“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

Sept. 15, 2022

1-2 pm EDT

(Register HERE)

“A Sedimental Journey: Tracking Historic Dirt Downstream” with Chris Bolgiano
Through archival and contemporary photos, Chris Bolgiano will explore 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.

Nature writer Chris Bolgiano has written or edited six books, as well as travel and nature articles for the Washington Post, New York Times, Sierra, Audubon, Wilderness and many other publications, and syndicated op-eds for the Chesapeake Bay Journal News Service. As Professor Emerita at James Madison University in Virginia, where she spent 25 years documenting local history, she now shamelessly uses her connections in the library for access to sources.

 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 to the world. Their goal was to collect and amplify stories of what’s working in conservation across disciplines and geography. Both Nancy and Ruth Anna have worked with the Smithsonian Institution, Cambridge University (UK), and many other partners to develop the Earth Optimism Alliance, a loose array of likeminded institutions inspired by the idea that the global narrative for conservation can change for the better, despite major setbacks in the world. 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"
Presenter: Shing Yin KhorShing 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"
Presenter: Paul SutterThe 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.


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.