Archive for the ‘FHS News’ Category

Three cheers for the diligence and hard work of archivists! Without their labor it would be next to impossible to write informed historical narrative. In this blog entry, David Brownstein conducts a conversation with Tom Anderson, Provincial Archives of Alberta, and with Peter Murphy, Forest History Association of Alberta, regarding the Canadian Forest History Preservation Project. The project is a collaboration between the Canadian Forest Service, the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE), and the Forest History Society. The goal is to locate valuable forest history material in danger of loss or destruction, and aid in its transfer to an appropriate archive. The Canadian Forest History Preservation Project wants to hear from you if you know of any prospects.

David Brownstein: Tom, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tom Anderson: In 2003 I graduated from the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, at the University of British Columbia. I began work at the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA) in Edmonton, in 2004. I was a government records archivist for 5 years before moving to my current position as Team Lead, Private Records, where I am part of the group responsible for acquiring, preserving, and making available non-governmental records.

DB: Describe the PAA forest history holdings for us.

TA: The Provincial Archives is the repository for government records of enduring value, as well as private records of individuals, businesses, schools, associations, and societies in Alberta. Our holdings cover the whole of the province, and we are lucky to have extensive forest, environment, and resource-related records, tracing the development and history of forests and forest professionals. We hold records of those in government responsible for forests from the federal field notes of timber and land surveys and management of timber berths, up to present-day provincial ministries, ranging from the departments of Mines and Minerals, Lands and Forests, and the Department of Sustainable Resource Development. The records, be they cabinet papers, memoranda, policy records, work diaries of rangers, films, photographs, forest cover maps, or even blueprints of ranger stations, cover all aspects of forest management.

We hold records related to forest officers and their training, forest protection, timber management, reforestation, land use and climate change, equipment, legislation and regulation, and research and recreation.

As our mandate to acquire records covers the whole of the province of Alberta and is not limited to government created materials, the PAA also has textual records, photographs and films of logging, mill owners, municipalities and their efforts to fight fires, environmental groups, aerial photographs created by Weldwood of Canada, records of various flyers and their companies, and even records of bush pilots in the province. The records either directly or indirectly document the change in forests and environment over time.

DB: How can people decide if they have anything of value that deserves archival protection?

TA: Any person, family, business, or group with forest history records can either contact you for assistance, David, or they can contact an archives to discuss the records in their possession. We look to acquire records that document the lives, work, history, and culture of the province, and donors that have some connection to forestry in any capacity should hold on to their materials and make sure to speak with us before throwing anything away! We get this question a lot, and so we recently published Family Histories: Preserving Your Personal and Family Documents, available in English and French, free to anyone who comes to the Provincial Archives.

In this case, we look for records that provide evidence of a life related to forests or forestry. We are interested in material created by industry workers, active or retired professionals in the area, students, families of workers, and those dedicated to forest preservation and utilization. We look for correspondence, diaries, photographs, albums, home movies, minutes and agendas of professional or business meetings, maps, plans, and of course writings on how the forests and environment have affected the lives of Albertans, and how we have influenced our environment.

Not Tom Anderson. Rather, it's a woodcutter at Bowden, Alberta, early 1900s (PAA Photo H592).

DB: From the point of view of a box of photos or letters, what is the difference between being kept at a private home in a basement or an attic, and being housed in the archives?

TA: I would say the difference is the length of time that the different places can preserve the records. Boxed in a cool, dark closet, protected from vast changes in temperature or humidity, paper and photos can last a long time at home. We have conservators on staff if people have questions about how to preserve materials at home. Many of us do not preserve our special records in optimal conditions, though, and there is always the possibility of a fire or flood in the home. There is no guarantee that a disaster will not happen at an archives; but depending on the repository, there are safeguards in place to ensure the safest possible environment for the records, and for the longest possible time. The Provincial Archives of Alberta for example stores all its records on site in special archival enclosures, in secured climate-controlled vaults, free of temperature or humidity changes.

DB: What should people keep in mind, when considering donating their material to the archives?

TA: Potential donors should consider that the records that become part of an archives is the legacy that we leave for future generations.

Archives strive to ensure accountability, protect the rights of the people, and document all aspects of the lives of citizens. We want the holdings to be used and accessed; records at the PAA are, for the most part, open and available and free for use by anyone. The Provincial Archives is very lucky to have a number of exciting forestry-related collections of records. People must always keep in mind that we are dependant on donors. If societies, associations, businesses, or individuals do not donate their records, we cannot build on the good work of those who have donated and preserved the records of the past.

DB: How have PAA holdings been used by various researchers?

TA: Students, academics, amateur historians, genealogists, artists and writers utilize our holdings. I know that environment and forest records were used in the creation of recent exhibits, and in research for park-related studies, books and presentations, including The Alberta Forest Service 1930-2005 and Laying Down the Lines: A History of Land Surveying in Alberta.


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Recently processed with the help of graduate student intern Shaun Trujillo, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) Collection is now open to researchers. The tree farm movement began in June of 1941 with the dedication of the Clemons Tree Farm in Washington. Since then, the American Tree Farm System’s membership and focus have moved from one dominated by industrial forests to that of family-owned forests. Its history reflects the broader history of private forest ownership as well as the history of public-private cooperative forestry.

The records of the American Tree Farm System document the important history of tree farming in the U.S. The collection includes organizational records, press clippings, correspondence, inspection and certification records, publications, records of awards and conventions, and numerous photographs and slides of ATFS events and activities, as well as films of educational programming and public service announcements by famous tree farmers such as Andy Griffith. A complete inventory of the ATFS Collection is now available online.

Researchers interested in the ATFS will also want to explore related collections at FHS such as the records of the American Forest Institute and the National Forest Products Association. For more background information and access to additional historic documents on tree farming in the U.S., visit our new ATFS history page: www.foresthistory.org/ATFS.

Below you will find a few highlights from the American Tree Farm System Collection.

Smokey Bear and tree farmers

Smokey Bear making an appearance at a tree farmer certification ceremony.

1942 tree farm letter

1942 letter discussing the emerging tree farm standards.


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We are proud to announce the first annual Forest History Film Festival. With the approach of spring, the trees here at Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters are in full bloom. So we thought it a perfect time to hold a film festival so we can hide from the rising pollen counts.

Below are this year’s films in order of screening. The first film starts at 10, with each film after that starting every two hours. All films are free. All screenings are in the Gifford Pinchot Multimedia Theater. Be sure to take our poll at the bottom to predict who will win the coveted Poisson d’Avril Award given to the most outstanding film of the festival!

There Will Be Wood

John Weeks Story poster


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If you’re a member of the Forest History Society, the latest issue of Forest History Today will be hitting your mailbox this week. If you join now, you can still get this highly sought-after, limited print edition of the magazine. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait awhile to read it online. After all, membership has its privileges.

As always, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. We have some biography: our first article is on forest researcher and lovable crank and socialist, Raphael Zon; the “Biographical Portrait” is of Estella Leopold, a research scientist whose work has helped preserve many different landscapes and regions around the world. We have some history of plants in isolated landscapes: there’s a look at the endangered conifer species Fitzroya cupressoides, found in Chile and Argentina; another article looks at a thriving species, the rough-stemmed goldenrod, and why it’s found in higher elevations of the Catskills; and a third looks at efforts to restore the Seeley Lake larch, which is found around Seeley Lake, Montana.

Are you a fan of industrial art? In this issue, we define it two different ways: there’s the art of making wood charcoal at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (documented in “History on the Road”), and there’s the art of photographing industrial tools that we’re exhibiting here in what I’m calling a “handheld-photography exhibit.” The photos are by Kenneth S. Brown and can be found in our online photo collection.

For those interested in U.S. Forest Service history, we’ve got you covered: there’s a history of Company 3670, an African-American company in the Civilian Conservation Corps in Missouri; and we’ve published “CSI: Madison”—to date our most popular blog post—to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the agency’s Forest Products Lab. It includes photos not included in the original blog post.

Finally, I’ve also penned an appreciation of William “Bud” Moore, an outstanding conservationist in the vein of Aldo Leopold and a highly entertaining teacher and storyteller. I had the privilege of spending several days with him in 2010, so I wanted to offer some thoughts on Bud and his legacy. Bud devoted the first half of his life to working in fire management for the Forest Service and dedicated the second half to working out and sharing with visitors and readers his own land ethic on his private forest in Montana. Like Aldo Leopold, he leaves behind land he lovingly restored that we can visit as well as a moving and personal meditation about that land that can guide and inspire us. His inscription in my copy of The Lochsa Story says, “Stay close to nature.” Wise words from a sage man.

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Weeks Act 1911March 1, 2011, marks the centennial of the Weeks Act—the “organic act” of the eastern national forests. The law has been one of the most successful pieces of conservation legislation in U.S. history. The Weeks Act permitted the federal government to purchase private land in order to protect the headwaters of rivers and watersheds in the eastern United States and funded fire protection efforts through federal, state, and private cooperation. Its passage made possible the creation of the eastern national forests, with nearly 20 million acres of forestland having been protected under the Act to date. As one historian has noted, “No single law has been more important in the return of the forests to the eastern United States” than the Weeks Act.

The Forest History Society staff has revised and expanded the Weeks Act pages within the U.S. Forest Service History section of our website. This new and improved section may be found at www.WeeksAct.org. Our Weeks Act history pages feature four separate sections and a huge collection of primary documents. You’ll also find a Weeks Act history video, taken from the DVD extras of the film The Greatest Good, that explains how the law came about.

Staff historian Jamie Lewis has been very busy this week promoting the centennial. He appeared on NPR stations in both North Carolina and New Hampshire. In North Carolina, WUNC interviewed him for the report “Forestry Law Created in NC Turns 100,” and today he appeared on New Hampshire Public Radio’s program “The Exchange” as a call-in guest. Guest Dave Govatski, secretary of the Weeks Act Centennial Coordinating Committee and coauthor of a book on the Eastern National Forests which the Weeks Act helped to create, gave a nice plug for the Forest History Society and its online resources as well. Jamie was also one of several historians interviewed by NHPR for a series of short reports on the national impact of the Weeks Act. You can find all that New Hampshire Public Radio is doing on the Weeks Act at: http://www.nhpr.org/special/weeksact.

This weekend Jamie will have an opinion piece published in the Raleigh News and Observer and one on March 27 in the Asheville Citizen-Times focusing on North Carolina’s role in the passage of the Weeks Act. Along with Steve Anderson, Jamie was also interviewed for a 3-part series in the Asheville Citizen-Times on the law and its impact on western North Carolina, slated to appear beginning March 6.

We encourage you to share the news with others to help remind them of the importance of the Weeks Act and to celebrate the centennial of the eastern national forests. Feel free to share with us how you plan on celebrating the Weeks Act in 2011: Are you throwing a party, spending time in a forest, or reading Bob Healy’s ongoing blog series reflecting on the act? Or all three, maybe even at the same time?

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Last week I traveled to Alliston, Ontario, to meet with the Forest History Society of Ontario and to address the Ontario Forestry Association at their 62nd annual meeting. I went in part to present the FHS Fellow Award to both Dr. Ken Armson and Dr. Yvan Hardy. The Fellow Award is the Society’s highest honor, reserved for those who have made outstanding and persistent contributions to forest history or to Forest History Society programs.

Steve Anderson with Yvan Hardy (l) and Ken Armson (r) with their Fellow Award plaques.

Dr. Armson was recognized for his 50 years in teaching, research, policy and administration in forestry. As a professor of forestry at the University of Toronto for 26 years, he taught and conducted research in forest soils and silviculture. Last year it was his energy that helped establish the Forest History Society of Ontario. Dr. Hardy was recognized for his historic research to combat the spruce budworm, his work as Dean of the Faculty of Forestry and Geodesy at Laval University, and his administrative roles in the federal government including service as Assistant Deputy Minister of the Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada. As well, he served 15 years on the Forest History Society Board of Directors, including 8 years as co-Vice-Chairman. During the meeting, FHS Board member James Farrell received the Ontario Forestry Association Award for his outstanding contributions to the field of forestry education in Canada and the world, and FHS Board member Mark Kuhlberg spoke about the forest history of Ontario and its impact on communities.

My banquet talk was about “Forest Culture and Storytelling: Inspired by the Forest.” It highlighted the uncertainty in the term “forest culture,” indicating that it has only been during the last 20 years that the term has shown up in the literature in the broad way it is being used today. I also touched on art and literature inspired by the forest and reviewed how a collection of 400 novels in the FHS’ Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Library traces public opinion about forests and forestry during the last century, and how art and literature played a particularly poignant role in the establishment of forestry in America. I ended with a reading of the poem Chaudiere by Douglas Malloch, the “Poet of the Woods.”

Chaudiere Falls, around 1900. Courtesy of Ottawa Riverrunners website.

The newly formed Forest History Society of Ontario also had their first annual meeting in conjunction with the OFA meeting. The FHSO is the fourth provincial forestry organization to be established. I shared the news about FHS’s new two-year effort in collaboration with the Network in Canadian History & Environment (NiCHE) and the Canadian Forest Service to spearhead the preservation of Canada’s forest history. Efforts include surveying repositories in Canada to determine their willingness and readiness to accept new collections in forest history; seeking out valuable records and collections that need to be preserved; and then trying to facilitate those records to reach an official repository. David Brownstein, sessional faculty at the University of British Columbia, has been contracted in a part-time position to help with the effort. If you know of documents or collections in need of preservation, please contact David or FHS Archivist Eben Lehman. The project will be conducted in cooperation with the provincial forest history associations as well as forestry associations and others who share that goal.

If you want to learn more or support the provincial forest history organizations in Canada, they can be found at:

In addition to our Issue Series book, Canada’s Forests, we have several articles about Canadian forest history available from Forest History Today in PDF format:

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My Google news home page has a “Forest Service” section, which captures any article that has that phrase in it. Usually the article is about the U.S. Forest Service but it will also grab items about state or other national forest services too. Consequently, nearly every day there is a news item about fire somewhere in the world. Sometimes it’s about a wildfire currently burning or the aftermath of one; other times it’s about the progress of a prescribed burn or a notification that one is about to be getting underway. It makes fire seem ever-present.

With all that news about fire, one might ask if America has a fire problem. In his new book, America’s Fires: A Historical Context for Policy and Practice, Stephen Pyne says that America doesn’t have a fire problem — it has many fire problems. How this came to pass is examined in this newly revised and updated version of his classic work on the subject.

The policy of fire exclusion through most of the 20th century seemed successful at first but eventually led to larger, more intense, and damaging fires. By the mid-1970s, federal agencies had pulled back from the fire suppression model and embraced a mix of fire practices, including forms of prescribed burning and let-burn policies. The 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park placed fire issues (also discussed in a recent issue of Forest History Today) before the public in unprecedented ways, advertising the ecological significance of free-burning fire and the dilemmas of trying to manage it. Further complicating the fire scene is an increasing population, a growing wildland-urban interface, drought, invasive species, global climate change, and an incomplete institutional arrangement for managing the variety of fires that exist.

In this latest Issues Series book, Steve Pyne — the world’s foremost fire historian — reviews the historical context of American fire issues and policies that can inform the current and future debate. The resulting analysis shows why it is imperative that the nation review its policies toward wildland fires and finds ways to live with them more intelligently. Want to know more? Buy the book — don’t wait for the movie!

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