Peeling Back The Bark

  • When Forester Ray Conarro Moved to Mississippi, Good Things Happened.

    By Guest Contributor on August 31, 2023
    Ray Conarro served as the Forest Supervisor for the National Forests in Mississippi from August 1, 1933–June 30, 1940. This photo appeared in his “Recollections.”

    Imagine how Ray Conarro (1895–1977) felt when his superiors made him the inaugural supervisor of …

  • “How Great the Gain!”: Women and the Forest Service

    By James Lewis on August 28, 2021

    This post, coauthored by James G. Lewis of the Forest History Society and Rachel D. Kline of the U.S. Forest Service, was originally published in a special issue of the journal Western Forester on "Women in Forestry" in August 2021.

  • Black Woman in Green: Excerpts from Gloria Brown’s Memoir

    By Guest Contributor on February 4, 2021

    In 1999, Gloria Brown became the first female African American forest supervisor in the U.S. Forest Service. Gloria cowrote her memoir Black Woman in Green: Gloria Brown and the Unmarked Trail to Forest Service Leadership (Oregon State University Press, 2020)

  • Harold E. Smith’s Forest Service Christmas Story

    By Guest Contributor on December 11, 2020

    “Harold E. Smith’s Forest Service Christmas Story” is by USDA Forest Service historian Rachel D. Kline.

    As we approach the holiday season in the Forest Service during this unprecedented time, history shows us that our curtailed holiday activities during a …

  • The Monongahela at 100: How Its Signature Event Changed American Forestry

    By Guest Contributor on April 30, 2020

    The Monongahela National Forest was established on April 28, 1920. Historian Char Miller has adapted a chapter from the book America’s Great National Forests, Wilderness & Grasslands, with photographs by Tim Palmer (Rizzoli, 2016), to mark the centennial. 

    The …

  • “Madam Secretary” and the Gifford Pinchot Connection

    By James Lewis on November 21, 2019

    I’d never seen the TV series Madam Secretary until this week. Now in its sixth season, former secretary of State Elizabeth McCord is president of the United States. The character’s concern about climate change makes it unsurprising to see landscape …

  • The Night the Mountain Fell

    By James Lewis on August 16, 2019

    “The night the mountain fell” is how one of the strongest earthquakes to rock the United States was remembered by some survivors. It wasn’t in California, though. It hit Montana. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 centered on the …

  • The Early Career of John S. Holmes, North Carolina’s First State Forester

    By Eben Lehman on May 31, 2019

    John Simcox Holmes—born on this day in 1868—was a pioneer of forestry work in the state of North Carolina. The state’s first professional forester, he was hired in 1909 to survey and protect North Carolina’s forests, though he had little …

  • Remembering Jerry Williams (1945-2019), Forest Service Historian

    By James Lewis on February 12, 2019

    Gerald W. Williams, a former national historian with the U.S. Forest Service and a Fellow of the Forest History Society, passed away on January 3, 2019. Among the many reasons for naming Jerry a FHS Fellow was his many significant …

  • Dark Days, Then and Now

    By Guest Contributor on January 24, 2019

    In this guest post, renowned fire historian Stephen Pyne reviews the history of wildland fires in the United States and the policies and strategies various agencies continue operating under before offering some recommendations for dealing with the issue.

    On May …

  • The Forest Service Faces a Century-old Call for Equality

    By James Lewis on May 7, 2018

    The following opinion piece by FHS historian James Lewis was originally published by High Country News on April 30, 2018, and is republished here in its entirety.

    The third applicant was “no gentleman,” the U.S. Forest Service ranger wrote to …

  • “New Faces, Same Old Values”: Revisiting a History of Attitudes Towards Women in the Forest Service

    By James Lewis on March 9, 2018

    In light of the recent news about the systemic and system-wide problem of sexual harassment and misconduct throughout the U.S. Forest Service, and other federal land management agencies, it is useful to have some historical perspective. In short, this is

  • The Most Epic Forest History Road Trip Yet

    By James Lewis on November 21, 2017

    This post was first published in the Spring 2017 issue of Forest History Today, which was produced for the National Park Service's centennial, as the "History on the Road" column. It's been adapted for the blog to include more

  • Collaboration, Inclusivity, and Resilience: Three Birthday Wishes for the Forest Service’s Second Century

    By James Lewis on June 30, 2017

    July 1 marks the anniversary of the U.S. Forest Service’s establishment of the National Forest System in 1907—the day the “federal forest reserves” were renamed “national forests.” Historian Char Miller wants to share his birthday wishes for them.

    Not every …

  • Parachuting Into History: Smokejumpers Land In DC For First Time

    By James Lewis on June 28, 2017

    On this date in 1949, four Forest Service smokejumpers made the first jump east of the Mississippi River and the first parachute jump ever made onto the Washington Ellipse, the oval park between the Washington Monument and the White House. …

  • Explosive Truths: A Review of the book Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

    By James Lewis on May 18, 2017


    The vial measures about 1.75″ in length but contains a great deal of information and memory.

    This is an expanded version of the review of Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, by Steve Olson, which first

  • Honoring America’s First Forester on His 150th Birthday

    By James Lewis on August 11, 2015

    The following is an op-ed piece by FHS staff historian James G. Lewis that appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on August 9, 2015, in honor of Gifford Pinchot’s 150th birthday on August 11. 

    Born just after the guns of the …

  • 7/31/1865: Austin Cary, the Father of Southern Forestry, Born

    By James Lewis on July 31, 2015

    Austin Cary, one of the great unsung heroes of American forestry, was born this date in 1865 in East Machias, Maine. A Yankee through and through, he found professional success in the South, eventually becoming known as the "Father of …

  • "Slow Awakening: Ecology’s Role in Shaping Forest Fire Policy"

    By Guest Contributor on October 16, 2014

    In this article-length guest blog post, retired U.S. Forest Service research forester Stephen F. Arno discusses why fire management is impeded today and says we need to look at the history of fire policy in tandem with the development of

  • Schenck Documentary Now In Production!

    By James Lewis on August 14, 2014

    What began as a millionaire’s dream, a genius’s vision, and a forester’s labor is now being captured in a Forest History Society documentary film. This spring the Forest History Society joined forces with Bonesteel Films to produce First in Forestry

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