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Posts Tagged ‘Green Fire’

I’ve just returned from Connecticut, where I spent time at Yale University conducting research in the Yale Forest School papers and also visited Simsbury, birthplace of Gifford Pinchot, to see the world premiere of the new film, Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot. Produced for PBS, Seeking the Greatest Good effectively weds together two different films—a biography of conservationist Gifford Pinchot with an overview of the Pinchot Institute, the organization created to not only preserve but expand upon his legacy, and its outstanding conservation projects. It’s expected to air next year on PBS stations around the country in part to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Institute. Like the film Green Fire, which is about Aldo Leopold and his conservation legacy, Seeking the Greatest Good speaks to a national audience by looking at local environmental projects; these projects serve as reminders that the conservation work begun by Pinchot, Leopold, and others remains vital and help protect what’s at stake for all of us, regardless of where we live. Be sure to look for Seeking the Greatest Good, and if you don’t see it listed, call your local PBS station and demand they air it. Also keep an eye out for local screenings or try to organize one once the film is available.

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With the trip coming just after Labor Day and the traditional end of summer, discussion turned to a forest history vacation bucket list—places to visit and things to do relating to forest history before going to that great forest in the sky. With this trip I was visiting two places I’d already checked off. The Eno home in Simsbury where Pinchot was born is now a B&B, so you can go inside, though when I did a few years ago the clerk was unaware of its connection to greatness. No matter. It’s quite lovely, as you can see.

The Eno house, birthplace of Gifford Pinchot, belonged to his mother’s family. It’s now the Simsbury 1820 House, and you can stay there. (Courtesy of the author)

The Eno house, now known as the Simsbury 1820 House. (Courtesy of the author)

The other box already checked was Yale, home to the oldest continuously operating forestry school in North America. The school was founded by the Pinchot family, and the original school building (Marsh Hall) still stands, as do the other subsequent homes to the school, including Sage Hall. Other Pinchot-related places on the list include Grey Towers NHS in Milford, PA, Pinchot’s estate and home to the Yale Forest School’s first summer camp site, now operated by the U.S. Forest Service, and of course the Cradle of Forestry in America historical site and Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, where Pinchot started his forestry career. (Be sure to read the book by the same name before going!)

But the bucket list is about more than GP or the Forest Service, though many places on that list are certainly tied to Forest Service history. As we tossed around places to visit, the homes of other great conservationists and related sites quickly came up: Aldo Leopold’s Shack in Baraboo, WI, and his boyhood home in Burlington, Iowa; John Muir’s home in Martinez, California, and his boyhood home in Wisconsin (as well as Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods); and Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island (along with his North Dakota ranch and his Manhattan birthplace.) Some bucket list sites we’ve already blogged about—like the Pulaski Tunnel and Mann Gulch—others, like the site of the New York State College of Forestry’s experimental forest near Tupper Lake, NY, we haven’t yet. And of course I work at one of these—Peeling Back the Bark Worldwide Headquarters in Durham, NC. These are all places I’ve been. But I’ve not yet been to the World Forestry Center in Portland, OR, and its outstanding Discovery Museum; or Smokey Bear Historical Park in New Mexico, where they found the bear cub that became the living embodiment of Smokey Bear in the 1950s; or the Sawmill Museum in Clinton, Iowa, for the museum and Lumberjack Festival. I think them worthy of a place on the list. I’ve been to a TimberSports competition, which is also on the list for things to do, but haven’t been to a forest festival or visited any of these Paul Bunyan statues to celebrate the contributions of the forest and wood products industries to forest history.

Paul Bunyan statue

Paul Bunyan statue, Bemidji, Minnesota. Fear the ‘stache.

We have lots of other places and events on the list. But I want to hear from you. What sites might be found on your forest history vacation bucket list? Please share them in the Reply section and tell us why we should go there—why is it so significant that those interested in forest history would want to see it before taking that great spiritual log drive to the great beyond? Perhaps if it’s intriguing enough, like driving on Cleveland’s woodblock-paved road, your idea may become a “History on the Road” column!

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On this date in 1887, author, forester, ecologist, and conservationist Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa. The founder of the science of wildlife management and a major influence on the wilderness movement, wildlife preservation, and environmental ethics, he is perhaps best known for his book, A Sand County Almanac (1949). In honor of his birthday, we’ve asked filmmaker Steve Dunsky to share his thoughts about the subject of his latest documentary film.

As one of the filmmakers of Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and A Land Ethic for Our Time, I was asked for my reflections on the occasion of Aldo Leopold’s birthday. January 11, 2012, marks the 125th anniversary of his birth. When he died suddenly in 1948, he was only 61 years old. He has been dead now for more years than he was alive.

A film about a person who died more than six decades ago runs the risk of being irrelevant. Particularly if that person is a conservationist and scientist; our planet, and our understanding of it, have changed so dramatically in the past half century. But Leopold’s ideas are so enduring, so far ahead of his time, that we find his story resonates with audiences across the United States, and in the seventeen other countries where the film has screened to date.

Green Fire posterGreen Fire has clearly struck a chord. More than 1,000 people turned up to the world premiere last February. Since then, screenings, both large and small, have been held in libraries, schools, nature centers, and independent theaters. We have seen audiences of 600 on college campuses, despite a distribution and marketing effort that is purely a grass roots effort and by word-of-mouth.

Making Leopold’s story relevant today was a major focus of our film team. My wife Ann and I, along with our Forest Service colleague Dave Steinke, directed and produced the film. With our partners the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the Center for Humans and Nature, we set out to tell both the story of Leopold’s life and his contemporary legacy.

Leopold biographer Curt Meine, the film’s narrator/guide, weaves together Leopold’s biography with the stories of people who are living Leopold’s land ethic today—from ranchers in New Mexico to environmental educators in Chicago. As the voice of Leopold, narrator Peter Coyote brings Leopold’s wonderful language to life.

In the film, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco says that Leopold’s land ethic (she calls it an “Earth ethic”) is more relevant today than it has ever been. As I write this, I am attending the Waimea Ocean Film Festival in Hawaii, where Green Fire has screened four times. It is so easy to make the connection to oceans because the land ethic is a universal concept.

Leopold’s legacy also includes the cutting-edge conservation disciplines of today: protecting biodiversity, restoring damaged ecosystems, growing healthy local food. Leopold’s concept of land health speaks directly to current notions of healthy ecosystems and their connection to healthy communities. Everyone gets it.

Aldo Leopold and "Flip" on the Apache National Forest in Arizona, 1911. (FHS4408)

One of the questions we often hear following our screenings is: What did you learn about Leopold during the making of this film?
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