“Conversations in Forest History”

Conversations banner with Jamie

Join FHS Historian Jamie Lewis as he engages in Conversations in Forest History with leading historians, artists, researchers, policy makers, and newsmakers as they apply their historical knowledge to current topics. Each conversation opens with a short presentation before Jamie and his guest take questions from the audience. Topics include the decline of the majestic American hemlocks and beech trees, the life and legacy of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and the challenges of heir property rights and Black forestland ownership.

Videos of all presentations are available on the FHS YouTube Channel or the FHS Vimeo Channel.

Upcoming Webinars

Oct. 31, 2022

2-3 pm EDT

(Register HERE)

"'Robin Hood was just taking care of his own': Timber Poaching from California to British Columbia" with Lyndsie Bourgon

Timber theft has been called “a problem in every national forest” because there is a strong market for poached old-growth timber and redwood burls, which enter our homes in the form of firewood, furniture, and building materials. But while poaching contributes to a lucrative trade, it’s also an ancient crime that’s deeply rooted in the identity of those that live and work in forests. Many contemporary poachers see their actions as following in a long line of protest, and also as a response to conservation plans that contributed to rural poverty. In her new book Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America's Woods, Lyndsie Bourgon explores the social and economic drivers behind timber poaching in the Pacific Northwest. As part of her talk about timber theft, Lyndsie will discuss how she utilized oral history practices to investigate a nationwide logger protest in 1978.

Lyndsie Bourgon is an author, oral historian, and 2018 National Geographic Explorer. Her book is Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America's Woods.

Nov. 15, 2022

2-3 pm ET

(Register HERE)

The Lynn Day Lectureship in Forest and Conservation History

"Conservation and Community: Beyond the Public-Private Binary in the History of Land Conservation" with Curt Meine

American conservationists have long pursued their goals through various mechanisms that recognized shared interests in the land and ecological relationships that worked across legal and jurisdictional boundaries. But a wider range of people, practices, and perspectives must be considered. However, progress in this has been constrained by a mindset that reinforces a binary set of interests: private and public. Moving from this simple binary framing to a more flexible and nuanced view may allow conservationists to embrace a wider array of community-based approaches to conserving the public interest in private land—and in whole socio-ecological systems. It may also allow historians to find new insights into the evolution of conservation science, policy, and ideas. Conservation biologist and environmental historian Curt Meine will discuss this reframing and the many new opportunities it presents.

Dec. 1, 2022

1-2 ET

(Register HERE)

“Finding Their Roots: Exploring the Childhood Landscapes of Our Conservation Giants” with Jeffrey Ryan

Many of us have come to know those most responsible for America’s public lands through their well-documented accomplishments and writings. But what led people like Aldo Leopold, Benton MacKaye, Ernest Oberholtzer, and Howard Zahniser to become advocates for our parks, forests, and wilderness areas? While researching his latest book, author Jeffrey Ryan visited the birthplaces and other critical landscapes of these and other early conservationists to better understand how “nature” shaped their lives and careers. Ryan will share images from his travels as well as quotes from the subjects themselves about how their early connections with nature helped set them on the path to becoming fervent defenders of our parks, forests, and wilderness areas.

Maine-based author, historian, and speaker Jeffrey Ryan is the author of This Land Was Saved for You and Me, which traces the 150-year history of the development and management of America’s public parks, national forests, and wilderness areas.

 Watch Previous Webinars

Jan. 18, 2022

Watch the video HERE

"The Twilight of American Hemlocks and Beeches" with Tim Palmer

Tim Palmer, an award-winning environmental photographer and writer, shared his awe-inspiring photos of these two tree species while explaining how exotic insects and pathogens are decimating them, and discusses the promising work that scientists and managers are undertaking to correct the problems and restore these extraordinary woodlands. Please visit Tim's website to see all of his work and purchase his books.

Feb. 14, 2022

Watch the video HERE

(90 mins.)

“Frederick Law Olmsted: Bringing Nature to the City” with Laurence Cotton

Laurence has provided an annotated list of resources, including books and other films to watch. Download the PDF HERE.

April 26, 2022, marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, the master designer of public parks and a founder of the field of American landscape architecture. Public historian and filmmaker Laurence Cotton explored the remarkable life and career of Olmsted—writer, philosopher, social reformer, conservationist, and creator of some of the most beautiful public and private parks and gardens in all of North America and that of his sons and their legacy. Laurence Cotton is a practicing public historian, and writer/producer of historical films for PBS including Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America. He was trained as a cultural anthropologist and brings that lens to bear on much of his work.

March 18, 2022

Watch the video HERE

(80 minutes)

“It’s a Family Affair: Understanding Heirs’ Property and Forestland Ownership" with Mavis Gragg and Sam Cook.

Productive agricultural land remains elusive for many landowners and agricultural professionals are often limited in helping them due to complicated legal and social issues. This is particularly true for land owned as heirs' property—property with multiple owners, each of whom inherited their shares. Forester Sam Cook and attorney Mavis Gragg will demystify a legal and social quandary that limits agricultural land from being used productively. According to Mavis Gragg, "I think people have heard more and more about heirs’ property in the last couple of years because of the tremendous land loss that has been experienced by the Black community. But it’s an issue that impacts many Americans, because most families that have land will transfer it by inheritance."

Sam Cook is the executive director of Forest Assets and VP of the Natural Resources Foundation for the College of Natural Resources at NC State University; and is Vice President of the Society of American Foresters. Mavis Gragg is director of the Sustainable Forestry & African American Land Retention Program with the American Forest Foundation.

April 7, 2022

Watch the video HERE

“Optimism in a Time of Environmental Doom and Gloom: A Conversation with leaders of the Global Earth Optimism Movement” with Ruth Anna Stolk and Dr. Nancy Knowlton

On Earth Day 2017, Ruth Anna Stolk and Dr. Nancy Knowlton co-led an international team that introduced Earth Optimism Alliance to the world. Their goal was to collect and amplify stories of what’s working in conservation across disciplines and geography to improve the environmental situation and conversation. In this webinar they talked about how some of the exemplar projects they have featured from multiple countries have coped with setbacks like a global pandemic and social justice, and then retrenchment through creative approaches to solving problems. They shared examples of success stories, and also how optimism-related efforts are sprouting across individual organizations and groups. They offered examples and thoughts about how such efforts serve as a counterweight to the cumulative bombardment of negative messaging all around us—particularly the next generation of conservationists.

Ruth Anna Stolk is Founding Executive Director of the Smithsonian Conservation Commons, a community serving more than 21 museums, libraries, and research centers to sustain a biodiverse planet. Nancy Knowlton is a distinguished author, public speaker, marine scientist, and conservation biologist whose use of state-of-the-art molecular approaches has led to the recognition that the biodiversity of the ocean is far greater than previously recognized.

May 25, 2022

Watch the video HERE

“What Did She Say? Recovering Women’s Voices To Our Land Ethic Narratives" with Rachel Kline

For more than half a century, historians have told us that the first calls for forest preservation and an ecological and moral approach to land management were made in Henry D. Thoreau’s Walden (1854), George Perkins Marsh’s Man and Nature (1864), and Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic” essay in 1949. But a century before Leopold published his essay, Susan Fenimore Cooper made the same arguments in her book Rural Hours. She began an ongoing pattern of women initiating calls for including ethical and cultural aspects of environmental management—two cornerstones of forest management today—which would be overlooked until men repeated them. How do we recover the voice of Cooper and so many other women to tell a more comprehensive history of creating a land ethic? Join historian Rachel Kline to discuss how we can rethink our land ethic narratives by listening to what women have been saying all along.

Rachel Kline is a historian with the U.S. Forest Service and holds a PhD from University of New Hampshire.

June 8, 2022

Watch the video HERE

"Drawing From Forest History: How One Artist Uses Forest History As Source Material" with Shing Yin Khor

Shing Yin Khor's National Book Award finalist graphic novel, The Legend of Auntie Po, follows a 12-year-old Chinese American camp cook as she tells Paul Bunyan stories (reinvented as an elderly Chinese matriarch named Auntie Po) in a Sierra Nevada logging camp. Join Shing Yin to talk about making graphic novels, adapting W. B. Laughead's Paul Bunyan drawings and stories, integrating forest history research into historical fiction, and telling stories about Chinese-American contributions to forest history.Shing Yin Khor is a Malaysian-American cartoonist and experience designer making stories about immigrants trying to find a home in nostalgic Americana. Shing’s middle-grade historical fiction graphic novel The Legend of Auntie Po is a National Book Award finalist and Eisner Award nominee, and their graphic novel about driving that famous highway, The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66, was one of NPR's best books of 2019. Learn more about this celebrated artist and writer at their website.

June 10, 2022

Watch the video HERE

“Driven Wild: Foresters, Automobiles, and the Founding of the Wilderness Society" with Paul Sutter

The founding of the Wilderness Society in 1935 marked the beginning of organized wilderness advocacy in the United States, a movement that culminated in the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the creation of a national system of wilderness areas. Conventional wisdom had long been that wilderness advocacy was hostile to the utilitarian conservation of federal foresters, who believed that the national forests should be developed for their timber and other resources, and yet four of the eight founders of the Wilderness Society were trained foresters who valued both wilderness protection and sustained yield forestry. How are we to make sense of this apparent paradox? To find out, please join us as Paul Sutter, historian and author of Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement, revisits his classic history of modern wilderness advocacy twenty years after its publication. Paul Sutter is the author of Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement (2002) and Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South (2015), and he is the co-author or co-editor of three other books on the environmental history of the American South. Paul is also the Series Editor for Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books, published by the University of Washington Press.

Sept. 15, 2022

Watch the video HERE

“A Sedimental Journey: Tracking Historic Dirt Downstream” with Chris Bolgiano.

Through archival and contemporary photos, historian Chris Bolgiano explored how the misuse of forests across the eastern U.S. over more than four centuries still impacts watersheds today. Legacy Sediments, as the results of historic erosion are officially called, have only recently been recognized as a major problem not only for the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S., but also for other bays along the Atlantic coast. To understand why requires a map of long-gone water mills, a lidar-equipped drone, and a revolutionary new understanding of streams that look “natural” but definitely are not. These and other tools inform Chris's research and presentation.

Nature writer and environmental historian Chris Bolgiano has written or edited six books, as well as travel and nature articles for many publications. Chris is Professor Emerita at James Madison University in Virginia, where she spent 25 years documenting local history while serving as a university librarian.

 

Other Webinar Series

The re-created cabin of Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond.

Unprecedented Seasons

This series addressed the biggest issues of 2020 and 2021: racial inequality and social justice, social isolation and distancing, and climate change—often using the lens of environmental history, biography and memoir to do so.

mushrooms in Great Smoky Mtns

Nontimber Forest Products & Bioeconomy

Experts discuss how the bioeconomy can reduce environmental impacts of economic growth by forest management that promotes sustainable harvests and production of non-timber forest products such as food and medicine.