History of the Forest History Society
The Forest History Society (FHS) is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to fostering the study of the history of human interaction with the forested environment. Through programs in archival and library collecting, publication, education, and service, FHS seeks to provide a historical context for issues relating to human use of natural resources.
The narrative below recounts the history of FHS, focusing especially on: (1) the evolution of the Society's scope of interest from an early focus on forest products history, to a more general interest in forest and conservation history, and finally to the broad field of environmental history; (2) changes in the Society's name and logo; and (3) future goals.
The Evolution of the Forest History Society
Originally founded in 1946 by a small group of forest industry executives and historians as the "Forest Products History Foundation," the Society served as a program of the Minnesota Historical Society and placed its highest priority on preserving the documentary forest heritage of North America.
Identifying and collecting archival source materials, assembling a comprehensive bibliography, and publishing books in the field of forest history quickly became the Society's core programs beginning in the late 1940s. Rodney Clement Loehr (1907-2005) was the Society's first executive director. During his tenure from 1946 to 1950, FHS developed strong programs in archival collecting and publication, thus establishing a solid foundation upon which future programs could grow. Loehr resigned as director of the Society in 1950 to return to teaching full-time at the University of Minnesota.
Elwood Rondeau "Woody" Maunder (1917-2011) succeeded Rodney Loehr as executive director of FHS beginning in 1952. Maunder expanded upon the work of Loehr by starting an oral history interview program, building the Society's own archival collection, publishing what would become the Society's scholarly quarterly journal (now titled Environmental History), and establishing an endowment fund that would prove crucial to the continuing fiscal health of FHS. Under his leadership, the Society broke away from the Minnesota Historical Society in 1955, incorporating as an independent nonprofit organization under the the name "Forest History Foundation." Four years later the Society's name changed once again to the "Forest History Society." FHS also changed affiliations a couple of times during Maunder's tenure, first moving to Yale University in 1964 and then to the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1969. In 1977 Maunder took sabbatical leave from his job as executive director to work on several writing projects and tendered his resignation as head of the Society a year later.
Harold K. "Pete" Steen (1935- ), a historian with a bachelor's degree in forestry and a Ph.D. in history, began working for the Forest History Society in Santa Cruz, California, in 1969. Originally a publications editor, Steen slowly took over a broader array of duties as the Society's assistant director. In 1978 he became the Society's third executive director. During his tenure as executive director, Steen conducted numerous oral history interviews for the Society, wrote and provided editorial direction for the Society's growing body of publications, and expanded the Society's archival holdings while building important ties with the United States Forest Service, forestry organizations, conservation groups, and corporations. When FHS moved to Durham, North Carolina, in 1984, Steen established an affiliation with Duke University that has proven extremely important to the daily operations of the Society, especially in the computer age. The Society's "Issues Series" publications and If Trees Could Talk middle school environmental education curriculum began under Steen's direction in the 1990s, and the partnership he negotiated with the American Society for Environmental History in 1996 helped widen the scope of the FHS mission beyond the boundaries of forest and conservation history to include subjects related to the broader field of environmental history. Steen's official title changed from "executive director" to "president" a year before he retired in 1997.
The Society's fourth and current president is Steven Anderson (1956- ). A forester and forest economist by training, Anderson came to the Society with experience working in the field as a forester and teaching forestry courses at the university level. He left his job as a forestry professor at Oklahoma State University with the goal of providing a historical context for current forest policies at the national and international level. Under his leadership the Society has pursued numerous innovative programs in digitization, publication, environmental education, and research that have broadened the impact of forest, conservation, and environmental history on societal perceptions about natural resource utilization.
Changes to the Forest History Society's Name and Logo Over Time
Forest Products History Foundation
1946 - 1955
Forest History Foundation
1955 - 1959
Forest History Society
1959 - present
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ca. 1948 - ca. 1950
1957 - 1961
1961 - 2002
2002 - present
For a brief narrative overview of FHS logo changes, see: Steven Anderson, "Message from the President: A New Image," Forest History Today (Spring 2002).
Future Goals of the Forest History Society
FHS entered the twenty-first century with the same enthusiasm that has shaped its evolution since the mid-1940s. Our superior staff and dedicated board of directors ensure the enduring legacy of the Society. In the years to come, FHS will continue to seek and embrace new opportunities to disseminate the lessons of forest, conservation, and environmental history. FHS believes that promoting the study of environmental history will have a productive impact on education and public discourse and hopes that the services it provides will ultimately help policy leaders make informed decisions that will improve natural resource management and the public welfare. We encourage everyone to investigate the ways in which the environment and its resources have impacted society, for by understanding our past, we shape our future.
Anderson, Steven. "Message from the President: A New Image." Forest History Today (Spring 2002).
Justice, Michele A. "Not Just Trees: Exploring the Forest History Society's Rich Botanical and Horticultural Resources." CBHL Newsletter 60 (Spring 1995): 1, 32-35.
Twining, Charles E. "For the Sake of History : The Weyerhaeuser Family and the Origins of the Forest History Society." Forest History Today 1996. 4-7 pp.
Steen, Harold K. The Forest History Society and Its History. Durham, N.C.: Forest History Society, 1996.