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In just two short paragraphs, the Edmonton newspaper account captured the destruction and relief felt that all were safe after a wildfire overwhelmed the town:

Swept away in the maelstrom of a raging forest fire which descended upon the place like a furnace blast on Monday afternoon, the little village … is today a mere smouldering mass of ruin and desolation, and its entire population is homeless and bereft of all personal effects, save scant articles of clothing which could be worn through the nerve-wracking struggle the people were forced to make to preserve their lives.

The absence of a death toll in the catastrophe is due to the heroic measures taken by the citizens, who rushed into the waters of the lake and defied suffocating heat and smoke by means of wet blankets. Only such measures saved many of the women and little children, the intensity of the fire being shown by the burning of the very reeds along the shore and surface of the lake.

That report may sound like the Fort McMurray fire that’s forced the evacuation of tens of thousands in Alberta. But it is not. It’s from the Edmonton Bulletin, dated May 21, 1919. The article was recounting the wildfire that burned over the village of Lac La Biche about 200 km (120 miles) northeast of Edmonton. In time, historians labeled it the Great Fire of 1919, and later still forget that it even happened. It’s rather remarkable that a fire that burned about 2 million hectares (5 million acres) and transformed a region’s landscape and culture could be forgotten, but it was. (If people can forget a forest, then forgetting a fire seems plausible.)

Fortunately, historians Peter J. Murphy, Cordy Tymstra, and Merle Massie document the Great Fire and its impact and legacy—and why it faded from memory—in “The Great Fire of 1919: People and A Shared Firestorm in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada,” available in the most recent issue of Forest History TodayThe Great Fire is not the largest on record. That honor belongs to The Chinchaga Firestorm, the largest wildfire ever documented in North America. But what sets it apart from others is the fire’s lasting impact on the landscape and soil, fire policy, and ownership of public lands—impacts the “The Great Fire of 1919” details.

The parallels between the Great Fire and Fort McMurray fire are striking: dry conditions “that desiccated the surrounding region and created a tinder-dry powder keg”; it was not one fire but a complex of many fires; the source of the fire is unknown; and that residents of one village—in 1919, it was Lac La Biche; today it’s Fort McMurray—managed to get out of harm’s way. But in 1919, not all were so lucky. In one instance, a group of 23 Cree were camping at Sekip Lake when the fire overran them in a matter of minutes. Eleven died, including a father who’s quick action saved his wife and children, though “the 12 survivors ‘bore the marks of their burns for life.'” Massie explained in a blog post written during last year’s fire season how the family might have been caught unaware of the approaching fire: “A boreal forest fire is deadly, a conflagration along the ground. Crowning, climbing up the trees to burn the tops like matches, a crowned forest fire is even more deadly. When whipped by vicious gale force winds, or across a boreal landscape dried to tinder, such a forest fire moves faster than either humans or animals.”

The boreal forest is a fire-based ecological regime, explains Massie in her book Forest Prairie Edge. “When a dry season hits, the boreal forest contains a magnitude of flammable timber and debris, peat and moss, shrubs and grasses…. In general, fire hazard is highest in jack pine stands, intermediate in spruce or fir stands, and low in hardwood (primarily trembling aspen) stands, except in a dry spring, when forest floor debris is particularly flammable.” According to Stephen Pyne in Awful Splendour, his history of fire in Canada, “The boreal region is home to Canada’s largest fires, its greatest fire problems, and its most distinctive fire regimes, the ones that define Canada as a fire nation…. Over 90 percent of the country’s big fires, which account for over 97 percent of its burned area, lie within the boreal belt.” Additionally, as Peter Murphy pointed out in an email today, the Fort McMurray fire reminds us “that the boreal forest complex can support the growth of large and high-intensity fires with its continuity of flammable fuels; and that spring can be a particularly hazardous time between ‘break-up and green-up’—that period after the snow is gone, ice breaks up, and before new leaves and needles are fully formed.” Perhaps looking at the calendar and realizing it’s only the first week of May, Cordy Tymstra, the Wildfire Science Coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry in Edmonton and author of The Chinchaga Firestorm offered this via email: “There is a lot of fire season remaining and a lot of fire still on the landscape around Fort McMurray.”

To read more about about the 1919 fire or other major Canadian fires, see: https://www.facebook.com/HyloVeniceCentenary/posts/257744001047212 http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/what-can-we-learn-from-the-worst-fires-in-canadian-history/

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We’ve asked Karen Schoenewaldt, Registrar at The Center for Art in Wood, to share with us the exciting work going between the Center and Bartram’s Gardens following a storm that took down many trees at the Gardens. The resulting art exhibition will be touring for the next two years and the Center is soliciting ideas for venues to host the exhibition.

A violent rain and wind storm was the catalyst that brought two Philadelphia organizations together — Bartram’s Gardens, the home of famed 18th-century explorer and botanist John Bartram, and The Center for Art in Wood, a museum and research library with a rapidly growing collection of wood art. When the storm devastated the grounds at Bartram’s in June 2010, local wood turner and past Center board member Brad Whitman wondered if this loss could form the basis of an art project. Within six months the Center put out a call for artists to propose and create works that incorporate thirteen types of trees felled by the high winds.

Mitch Ryerson, United States | Bartram's Bench, 2013 | Cast stone, black locust | 42” x 16 feet x 36”

Mitch Ryerson, United States | Bartram’s Bench, 2013 | Cast stone, black locust | 42” x 16 feet x 36”

The initiative afforded artists a unique opportunity to “remix” the history, inspirations, and materials from one of America’s oldest gardens into sculptural objects and installations. Bartram’s Boxes Remix challenges artists to free themselves and make unexpected work that they had not yet time to create.

The title was inspired by the boxes John Bartram designed and shipped to colleagues in England starting in 1735, which contained seeds, plants, and curiosities that he had gathered in his travels through the eastern American colonies.

His practice and the designed gardens he created on the outskirts of Philadelphia became an international hub of plant knowledge and diffusion, preserved now as a historic site.

The Center’s call for entries attracted over 100 responses from artists around the world. Fifty-eight artists attended two retreats the Center sponsored at the Garden. On these visits, the artists explored the site for inspiration, were briefed on the Bartram archives, and examined the refuse wood available to be recycled into art.

Christopher Weiland, United States | Seed Collector, 2013 | Poplar, fountain grass seed | 9 x 4 x 4”

Christopher Weiland, United States | Seed Collector, 2013 | Poplar, fountain grass seed | 9 x 4 x 4”

This unique exhibition brings together 36 projects by 39 artists and will run May 2 through July 19, 2014, at The Center for Art in Wood and Bartram’s Gardens and then travel for two years. Each artist’s proposals and finished work can be seen online at Center’s website under “Traveling Exhibitions.” A lavishly illustrated catalog will accompany the show.

The organizers are currently planning the tour schedule and welcome ideas for venues that could host the exhibition for any period through 2016. Details about the tour are available on the “Traveling Exhibitions” page. For more information about the Center and Bartram’s Garden please visit the Center’s website or that of Bartram Garden’s.

Some examples of the art produced are below. The works are as diverse as the materials they worked with.

Fred Rose, United States | Sassy Sassafras all Mittens and Gloves Root Beer Roots, Filé Gumbo Leaves the fragrant cousins of Family Lauraceae Avocado, Camphor, Bay Laurel, Cinnamon, 2013 | Sassafras albidum – Sassafras, wood and log from Bartram’s Garden Persea – Avocado, wood from Los Angeles Hire’s Root Beer Improved Extract bottle Iron, Glass, Illustration by Mary Jo Rado. | 40 x 14 x 8”

Fred Rose, United States | Sassy Sassafras all Mittens and Gloves Root Beer Roots, Filé Gumbo Leaves the fragrant cousins of Family Lauraceae Avocado, Camphor, Bay Laurel, Cinnamon, 2013 | Sassafras albidum – Sassafras, wood and log from Bartram’s Garden Persea – Avocado, wood from Los Angeles Hire’s Root Beer Improved Extract bottle Iron, Glass, Illustration by Mary Jo Rado. | 40 x 14 x 8”

Nathan Hansen, United States | 131 Rings, 2013 | Aluminum, bark, motor | 42 x 42 x 42”

Nathan Hansen, United States | 131 Rings, 2013 | Aluminum, bark, motor | 42 x 42 x 42”

Some artists chose to collaborate, as is seen in the following two pieces (four photos).

Amy Forsyth with Katie Hudnall, United States | Seed Cabinet, 2013 | Oak, walnut, mahogany, maple, ash, basswood, drawings (watercolor and color pencil on paper) Wood surfaces are varnished, milk-painted, and/or ebonized | Closed: 60 x 29 x 24"

Amy Forsyth with Katie Hudnall, United States | Seed Cabinet, 2013 | Oak, walnut, mahogany, maple, ash, basswood, drawings (watercolor and color pencil on paper) Wood surfaces are varnished, milk-painted, and/or ebonized | Closed: 60 x 29 x 24″

Amy Forsyth with Katie Hudnall, United States | Seed Cabinet, 2013 | Oak, walnut, mahogany, maple, ash, basswood, drawings (watercolor and color pencil on paper) Wood surfaces are varnished, milk-painted, and/or ebonized | Open: (door open, lid up, bridge down) 72 x 47 x 48”

Amy Forsyth with Katie Hudnall, United States | Seed Cabinet, 2013 | Oak, walnut, mahogany, maple, ash, basswood, drawings (watercolor and color pencil on paper) Wood surfaces are varnished, milk-painted, and/or ebonized | Open: (door open, lid up, bridge down) 72 x 47 x 48”

Katie Hudnall with Amy Forsyth, United States | The Cataloger’s Desk, 2013 | Plywoods, found materials, salvaged wood, hardware | 60 x 15 x 18”

Hudnall_cataloging desk front open 2 copy - Copy

Katie Hudnall with Amy Forsyth, United States | The Cataloger’s Desk, 2013 | Plywoods, found materials, salvaged wood, hardware | 60 x 15 x 18” [open]

Ron Fleming, United States | Franklin Tree, 2012 | Tulip wood from Bartram's Garden | 12 x 9½”

Ron Fleming, United States | Franklin Tree, 2012 | Tulip wood from Bartram’s Garden | 12 x 9½”

Neil Donovan & John Vahanian, United States | Precarious Crossing, 2013 | Stump- Wood from Bartram Garden. Disk - Maple, Wisteria Vine, Boat - Ash, Seed form (integrated into the Wisteria Vine) Cherry, Grind stone | 51 x 58 x 36” Wood Disk Dia. 26"

Neil Donovan & John Vahanian, United States | Precarious Crossing, 2013 | Stump – Wood from Bartram Garden. Disk – Maple, Wisteria Vine. Boat – Ash, Seed form (integrated into the Wisteria Vine) Cherry, Grind stone | 51 x 58 x 36” Wood Disk Dia. 26″

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The following post comes to us courtesy of Stephen J. Pyne, an environmental historian who has written extensively about the history of fire and fire policy and is the author of the FHS Issues Series book America’s Fires. This posting originally appeared on the website AZCentral.com on July 5. It was written after the Yarnell Fire incident that killed 19 hotshot firefighters on June 30, 2013.

“AFTER THE FIRE”

This time it feels personal.

All day I had noticed a film of smoke, and before dinner I watched to the north as the pall thickened and sky roughened into blue cloud, and wondered if there was a fire there, and if the clouds meant the winds would be squirrely, and if they might affect any burn under way. There was and they did.

The news passes, the mourning goes on. So will the contentious interpretation of what happened, and why, and what we might do about it. It does no dishonor to the fallen to note that we’ve seen this too often before and that little new is likely to emerge beyond the sickening particulars. Still, it’s worth rehearsing the basics.

Over the past 140 years we have created, by missteps and unintended consequences, a firescape that threatens both our natural habitat and our built landscape. The problem is systemic, the result of how we live on the land. In many respects it resembles our health care system. Horrors like the Yarnell Hill fire are part of the usually hidden costs.

We know a lot about the issues. We know we need to replace feral fire with tame fire. We know how to keep houses from burning. We know that we face an ecological insurgency that we can’t carpet bomb out of existence or beat down with summer surges of engines and crews, that we have to control the countryside. We know the scene is spiraling out faster than we can scale up our responses: we would need the equivalent of a new Civilian Conservation Corps program to catch up. Every contributing cause points in the same worsening direction.

The political landscape seems an equal shambles. The fundamental issues are not policies, but politics, and not just inadequate funding but an inability to reach consensus about what we want and how to do it. Disaster fires get hijacked to advance other agendas, too many of which are stalemated.

We’ve lost our middle ground, literally—the middle landscape between the extremes, the wild and the urban, that have defined the American West for the past 50 years. The landscape is polarizing as much as society, splitting between green fire and red. We can’t slow sprawl except by recessions. We can’t reconcile wild and working landscapes.  Instead we ask fire crews to plug the gaps. There is little reason to believe that fire casualties in Arizona will jolt the system to self-correct any more than mass killings in Colorado and Connecticut led to gun reform.

Two trends are worth watching. A National Cohesive Strategy for wildland fire that seeks to reconcile resources with risks is in its final development phase. If it succeeds it will serve as a fire constitution, a messy mechanism by which the hundreds of competing interests might work through the necessary compromises with some political legitimacy. We could move fire management beyond emergency response.

The second is that the agencies may adjust internally. They have learned to declare fire-vulnerable houses indefensible and to refuse to commit crews to some high-risk firescapes with limited values. They are often adopting a big-box model in which they pull back to some defensible barrier and burn out. They may expand the notion of defensibility to include whole communities and landscapes when conditions are extreme—exactly the time the bad fires are likely to rage. At such moments communities would have to rely on their own preparations.

We would move toward a hurricane model of protection. You’re warned. You board up the windows and either leave or stay. The fire blows through. The crews move back and hit hot spots. The community returns.  In the case of natural landscapes, the mountain burns over.  We try to rebuild more resilient fire regimes out of the aftermath. A troubling prospect, but we’ve lost the chance to get ahead of the burn rate, and the gears of the Cohesive Strategy could easily freeze up when the time comes for real money and decisions.

Once the flame of grief passes, the shouting will begin again. But maybe this time we can make the political personal. We can fix what is within our hands. We can look inside and ask if we are ready to have others pay the price for how we live on the land. We can at least pause and in a moment of silence listen to the still small voice that comes after the fire.

Steve Pyne

School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

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A parade, a pageant, and Paul Bunyan. These may not be the first three things that come to mind when you think about fire prevention, but residents of Mason County, Washington, back in 1945 had their own unique ideas. To help combat the destructive wildfires in the region — while also promoting the importance of forests to the local economy — Mason County hosted a forest festival in the spring of 1945. The festival featured a parade through downtown Shelton, a beauty pageant, a Paul Bunyan impersonator, and various other events and activities. The idea proved even more successful than imagined. This weekend Shelton hosts the 69th annual Mason County Forest Festival, which still prominently features a parade, pageant, and Paul Bunyan, just like back in 1945.

Paul Bunyan leads parade (FHS773)

Wayne Allen as Paul Bunyan leads the parade through Shelton, 1954.

The history of Shelton is closely tied with the history of logging operations in the area. In 1853, Michael T. Simmons built the first sawmill in Mason County on Mill Creek just south of present-day Shelton. Around this same time, David Shelton (the town’s namesake) staked a settlement claim on a nearby inlet off Puget Sound. As the town grew, its connections to the forest industry only strengthened. Sol G. Simpson came to the area and founded the Simpson Logging Company in the 1890s. The Simpson Company would eventually grow and expand throughout the country, but Shelton served as an important center of operations for much of the following century. The area was also notable for being the home of the Shelton Cooperative Sustained-Yield Unit, which became active in 1946 and ended in 2002.

The first Mason County Forest Festival in 1945 honored the area’s logging history by showcasing the value of timber to the community, while demonstrating the importance of safeguarding the forests against destructive fires. Fire prevention was a prominent theme, as the Mason County Forest Festival Association was at this time operated as an auxiliary of the local chapter of the Keep Washington Green Committee.

Following that first festival – in which Lois Gibler was crowned Festival Queen and Gus Anderson played the part of Paul Bunyan – the event only grew. People from the northwestern Washington region flocked to Shelton to see, in the words of an ad for the 12th annual Forest Festival, “the dramatic Forest Pageant, the thrilling parade and the exciting contests in which loggers demonstrate their skills at falling, bucking, tree topping and truck driving. For three memorable days, the communities participate in a program which you can’t afford to miss.” The idea of a forest festival quickly spread across the country along with the Keep Green program. “You have in Shelton, in my opinion, the best all-around forest festival in the United States,” read a quote from a mid-1950s article on the event. “It has been the inspiration of many forest communities throughout the U.S.”

Carving Shelton Log Sign 1953

Artist Clarence Beauchamp (right) carving Douglas fir log sign, 1953.

The ninth annual Forest Festival in 1953 was one for the ages. The monumental event celebrated the 100th anniversary of logging operations in Mason County, and a large sign carved into a piece of Douglas fir was permanently dedicated (the log sign still welcomes visitors to Shelton today). On the festival’s final day 30,000 people — about six times the regular population of the town — crowded into Shelton to watch the Paul Bunyan Parade through downtown.

The 1953 event was an early high point for the festival, but there have been many other great moments throughout the years. Continue below to see featured images from the FHS Archives documenting the long history of the Mason County Forest Festival. (more…)

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We’ve asked Leila Pinchot, a Research Fellow at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation (PIC) and a descendant of Gifford Pinchot, to share her thoughts as the premiere date of a new film about Gifford Pinchot approaches. 

Starting in March, keep your eyes peeled for Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot on your local PBS affiliate (check your local listings here). Seeking the Greatest Good is a documentary produced by the public television station WVIA that links Gifford Pinchot’s conservation philosophy with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation’s (PIC) efforts to address contemporary environmental issues.

PIC-SGG-DVD-Film-COV

I was involved with the film early in its development, as a Pinchot family member, and later became involved with the project as a PIC staff member. As a new member of the PIC staff, the film introduced me to my colleagues’ efforts to preserve water quality in the Delaware River by investing in forest management in the river’s headwaters; their innovative project to link sustainable family forests and affordable healthcare; and community-building through sustainable forestry in Ecuador. In the hour it took me to watch the film, I was able to really grasp how PIC is building on Gifford Pinchot’s conservation philosophy of “the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run” to develop innovative on-the-ground conservation programs. And I learned a thing or two about my great–grandfather during the biography portion that opens the film.

I’m very happy to be able to share that experience with middle school and high school students by developing a Seeking the Greatest Good curriculum guide with WVIA. The guide shows teachers how to use the documentary as part of interactive lesson plans to teach their students about conservation, its history, and current applications. To purchase the DVD or to learn more about the curriculum guide visit: http://www.seekinggreatestgood.org/. To read more about Grey Towersits residents, and the Pinchot Institute, please visit the FHS website. You can view the film trailer below.

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The following is an op-ed piece written by FHS staff historian James G. Lewis that appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on February 19, 2012.

In his State of the Union address last month and again at a recent press event, President Obama touted the idea of “a new conservation program that would help put veterans to work rebuilding trails, roads and levees on public lands,” according to the Associated Press. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the 1930s could be viewed as a model for what the administration will try to accomplish through its “Veterans Jobs Corps.” The administration will propose spending $1 billion that could put an estimated 20,000 veterans to work restoring habitat and eradicating invasive species, among other activities, the AP report stated.

Why would the Obama administration want a new conservation corps? Perhaps because nearly 80 years after the first one was established, we are still reaping its benefits. The CCC was established in 1933 primarily to do two things: put unemployed men to work and to help restore the land. In 1933, the unemployment rate was 25 percent; national forests and national parks had a backlog of projects and restoration needs but lacked the manpower and money to do the work. States like South Carolina had no state park system for similar reasons.

Civilian Conservation Corps trail maintenance crew in the Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina, in 1937. (FHS Photo Collection, MAC119)

The combination of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the devastated agricultural sector forced thousands to abandon their farms and leave behind depleted lands. President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration bought up millions of acres of this land and put the CCC to work restoring it. The result was an expansion of the Eastern national forests from around 5 million acres in 1932 to 19 million acres by 1942 and their restoration. No one is suggesting that the federal government buy land, but the idea of restoring the land as FDR did is one worth serious discussion and consideration.

The CCC operated from 1933 until 1942 and employed 3 million men between the ages of 18 and 25 (even though first lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported its establishment, a female-only version of the CCC didn’t last long because of cultural and gender mores at the time).

The workers lived in camps and were given “three hots and a cot” along with job training and the opportunity to fill gaps in their education as well as their growling stomachs. The men of the CCC constructed trails, buildings, dams and roads, and planted millions of trees that helped restore exhausted land. South Carolina used CCC muscle and money to build its state park system from scratch. In North Carolina, the CCC built the Blue Ridge Parkway and roads and trails in the national forests. The CCC has often been called one of the greatest New Deal programs, and with good reason. While healing abused forests and fields, the men gained their health and self-esteem; they restored the land, and the land restored them.

Today, the unemployment rate may be slowly coming down, but the so-called “underemployment rate” — those who are unemployed plus those either working part time but would prefer full-time work, or have stopped searching for jobs — stubbornly remains above 15 percent.

Infrastructure around the country is dire need of repair — bridges need replacing, and overgrown forests need thinning. Ironically, a present-day Veterans Conservation Corps would be undoing some of the damage of the original CCC by thinning forests and removing invasive species planted to stop soil erosion. It might even be replacing bridges and buildings built in the 1930s.

The thousands of troops returning home face a difficult job market but possess practical experience in building and repairing infrastructure. Many soldiers have spent years “nation-building” in Iraq and Afghanistan; the United States has spent billions of dollars on those endeavors while our own infrastructure has gone neglected, with catastrophic results, like the Minnesota bridge collapse in 2007, for example.

The Obama administration recognizes that a strong America in the future requires hard work now. A Veterans Jobs Corps program would be an investment in the future of America’s youth and environment. Let them restore the land, and the land will restore them.

James G. Lewis is the staff historian at the Forest History Society and the author of “The Forest Service and the Greatest Good: A Centennial History.” To view the newsprint version of this, click here: CCC op-ed.

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The new issue of Forest History Today is now available. It’s all about the Weeks Act, which turns 101 years old today. Forest History Society members have received a copy as a benefit of their membership. If you’re not a member but would like to purchase a copy, contact Andrea by email or by calling 919-682-9319. At $4 plus shipping, it’s quite the bargain, like the Weeks Act itself. You can read a few articles from the issue by visiting the FHT webpage. Below is the editor’s note.

Recently I was rereading a special issue of Runner’s World magazine on trail running. It came out around the same time as the centennial of the Weeks Act, March 1, 2011. I find that when I reread something months later, I look at it with fresh eyes and often pick up on ideas that I may have missed the first time. Plus I love the feeling that comes from reading something again, of letting the information really seep into my marrow, so that it becomes a part of me.

One article was about what the author called the “crown jewels” of running trails around the United States. What struck me this time—now reading it after I had absorbed information about the consequence and legacy of the Weeks Act into my bones—is how many of the trails are on eastern national forests, trails like the Shut-in Trail in the Pisgah National Forest, on land once owned by George Vanderbilt. And I thought: These forests are in America’s marrow, in many ways. The first national forests created under the Weeks Act run along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, but the need for and desire to protect those lands must have been in the marrow of conservationists a hundred years ago. And it is still today.

I think that desire to preserve forests is part of the American character. The United States was the first country to create a national park, an action taken to protect the unique landscape of the Yellowstone area. The landscapes protected by the Weeks Act should also be celebrated. They may lack the wonder and spectacle of Yellowstone, but they have a beauty that draws millions of visitors every year. Most people may never walk through those landscapes, those Weeks Act forests; they may even drive through them oblivious to the fact that they are in a national forest, save the green and white sign that says “entering” and “leaving” with little fanfare, if they notice them at all. But when they turn on their faucets and there is clean water, or they step outside and cannot see the air they breathe, they are enjoying the benefits of those forests. And it’s because of the courage and vision of the men and women who have come before us, who recognized or simply acted upon an urge to protect those lands, that we have those forests today. It’s because of the courage of today’s conservationists that we continue to have those lands—their vision for how to expand those areas will be recognized and celebrated by future generations, too. Several of them are sharing their ideas on the pages of this magazine.

If you can, visit those forests. Walk, hike, bike, or run a trail; fish or hunt or camp on those lands; paddle down a river or on a lake that exists because the forests still exist. If you can’t get to those forests, bring them into your home—buy products derived from those forests and made by those who make their living from it, support an organization that fights to preserve them, read about the land and its amazing flora and fauna, or watch a film about them and revel in their grandeur. As for me, I’ll keep reading about the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the cause of conservation, who helped preserve the land that holds the trails on which I want to run, and absorbing that information into my marrow….

This special issue is the largest we’ve ever done, with three times the number of articles as a normal issue. Because of that, I could write two more pages describing the individual contributors and their articles. Instead, I’ll close with this: at the beginning of 2011, I thought I knew a great deal about the Weeks Act. After reading these articles, I now know more about its history and its future. Not only that, but reading them has reinvigorated my love of the national forests. I hope you’ll feel the same way, too.

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