Though the centennial of the Weeks Act is next year, the Forest History Society is already fielding queries about it from U.S. Forest Service employees and others whose work and livelihoods have been affected by the landmark legislation. Sponsored by Rep. John Weeks of Massachusetts and passed in 1911, the Weeks Act authorized the federal government to purchase lands in the eastern United States for stream-flow protection, and allowed for those lands to be managed as national forests by the U.S. Forest Service. The law also called for public-private cooperation for fire fighting around the country. Though subsequent laws expanded the power and reach of the act to western forests, for all intents and purposes the Weeks Act is the “organic act” of the eastern national forests.
To aid researchers and the generally inquisitive, the crack research and writing staff at FHS has combed through our library and archive and put together a new section of our U.S. Forest Service History pages about the history of the Weeks Act. There you will find an overview essay of the act and links to numerous items that document how the law came into being, its impact on land management, and how the law has been celebrated over the years. There’s even a PDF of the original law. You can find all of our outstanding research resources here.
For a brief video overview of the legislative history of the Weeks Act, take a look at the following clip, which is one of many DVD extras from “The Greatest Good,” a documentary on the history of the U.S. Forest Service: