Archive for June, 2010

Gifford Pinchot famously wrote in Breaking New Ground, “Forestry is Tree Farming. Forestry is handling trees so that one crop follows another. To grow trees as a crop is Forestry.”

While next June marks the official 70th anniversary of the first certified tree farm, the concept of renewable forestry can be traced back to the turn of the last century. The rise of the tree farm movement in America marked a shift in perspective towards privately owned forest land as a sustainable resource worthy of long-term conservation and management. Private landowners became important figures, working on behalf of the public’s interest as the stewards of this valuable resource.

Tree Farm button

Promotional button commemorating 40 years of the Tree Farm System.

The Forest History Society Library and Archives recently received 24 cartons of archival documents from the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). Currently being processed, the collection includes historical material such as essays from the 1940s and 1950s attempting to define the burgeoning movement, inspection and certification records of some of the first tree farms, and early press clippings. The majority of the collection’s documents cover the organization’s activities from 1980 to 2005, and include publications such as Tree Farmer Magazine and Green America, records of various awards for outstanding forestry such as the Tree Farmer of the Year and Inspector of the Year, minutes and related materials from annual conventions and committees, records from educational initiatives such as Project Learning Tree, and materials from dedications  such as the certification of President Jimmy Carter’s tree farm. The collection also includes numerous photos and slides of ATFS events and activities, as well as films of educational programming, and public service announcements by famous tree farmers such as actress Andie MacDowell, musician Chuck Leavell, President Carter, and the incomparable Andy Griffith.

The Clemons Tree Farm, a 120,000-acre plot in Washington State publicly dedicated by the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company on June 12, 1941, is recognized as the first official tree farm. The tree farm movement originated as an initiative of industrial firms such as Weyerhaeuser managing large tracts of forestland to demonstrate self-regulation and sustainability. Over the years the ATFS has grown to include smaller private landowners, with the system currently estimated at 24 million acres of certified forestland managed by over 90,000 tree farmers.

One of the videos included in the collection is a 4-minute public service announcement, produced by the Weyerhaeuser Company in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Clemons Tree Farm, that gives a general overview of the history and mission of the American Tree Farm System:

Pictured below are a few other items of interest from the collection:

Tree Farm certificate

An official certificate of membership to the American Tree Farm System. (click to enlarge)

Tree Farm Map

A Weyerhaeuser advertisement depicting a map of the 100-year plan for the Mount St. Helens Tree Farm, circa 1950. (click to enlarge)

Tree Farm baseball bat

A Louisville Slugger baseball bat custom made with the Tree Farm logo to commemorate the Domino’s Lodge Tree Farm dedication on March 19, 1988. (click to enlarge)

Tree Farm inspection document

An official inspection document of the original Clemons Tree Farm in Montesano, Washington, 1943. (click to enlarge)

For more information about the history of the American Tree Farm System you can view an article by Richard Lewis entitled “Tree Farming: A Voluntary Conservation Program,” from the July 1981 issue of the Journal of Forest History.

For a visual history, also see the following online galleries from the FHS Photo Collection:

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June marks the official start of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which this year is forecast to be a busy one.  As deadly and destructive storms, hurricanes are also major agents of landscape change and forest disturbance in many parts of the southern and eastern United States.  The Forest History Society library and archival collections contain information on past hurricane damage to people, physical structures, and forested landscapes.

1938 Hurricane damage.

Forest impact from the 1938 Hurricane in New England (click to enlarge).

One of the biggest hurricane-induced forest disturbances in the U.S. occurred in New England in 1938.  Hurricane number 4 of the 1938 season (Atlantic storms were not given names until 1950), blew a devastating path through the New England region in September of that year, affecting New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.  The storm killed over 700 people, destroyed thousands of homes, and caused forest damage [click to view map] in 35 percent of New England’s total land area.

Survey damage from 1938 Hurricane.

Inspecting hurricane damage to a farm woodlot in New Hampshire, 1938 (click to enlarge).

Hurricane impact on forests comes in many forms.  The storms greatly affect forest structure, forest density, species distribution, and more.  The immediate aftermath of the 1938 hurricane saw extensive areas of downed trees, which created dangerous fire hazards throughout the region.  Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) crews were used in the hazard removal and clean up efforts, and the Northeastern Timber Salvage Administration (NETSA) was created to salvage the usable timber.  NETSA helped harvest, process, purchase, and store timber, as well as set stable timber prices, all helping to minimize losses to effected landowners.  Even with these large-scale responses to the 1938 hurricane, this single storm greatly influenced the long-term makeup of the New England forest landscape.

For more information on the 1938 New England Hurricane, the Forest History Society Image Database features nearly 150 photos of the storm’s aftermath and clean-up efforts.  The FHS U.S. Forest Service History Collection includes the official USFS Report on the 1938 hurricane, as well as other materials on the storm’s impact and the timber salvage efforts.  An oral history with Earl S. Peirce discussing the timber salvage programs following the 1938 hurricane can be found in the FHS library.  An article by David R. Foster in the Fall 2000 issue of Forest History Today, “Conservation Lessons & Challenges from Ecological History,” looks at the use of history in ecological research, and mentions how the 1938 hurricane influenced researchers to study natural disturbances.

1938 Hurricane damage.

Private land in New Hampshire following 1938 hazard reduction and timber salvage (click to enlarge).

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