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The American People and the National Forests

The American People and the National Forests: The First Century of the U.S. Forest Service

Samuel P. Hays
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The American People and the National Forests
    Book Description:

    The year 2005 marked the centennial of the founding of the United States Forest Service (USFS). Samuel P. Hays uses this occasion to present a cogent history of the role of American society in shaping the policies and actions of this agency.

    From its establishment in 1905 under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, timber and grazing management dominated the agency's agenda. Due to high consumer demand for wood products and meat from livestock, the USFS built a formidable system of forest managers, training procedures, and tree science programs to specifically address these needs. This strong internal organization bolstered the agency during the tumultuous years in the final one-third of the century-when citizens and scientists were openly critical of USFS policies-yet it restricted the agency's vision and adaptability on environmental issues. A dearth of ecological capabilities tormented the USFS in 1960 when the Multiple-Use and Sustained-Yield Act set new statutes for the preservation of wildlife, recreation, watershed, and aesthetic resources. This was followed by the National Forest Management Act of 1976, which established standards for the oversight of forest ecosystems. The USFS was ill equipped to handle the myriad administrative and technological complexities that these mandates required.

    InThe American People and the National Forests,Hays chronicles three distinct periods in USFS history, provides a summarizing "legacy" for each, and outlines the public and private interests, administrators, and laws that guided the agency's course and set its priorities. He demonstrates how these legacies affected successive eras, how they continue to influence USFS policy in the twenty-first century, and why USFS policies should matter to all of us.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7354-6
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

    (pp. 1-24)

    I EMPHASIZE five major developments that occurred in the history of the Forest Service over its first century, from 1905 to 2005, each of which took place against the backdrop of the prior history of the forest reserves that began in 1891, when the first legislation leading to the Forest Service’s establishment was passed. These developments were the initial commitment to the forest reserves as publicly owned resources. That effort was soon followed by battles to ward off their privatization. From its earliest years, agency commenced a long-term campaign to shape private forest management, a task that the federal agency...

    (pp. 25-54)

    TRADITIONAL accounts of the early history of the U.S. Forest Service have emphasized its legislative and administrative development in a legal context.¹ The customary historical benchmarks have long been the reserve authorization of 1891, the Forest Management Act of 1897, and the Transfer Act of 1905, which lodged the management agency permanently in the Department of Agriculture. Other critical events in Forest Service history are court decisions such asLight v. United StatesandUnited States v. Grimaud, both decided in 1911 by the Supreme Court, which upheld not only the agency’s grazing permit decision-making authority but also its rule-making...

    (pp. 55-105)

    DURING the years between 1920 and 1975, the public circumstances surrounding the Forest Service evolved markedly. These new circumstances did not arise from legislative innovations or innovations from within the agency or the profession but from the broader changes in society. The increased use of automobiles made the forests more accessible to hunters, campers, and hikers, whose activities impinged on forest management. The wilderness movement, reflecting, in part, the increase in outdoor recreation but especially the steadily increasing numbers of people who expressed interest in the aesthetics of the nation’s wild areas, grew steadily. At the same time, the timber...

    (pp. 106-136)

    DURING the last third of the twentieth century, a combination of initiatives from citizens and scientists brought a new perspective to bear on forest management. From one vantage point it brought together components of wildlife, watershed, recreation, and aesthetic objectives, most of which had been subordinated to extractive agency commitments in grazing and wood production over the years but now were brought to bear more forcefully on forest management. From another vantage point it reflected the broader public pressures associated with the evolving ecological perspective and represented by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and...

  5. EPILOGUE: Facing the Future
    (pp. 137-144)

    AS THE U.S. Forest Service stood at the threshold of its second century in 2005, it faced the future with a compelling inheritance. From the vantage point of those charged with shaping agency affairs in the past, this inheritance took the form of a legacy, a responsibility carried over from earlier years to its future programs. From the vantage point of future administrators, it constituted an institutionalized influence, often unwelcomed, inherited from the past.

    In the previous chapters, I have traced the history of the Forest Service as an accumulated sequence of legacies: the silvicultural imperative of the early decades,...