- Forests for the People: The Story of America’s Eastern National Forests by Christopher Johnson and David Govatski
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Forests for the People tells the story of the acquisition and restoration of much of America’s eastern forest land. The book is well organized and well written in a clear, jargon-free style. The authors have incorporated a productive blend of both historical and on-site research to develop the story of the creation and survival of the nation’s eastern national forests, using the case study method to illuminate current issues and challenges in a sampling of eastern forests. With its clear, straightforward style, Forests for the People is a valuable information source for researchers, students, and concerned members of the public. One of my few criticisms of the work is the paucity of maps to identify and locate the areas being explored in the text. Additional maps would help clarify the discussions and make them more meaningful. The work stresses the importance of the involvement of both foresters and concerned locals in shaping forest management policy. The authors demonstrate how forest lovers with some political experience and knowledge can positively impact the care and protection of their special places.
Part I presents historical research discussing the environmental and human conditions leading up to the passage of the Weeks Act in 1911, which provided the federal government with the power and resources to purchase privately owned forest lands for the purpose of protecting them. The law made possible the creation of many of the eastern national forests, which are currently administered by Regions 8 and 9 of the USDA Forest Service. In the late 19th century, growing industrialization was fueling the practice of clearcutting on forested lands, most of which were private in the eastern portion of the country. In the first part of the 20th century, fearing destruction of the nation’s forest resources, outdoor activists, businessmen with concerns for forest sustainability, and progressive legislators pressed for national legislation for forest protection. This effort culminated in the Weeks Act signed into law by President William Howard Taft.
Part II of the book continues with case studies examining the wide range of challenges currently facing the forests of the region. In this section the authors discuss trends resulting from societal changes stemming from the growing regional economy, development of the environmental movement, expanding scientific knowledge concerning forest ecology, and changing attitudes of the American public toward forests and other natural systems. Increased citizen involvement also factors into the equation, with public opinions on forest management ranging from continuing traditional multiple use policies to excluding all resource extraction from public lands. These trends have led to changes in forest management that will continue in the coming years.
The informative forest-specific case studies begin with an examination of forest management reform on the Holly Springs National Forest in Mississippi concerning debates surrounding timber harvesting—a long-standing and long-continuing topic of discussion in the Forest Service. The [End Page 263] following chapter explores the development and use of prescribed burning on Florida’s 3 national forests with a background discussion of Forest Service policies on fire suppression in the earlier part of the century. A chapter on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia describes how the Wilderness Act of 1964 and other wilderness legislation have affected the forest. A discussion of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness continues the discussion of wilderness areas on national forests by looking at the debate surrounding creation of the area in the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. Other case studies provide information on the recovery of the wolf population on 2 national forests in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The chapter also discusses changing attitudes concerning wildlife with habitat protection for endangered, threatened, and sensitive species a major concern on...