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March 1, 1911: Weeks Act Signed into Law

By Eben Lehman on March 1, 2011

Weeks Act 1911March 1, 2011, marks the centennial of the Weeks Act—the “organic act” of the eastern national forests. The law has been one of the most successful pieces of conservation legislation in U.S. history. The Weeks Act permitted the federal government to purchase private land in order to protect the headwaters of rivers and watersheds in the eastern United States and funded fire protection efforts through federal, state, and private cooperation. Its passage made possible the creation of the eastern national forests, with nearly 20 million acres of forestland having been protected under the Act to date. As one historian has noted, “No single law has been more important in the return of the forests to the eastern United States” than the Weeks Act.

The Forest History Society staff has revised and expanded the Weeks Act pages within the U.S. Forest Service History section of our website. These new and improved Weeks Act history pages feature four separate sections and a huge collection of primary documents. You’ll also find a Weeks Act history video, taken from the DVD extras of the film The Greatest Good, that explains how the law came about.

Staff historian Jamie Lewis has been very busy this week promoting the centennial. He appeared on NPR stations in both North Carolina and New Hampshire. In North Carolina, WUNC interviewed him for the report “Forestry Law Created in NC Turns 100,” and today he appeared on New Hampshire Public Radio’s program “The Exchange” as a call-in guest. Guest Dave Govatski, secretary of the Weeks Act Centennial Coordinating Committee and coauthor of a book on the Eastern National Forests which the Weeks Act helped to create, gave a nice plug for the Forest History Society and its online resources as well. Jamie was also one of several historians interviewed by NHPR for a series of short reports on the national impact of the Weeks Act. You can find all that New Hampshire Public Radio is doing on the Weeks Act at:

This weekend Jamie will have an opinion piece published in the Raleigh News and Observer and one on March 27 in the Asheville Citizen-Times focusing on North Carolina’s role in the passage of the Weeks Act. Along with Steve Anderson, Jamie was also interviewed for a 3-part series in the Asheville Citizen-Times on the law and its impact on western North Carolina, slated to appear beginning March 6.

We encourage you to share the news with others to help remind them of the importance of the Weeks Act and to celebrate the centennial of the eastern national forests. Feel free to share with us how you plan on celebrating the Weeks Act in 2011: Are you throwing a party, spending time in a forest, or reading Bob Healy’s ongoing blog series reflecting on the act? Or all three, maybe even at the same time?