a vital role in our growth and economic development. Forests have also enhanced the splendor of our surroundings, served as wildlife habitats, provided places for recreational activities, and offered serene settings for contemplation. As we mark the 50th anniversary of National Forest Products Week, we recognize the enduring value of forests as sustainable, renewable, and bountiful resources, and we recommit to our stewardship and efforts to further their conservation.”

In honor of 50 years of National Forest Products Week, here are a few selections of forest products promotional images from the FHS Archives (click images to enlarge):

Louisiana forest products.

A display of Louisiana forest products (FHS4712).

More From Every Tree

"More From Every Tree" highlights some major forest products (from the American Forest Institute Records).

This Dress is a Forest Product

"This Dress is a Forest Product," an image from "The Story of Forests," an AFPI promotional booklet.

Woody

Forest Products character "Woody" combines his message of the value of the forests with the importance of preventing forest fires in the comic book "A Visit to the Forest...with Woody."

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One hundred years ago today, on October 8, 1910, former president Theodore Roosevelt addressed the Southern Conservation Congress in Atlanta, Georgia. Roosevelt was just one of many speakers during the two-day meeting called to “discuss the problems of utilizing to the best permanent advantage the resources of the South as a whole.” The meeting itself evolved out of an effort to form a Georgia conservation association, but then it quickly grew into a region-wide meeting.

Initially Roosevelt was coming to Atlanta for a completely different and unlikely reason. He was to be the featured speaker at a fundraiser on October 8 to establish a memorial for John Chandler Harris, the man who had gathered together and published the immensely popular “Uncle Remus” stories about Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and other characters. Roosevelt had befriended Harris, who was known as “Uncle Remus,” and had hosted him at the White House prior to the latter’s death in 1908—one of the few times Harris left his home towards the end of his life. Ever the politician, Roosevelt had declared on a visit to Atlanta in 1905: “Presidents come and go, but Uncle Remus stays put. Georgia has done a great many things for the Union, but she has never done more than when she gave Mr. Joel Chandler Harris to American literature.” When word reached the organizers of the Southern Conservation Congress that Roosevelt would be in town in October of 1910, they invited him to address the congress.

As with elsewhere, interest in conserving natural resources in the South had blossomed during Roosevelt’s term in office. Timber and naval stores were critical industries in the South during Reconstruction, and also critical to the economic development of the region. Timber went into housing and construction not only in the South but in the new Midwestern cities; railroads around the country were huge consumers of logs for railroad ties. Lumbermen were quickly cutting their way through southern forests, with harvests reaching a peak of nearly 140 billion board-feet in 1909. The South, including the Carolinas and Virginia, were producing 47% of all timber in the U.S. Nearly 50% of the South’s original woodland area was gone by then. (For more on this, see the first chapter of Mountaineers and Rangers: A History of Federal Forest Management in the Southern Appalachians, 1900-81.)

Joining Roosevelt on the dais was none other than Gifford Pinchot, the former Forest Service chief and a close friend and conservation adviser of Roosevelt’s. Pinchot spoke first on the “Principles of Conservation” in which he emphasized that “far-sighted” southern leaders had been working for twenty years toward the creation of the Appalachian Forest Preserve and now had the opportunity to achieve victory if only the Senate would pass the bill before them. Not surprisingly, Roosevelt and others echoed that sentiment. That bill was the Weeks Bill, which called in part for granting the federal government the power to purchase private lands in the East to protect watersheds.

 

Southern Conservation Congress

Members of the Southern Conservation Congress. Gifford Pinchot is fifth from the right. (From "American Lumberman")

 

In its “Statement of Principles and Policies,” the Southern Conservation Congress explicitly backed passage of the Weeks Bill, declaring that “the federal government has the constitutional right amounting to a national duty to acquire lands for forest purposes in the interest of a future timber supply, watershed protection, navigation, power, and the general welfare of the people.” The following March, President William Howard Taft signed the Weeks Act into law. Three years later the federal government purchased about 100,000 acres from George Vanderbilt’s widow in North Carolina to establish the Pisgah National Forest—the first national forest in the South created under the Weeks Act.

Theodore Roosevelt’s remarks to the Southern Conservation Congress neatly encapsulate the conservationists’ rationale for supporting government intervention in natural resource management. His discussion of the South’s changing economic prosperity is particularly interesting.

 

Theodore Roosevelt's address to the Southern Conservation Congress. Click on the image to open the address in PDF format.

 

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This week (October 3-9, 2010) marks Fire Prevention Week, a designation intended to promote the importance of fire safety and awareness as well as to pay tribute to the nation’s firefighters. Dating back almost a full century, the observance began in October 1911 when eight states issued proclamations formally setting aside October 9th as “Fire Prevention Day.” Organized in part by the National Fire Marshals Association, the day was chosen to commemorate the 40th anniversaries of the Great Chicago Fire and Wisconsin’s Peshtigo Fire, which both began on October 8, 1871, and burned into the next day. Officials hoped to “bring home to the people the great calamities that might happen from such terrible disasters.” (Other fires in different parts of Michigan and Illinois on October 9, 1911, also destroyed towns and claimed lives. All told, more than 1.5 million acres burned in two days and claimed thousands of lives in the Midwest. By coincidence, the same week of the first Fire Prevention Day the commission investigating the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York, which killed 146 factory workers who were trapped in a burning building, was holding its hearings. This March 1911 fire made clear the danger of fire in modern urbanized areas and led to the establishment of building fire codes and other reforms.)

Nine years after this first observance, the day became an official national designation when President Woodrow Wilson issued a 1920 proclamation officially naming October 9 as National Fire Prevention Day. By this time the day’s events were already growing into a week-long observance in various states and locales around the country. The mayors of New York City and Chicago both promoted a week of activities and events relating to fire prevention in 1919. Nationwide the day coincided with educational activities in public schools, public lectures, the cleaning of debris and fire hazards from homes and property, fire drills, the distribution of fact sheets about fire damage, slides in movie theaters showing images of the loss of life and property, and fire prevention displays and placards in stores. Rules for preventing fires were even printed on restaurant menus.

In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge issued the first national proclamation for Fire Prevention Week, designating it as the seven days from Sunday to Saturday encompassing October 9th. Every president since has followed suit, with President Obama issuing the latest proclamation on October 1st, 2010. Currently the week is promoted by the National Fire Protection Association, the world’s leading advocate for fire prevention. This year’s version of Fire Prevention Week also marks the return of public service announcements featuring Bambi alongside Smokey Bear. This is a throwback of sorts to the first U.S. Forest Service fire PSAs of 1944 which featured Disney’s Bambi character prior to the debut of Smokey.

In honor of this year’s Fire Prevention Week, we bring you a few images of historic fire prevention efforts from the FHS Photograph Collection. Click on any of the below images to enlarge:

Smokey and Friends Display

Young girl admires the U.S. Forest Service fire prevention exhibit at the 1963 North Carolina State Fair.

Fire prevention float

A Florida Forest Service fire prevention float, featuring Miss Fire Control and her friends Miss Turpentine, Miss Pulpwood, and Miss Lumber.

Fire prevention info

Mississippi storekeeper Ed Bailey hands out a fire prevention promotional item to his customer.

Fire prevention poster

National Parks fire prevention poster.

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