Archive for June, 2009

The news is not too surprising, but the timing is—and a bit fortuitous for us.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on June 17 that U.S. Forest Service chief Gail Kimbell has been replaced by Tom Tidwell.  It’s not unusual for a new presidential administration to select someone they believe will carry out their vision for natural resource management.  The timing is unusual because the Obama Administration has yet to appoint an undersecretary of agriculture to the position that oversees the Forest Service.  It’s fortuitous for us because FHS staff historian Jamie Lewis is flying to Missoula to conduct an oral history interview with former chief Dale Bosworth next week as part of our Oral History program and will ask Dale about what a transition from one chief to the next can be like.

Tom Tidwell, the 17th Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

Tom Tidwell, the 17th Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

Chief Tidwell is the third consecutive chief promoted from Regional Forester in Region 1, headquartered in Missoula, Montana, to the position.  Coincidentally, Tidwell had succeeded Kimbell as Regional Forester when she succeeded Bosworth upon his appointment as chief in 2001.  An article in Missoula’s newspaper speculates as to why the last three chiefs have come from that region:

I think the public was growing weary of the fighting, and Tom’s been there to support that collaboration and help lead it,” Bosworth said. This administration is interested in people who can collaborate, and that makes Tom a natural.

“You have to have your act together to have success as a regional forester,” said Bosworth, who returned to Missoula after retirement. “This is the last of the wildlands in the lower 48 states. It’s an excellent place to get a wide variety of experiences.”

In particular, Bosworth said it’s a training ground for bringing together the independent and conflicting interests of the Northern Rockies. This area has led the nation in getting those groups to work together.

The Missoulian notes, “The Forest Service’s Northern Region commands 25 million acres in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota.  That includes 12 national forests and four national grasslands.

“Before coming to Missoula, Tidwell worked in eight other national forests in three regions.  His positions included district ranger, forest supervisor and legislative affairs specialist in Washington, D.C.  He was forest supervisor in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.  And he has 19 years of firefighting experience, from ground crew to agency administrator.”  In all, he’s been with the Forest Service for 32 years.

We wish Tom well as he takes over, and we also wish Gail well on the next phase of her career.

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Prior to the expansion of railroads and later use of trucks, the logging industry relied on river currents to move large amounts of cut timber to sawmills. In October, we highlighted six photo galleries related to various aspects of river log drives. Since this posting, searches for “log drives,” “log drivers,” “moving logs on rivers,” and “logger photos” have frequently led readers to Peeling Back the Bark and the FHS Photo Collection.

To further satisfy reader interests, I would like to share our top-viewed YouTube video, an excerpt from Timber on the Move: A History of Log Moving Technology, a documentary film from the Forest History Society. This clip illuminates the river driving process as only action footage can. This segment also includes informative narration describing the effect of the log drives, such as flooding of farmland adjacent to the river banks.


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The William Laughead Papers, introduced in a previous post, continue to delight.  Among the Bunyan-related materials, we found an advertising booklet heralding “Paul Bunyan’s Prosperity Special.”

Click to view advertising booklet.

Click to view advertising booklet in its entirety.

This pamphlet documents the Red River Lumber Company’s strategy to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the completion of the Western Pacific and Great Northern rail connection. On November 10, 1931, Arthur Curtis James drove the Golden Spike at Bieber, California, opening the “Inside Gateway” to California — Great Northern Railway’s effort to compete with the Southern Pacific Company’s route between Oregon and California.

On this same date, the Red River Lumber Company shipped a special train of lumber products from their plant at Westwood, California. Laughead’s mustachioed Paul Bunyan adorned the train cars and locomotive tanks, and the 171 cars, six locomotives, and caboose cut an impressive figure, if the ad men can be believed.  According to the pamphlet, the train, at 8,325 feet long (that’s nearly 1.6 miles!), was, at the time,  “one of the longest, if not the longest string of loaded cars ever handled in one train movement.  It [was] the largest single shipment of lumber products ever made, with the added distinction that it was manufactured and shipped by one producer at one plant.”


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