Weeks Act

White Mountains: To Log or Not to Log

Mar 31, 2011
(WMNF photo by Dave Neely)

NHPR is taking an in-depth look at the Weeks Act, the historic legislation that led to the creation of our eastern national forests.

The White Mountain National Forest, created in 1918, has been used for many different purposes including recreation, wildlife protection, and timber harvesting.

Managing all those different uses doesn’t come without controversy.

NHPR’s Amy Quinton looks at the role our forests play and what threats they may face in the future.

More than 26 million acres of eastern national forests owe their existence to the Weeks Act.

At the turn of the 20th century, forests in the White Mountains were being clear cut and many were worried about the damage logging had done to the White’s.  The Weeks Act of 1911, helped protect these forests by the purchasing of land by the federal government.  Over time standards were set as to the amount loggers could log in the state.  Although they adapted, there have been challenges to the industry.  There has been the debate over logging in road less areas of the White Mountain National Forest as well as the change in industry in the North Country.

Weeks Act Has Been Good for Business

Mar 30, 2011
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottfidd/with/3211176586/">scottfidd</a> vis Flickr/Creative Commons

In commemoration of the centennial of the Weeks Act, NHPR is looking at the impact the federal legislation has had on the state and its largest forest. The Weeks Act gave the federal government the authority to buy private land to turn into the National Forest system. While the law is typically appreciated by conservationists, it was business interests that drove its passage. And one hundred years later, the law has had a large and positive economic impact on the North Country, providing jobs and improving the quality of life. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.



<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/deerhake11/4569470696/in/photostream/">deerhake. 11</a> via Flickr/Creative Commons

One hundred years ago this month, the Weeks Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Taft.  It was designed so that the federal government could purchase private land, especially forests in order to protect them.  It also helped create  the Eastern National Forests which included New  Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest.  One hundred years later, and as you enter the White’s you are greeted by a sign claiming that this is a “Land of Many Uses”.

If we could travel back in time 100 years, the landscape we’d see in Northern New Hampshire would be quite different from what it is today.

Many of the mountains that we know as covered with forests, would be stripped bare.

Some would be scarred from recent fires.

What changed much of that landscape was a piece of legislation called the Weeks Act.

The law gave the federal government the right to buy private land….and turn it into our eastern national forests.

That law turns 100 this month.

The Weeks Act Turns 100

Mar 1, 2011
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/deerhake11/4569470696/in/photostream/">deekhake. 11</a> via Flickr/Creative Commons

This historic piece of legislation created the country’s eastern national forests and New Hampshire’s own White Mountain National Forest. We talk with a US Forest Service expert on how the act has influenced New Hampshire’s environment and why it has remained such an important part of the country's conservation landscape.


Protecting the Appalachian Trail from Threats New and Old

Mar 1, 2011
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/compasspointsmedia/4102268640/">Compass Points Media</a> via Flickr/Creative Commons

Today is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Weeks Act, which permitted the federal government to purchase private land, protecting forests and watersheds in the Eastern United States. The act has been called one of the most successful pieces of conservation legislation in the nation’s history. It safeguards habitats for hundreds of species, and recreation space for millions, including miles of the Appalachian Trail. The trail meanders through twelve states and thousands of acres of federally conserved land.

Courtesy of The Weeks Estate

Lancaster’s John Weeks, who was responsible for the Weeks Act of 1911 that gave the government the authority to create national forests, appreciated nature but wasn’t a hardcore environmentalist, according to a historian who is also his great granddaughter.

 “He, himself was a businessman. He did not claim to be a conservationist in the classic sense of the word, certainly not in our sense,” said Rebecca Weeks Sherrill More. “But I think it is important that as a good businessman he understood that conservation was good business”

On March 1st, 100 years ago President William Howard Taft signed the Weeks Act into law.

The historic legislation led to the creation of our eastern national forests.

Much of the effort to pass the law began here in New Hampshire, as a reaction to widespread deforestation.

New Hampshire Public Radio’s Amy Quinton has this look back.

Some historians dub the Weeks Act one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in the 20thcentury.