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Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares

The Paradox of Old Growth in the Inland West

by Nancy Langston

Publication Year: 1996

“The Blue Mountains have become the Blade Runner scenario for the public lands, synechdoche for what might have, and has, gone horribly wrong. This is a book that argues powerfully for the complexity of nature, and demonstrates the need for equally complex explanations. A book of fundamental importance to both western and environmental history.”—Stephen J. Pyne, author of World Fire

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-ix

In Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares, Nancy Langston tells the story of changing human land use and forestry practice in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon and Washington. Since the Blues are not well known outside the Pacific Northwest, and since...


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 3-10

When whites first came to the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon and Washington in the early nineteenth century, they found a land of lovely open forests full of yellow-bellied ponderosa pines five feet across. These were stately giants the settlers could trot their ponies between, forests so promising that people thought...

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Place and Ecology

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pp. 11-41

In the winter of 1811, an exhausted group of thirty-two white men, three Indian men, one Indian woman, and two children, all Ied by an American named Wilson Price Hunt, crossed through a land of canyons and mountains east of the Snake River. They...

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Before the Forest Service

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pp. 42-85

Many people assume that before whites showed up in the vast open lands of the inland Northwest, the area was a pristine wilderness. Federal foresters had much the same idea: they thought they had come to save wild nature. But the forests and grasslands...

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The Feds in the Forests

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pp. 86-113

The Forest Service came to the Blues in the first decade of the twentieth century with the best of intentions: to save the forest from the scourges of industrial logging, fire, and decay. When they looked at the Blues, they saw two things: a "human" landscape in need of being saved because it had been ravaged by companies...

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Making Sense of Strangeness: Silvics in the Blues [contains image plates]

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pp. 114-156

The government had its forests, but what was it going to do with them? The foresters were faced with an extraordinary problem: how do you make sense of six million acres of land with few trails, no roads, no maps, and no history that you can understand- land that seems to you to be wilderness? Where...

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Liquidating the Pines

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pp. 157-200

While the young Forest Service was trying to introduce scientific forestry and transform riotous old growth into a regulated crop, the timber industry was going through its own turmoil. Ultimately, the dreams of the Forest Service depended on markets for timber; they could hardly liquidate old growth if nobody...

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Animals: Domestic and Wild Nature

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pp. 201-246

Trees were not the only things that grew in national forests, much as the Forest Service sometimes seemed obsessed with timber. Under the trees, and in the places where trees did not grow, were grasses and shrubs-and the herbivores, both wild and domestic, that liked to eat them. The Forest Service understood that...

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pp. 247-263

The most widely told story about what went wrong with the Blue Mountains goes something like this: a century of fire suppression led to the replacement of open, park-like ponderosa pine stands with thickets of firs that have proven susceptible to insects...

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Restoring the Inland West

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pp. 264-295

Just before World War II, the national forests had a total annual cut of about 1 billion board feet a year. During the war, harvests tripled, to 3 billion board feet a year. Like the livestock increases during World War I, these high harvest levels were intended to be a temporary adjustment to meet wartime demands, but they never declined. Instead, logging accelerated as road building and chain...

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Conclusion: Living with Complexity

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pp. 296-306

Forest management led to a dizzying series of unexpected effects and unintended consequences. Every time a manager tried to fix one problem, the solution created a worse problem elsewhere. The best of intentions often brought about the worst of outcomes. As Stephen Pyne has argued in regard to fire, attempts to manage natural systems were often self-defeating: they introduced an...


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pp. 307-338

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 339-357


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pp. 359-368

E-ISBN-13: 9780295989686
E-ISBN-10: 0295989688
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295975504
Print-ISBN-10: 0295975504

Publication Year: 1996