The Land We Cared For...
A History of the Forest Service's Eastern Region



The Deckerd Report

In 1965 the Secretary of Agriculture, the Director of the Budget, and the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission set up a joint team to review management policies and practices in the Forest Service. The review was conducted from February 15 to July 2, 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's program for improved management of the federal government.

The survey team headed by Edwin Deckerd of the Bureau of the Budget, had three members from the Department of Agriculture (but not the Forest Service), one from the Civil Service Commission, and two from the Bureau of the Budget. The team spent 5.5 weeks in the field. All of the Regional Offices were visited except Region 10 in Alaska. They also did a good sampling of Forests and Districts in most of the Regions. They concentrated much effort on Region 7, which consisted of the following National Forests and units:

Allegheny National Forest—Warren, Pennsylvania
Cumberland National Forest—Winchester, Kentucky
George Washington National Forest—Harrisonburg, Virginia
Green Mountain National Forest—Rutland, Vermont
Jefferson National Forest—Roanoke, Virginia
Monongahela National Forest—Elkins, West Virginia
White Mountain National Forest—Laconia, New Hampshire
Northern Insect and Disease Control Zone—Amherst, Massachusetts
Southern Insect and Disease Control Zone—Harrisonburg, Virginia
Regional Fiscal Agent, US Forest Service—Upper Darby, Pennsylvania [1]

Region 9

After the field work, the team spent two days conferring with Chief Edward P. Cliff and other Forest Service leaders. Later a two week conference was held in the Washington Office with the Chief and appropriate staff members to have their participation in making the final recommendations. [2]

The study team was impressed with the management and esprit de corps of the Forest Service. It commented: "The Service obviously has a proud tradition of excellent achievement which sustains an enthusiastic and dedicated team at all levels in the organization." [3] Throughout its tour of the country, the survey team was struck by the high quality of management of land, timber, water, and wildlife resources by the Forest Service as compared to the neglect seen on similar resources managed by private and other government agencies. The team concluded that the lands of the Forest Service were in "competent hands" and their value was being enhanced and preserved. [4]

Generally, the Deckerd Report approved of the basic principles of Forest Service management, that is line authority and local decision making. In fact, the Report recommended strengthening line and staff authority at all four levels and establishing of capability at the District level to take final actions.

With regard to the appropriate size of Districts, Forests, and Regions, the Deckerd Report recommended that these be more nearly standardized throughout the Service. Districts should be large enough to warrant a staff to which the Ranger could delegate nearly complete authority and responsibility for management. Thus, Rangers would be converted from working supervisors to managers. [5] In the end, the Forest Service did not accept this idea. Instead, District Rangers were to continue working as they had, which included "managerial work." [6] The Deckerd Report developed a concept called "optimum size districts" which would have enough acres "to support a competent professional staff working under the direction of a managerial Ranger Supervisor". The survey team came up with the following parameters for an optimum size district: between 10 and 90 employees, between 300,000 and 600,000 gross acres, and an operating budget between $150,000 and $400,000 per year.

The Supervisors' Offices of the National Forests were the basic planning units. Therefore they should be staffed, according to the report, with specialists who could make the necessary multiple use and long range plans to develop and manage the National Forests. They should also provide supervisory, administrative, training, and specialist assistance to Ranger units. The study found a great range in the number of Districts on National Forests—from three to 13 and Forests which ranged in size from 211,200 to 3,118,900 acres. It recommended that the number of Forests be reduced by using eight optimum size Districts as the standard measure for determining size.

As for Regional Offices, the Deckerd Report defined their duties as functions at the "implementation and review" level. The Regional Office should provide for adaptation and implementation of the Chiefs policies and programs of work. It should actively push new programs and see that they were implemented wisely. It should provide advice and consulting service to the National Forests as needed, but it should not become overly involved in policy and program formulation. It should not be the level at which projects are actually done, but rather should provide the staff support and project evaluation. Indeed, the Regional level should be the primary one for evaluation of programs. [7]

As defined by the Deckerd Report, the role of the Regional Office was such that a larger size was a definite advantage. Larger Regional Offices could implement programs over a wider area, provide more programs for comparison, support specialized consultants, eliminate duplication of directives, and provide a more economical administration. The Report concluded, from studying all of the Regions, that the optimum size ones were those which had a "span of control" over 15 to 19 Forests. This, the Report remarked ominously, "would indicate room for some tightening up of Regional structure. Regional areas should be made to retain a span of control of approximately 18 Forest Supervisors' Offices per Region." [8]

The Deckerd Report looked into Forest Service Regional history, especially the Eastern Regions, (Regions 7, 8, and 9). It described how the North Central Region was formed in Milwaukee in 1929. The Eastern Region was divided in two in 1934 by creating Region 8 with headquarters in Atlanta and encompassing all of the National Forests south of Kentucky and Virginia. This had left only seven National Forests in Region 7.

The Deckerd Report asked the telling question of whether the "historic Regional structure is valid at the present time in view of advances made through the years in transportation, communication, managerial methods, and administrative procedures." [9] The Report analyzed the great variations between Regions in size and in almost every other category. Employment ranged from 1,421 in Region 7 to 7,414 in Region 6, net acreage from 4,252,722 in Region 7 to 30,800,215 in Region 4, and a "span of control" of 19 reporting Forest Supervisors in Region 6 compared to only seven in Region 7. Within the Regions, the number of Ranger Districts varied from 39 in Region 6 to 120 in Region 4. [10] In this category, Region 7 was not the lowest, but it was next to it. The Deckerd team also prepared a table showing comparative data on the Regional Offices. In every category. Region 7 was the lowest or next to lowest Region. For instance, the annual allowable cut for Region 7 was 421 million board feet. The next lowest was Region 3 with an allowable cut of 597 million board feet, 42% higher. The highest allowable cut was on Region 6—4,300 million board feet or more than 10 times as great as Region 7.

Decision to Reorganize

If the Chief of the Forest Service accepted the "span of control" concept, the next step was inescapable: Region 7 needed to be eliminated. It stood out like a sore thumb. By all the criteria except number of National Forests, it was the smallest. The other candidates for elimination were Regions 8 and 9, both about the same in number of National Forests (11 in each) and size (around 9 million acres). Region 8 had 3,375 employees and Region 9 had 1,802; Region 8 had a larger budget by about 37%. [11]

Looking at this situation, Chief Cliff and his staff could see that the best possibility was to combine Regions 7 and 9. A joining of Region 7 and Region 8 would not have been as advantageous because of the geographical and climatic differences in an area that stretched from Maine to Florida. In terms of employees, such a combination would have left Region 9 with a very small number in comparison to the others.

The Chief and his staff decided that Region 7 would be eliminated and its National Forests divided among Regions 8 and 9. The White Mountain, Green Mountain, Allegheny, and Monongahela National Forests were assigned to Region 9 and the George Washington, Jefferson, and Daniel Boone National Forests went to Region 8. The Region 7 Office at Upper Darby was to be closed and most of the personnel moved to Atlanta or Milwaukee. [12] The new boundaries of Region 9, now called the Eastern Region, stretched from the Midwest to New England. The states involved were Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. The National Forests were the White Mountain, Green Mountain, Allegheny, Monongahela, Wayne, Hoosier, Shawnee, Mark Twain, Clark, Chippewa, Chequamegon, Superior, Hiawatha, Ottawa, Nicolet, Huron, and Manistee.

State and Private Forestry Separated

The Deckerd Report also dealt with major problems which existed in State and Private Forestry (S&PF). This branch of the work of the Forest Service was supposed to be one leg of a "three-legged stool," with National Forest Administration (NFA) and Research being the other two. In practice, State and Private Forestry was the weakest of the three in terms of Forest Service attention and resources.

The proper job of S&PF, according to Forest Service Policy, was to work with state and private agencies. It was basically a selling and public relations job, made somewhat easier by the federal funds that came from grants-in-aid. [13] The Deckerd team found that the S&PF programs were weak because they were neglected by the rest of the Forest Service. This was true of the administrators of the National Forests and the Regional Foresters. [14]

The Deckerd team found that Regional Foresters tended to look upon National Forest management as their primary function and S&PF as secondary. The reasons were obvious: management of federal lands was a tangible job for which foresters were trained. It had been unrealistic, the Report concluded, to expect foresters to do otherwise. It was true that S&PF was also a job for foresters, but the big difference was that it was not on National Forest lands and others had the direct responsibility for its management. [15]

The Deckerd team found that in the West, where the work of S&PF was on a small scale, the Regional Foresters had sufficient public stature to make the S&PF system work reasonably well. In the East the work was more difficult. The Regional Foresters were less prominent in public life and there were so many more states to deal with. There needed to be changes. They suggested separation of the S&PF functions from Regional Foresters and setting up of their own offices. [16]

In the East, Region 8 had the largest area and workload and could support a separate S&PF staff. By combining the work of Regions 7 and 9 into one separate office, the Forest Service would have two offices with approximately equal workloads for the Eastern United States. [17]

The Chief and his staff accepted the recommendations of the Deckerd Report and the Chief ordered that new S&PF offices be organized in the East with direct line control under Directors of State and Private Forestry. One of the headquarters was to be at Upper Darby, Pennsylvania close to the Research Station there. Its staff would include the staffs formerly of Regions 7 and 9. [18]

Receiving the News

A "family" meeting of the Region 9 Regional Office personnel was held on September 20th, 1965. Regional Forester George S. James related the changes which would be taking place in the Region as a result of the reorganization of the Forest Service. The National Forests in Regions 7, 8, and 9 would now be administered from two Regional Offices in Milwaukee and Atlanta, with the Allegheny, the White Mountain, the Green Mountain, and the Monongahela of the former Region 7 being assigned to Region 9. State and Private Forestry Programs would be separated at the Regional level from National Forest administrators' offices, the former in Upper Darby and the latter at Atlanta. The State and Private Forestry functions and people in the Milwaukee offices were being assigned to Upper Darby. Research projects served by the Lake States, Central States and Northeastern Stations would be administered by two directors located in St. Paul and Upper Darby. [19]

There were mixed feelings about the merger in the affected National Forests. In New England, the initial reaction was not very positive. Some New England foresters believed that their philosophies, ways of working with the public, and recreation needs, required "a different yardstick" than the one used to measure "some backwoods forest in the Lake States." From the view of the Lake States and Midwest National Forests, the Easterners were often seen to be suffering from a feeling of superiority, particularly the foresters from the White Mountain National Forest. Leavitt Bowie, a retiree from the White Mountain remembered some in the new Region referring to his Forest as the "White Mountain National Forest Service." Another retiree from the WMNF recalled that back in the Region 7 days, other Foresters jocularly called the White Mountain National Forest the "Holy Hills" because they received all the money. [20]

"May We Introduce"

As part of the effort to smooth the merger transition during the last month of 1965 and the first months of 1966, the Region 9 weekly newsletter Contact featured each of the National Forests in its "May We Introduce" section. Each item was written by someone on the described Forest.

The Chequamegon National Forest was described as having three separate units "with a fairly compact land ownership of hardwood, spruce and pine sites." Fiscal year 1965 receipts were $200,717.

The Clark National Forest reported that their growing stock was 2/3 hardwoods and 1/3 pine. Their annual cut was 25 million board feet, the greatest need was for pole-sized hardwoods. The job-at-hand on the Clark was in assisting and coordinating of the new southeastern Missouri lead district. Future revenues from royalties of $1 million per year were expected. The Forest reported that their lands included many miles of free-flowing streams, but nearly all frontage was in private ownership. Suitable sites were being acquired to meet the demands for water-oriented recreation.

The Hiawatha National Forest noted a great increase in demand for recreational developments. The Forest was also a productive pulpwood area.

The Huron-Manistee National Forest introduced itself as a Forest with timber potential of "second growth hardwood and replanted red pine," Caberfae, near Cadillac, was a widely known winter sports area in the Forest and the Huron-Manistee was also the home of the much publicized Kirkland's Warbler Wildlife Management Area. [21]

The Chippewa National Forest, with 499 major lakes within its boundaries, proudly claimed to be the heart of Minnesota's vacation land. The Chippewa waters were bisected by the Continental Divide, nourished the infant Mississippi River as well as the Rainy River which ultimately reaches Hudson Bay. The timber cut on the Chippewa in the preceding year amounted to 43.4 million board feet, and an estimated 1.8 million seedlings were planted on approximately 2,600 acres.

The area of the Mark Twain National Forest was described as stretching across the top of the Ozarks in southern Missouri from Cassville in the west to Doniphan in the east. The primary merchantable timber was oak. An important new job for the Mark Twain was a land inventory program for multiple use based on soil capacity. They also reported that proposed legislation would probably designate the Eleven Point River as a Wild River within the Forest.

The Nicolet National Forest described itself as "one of the finest recreation areas in the Midwest." The timber harvest from the preceding year, had been 50 million board feet.

The most valuable wood species on the Ottawa National Forest was reported to be yellow birch. Their annual allowable timber harvest was 9,720,000 board feet of sawtimber. The Ottawa boasted 733 lakes and ponds on their Forest and an increasing demand for yearlong recreational facilities.

The Shawnee National Forest described itself as "situated in Illinois in the most scenic and historic areas of the state, with one section adjacent to the Ohio River on the east and the other bordering the Mississippi on the west." It was a well diversified Forest with strong programs in recreation, wildlife, and watersheds. Two important projects underway in 1966 were the acquisition of land to close the gap between the two units and the planning of the George Rogers Clark Recreation Road through the Forest linking the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

The Superior National Forest, with its northern boundary extending along 200 miles of the Canadian border, was a Forest of white spruce, balsam fir and pine, jack, white and red, with aspen and white birch. One-third of the northern portion contained the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a part of the National Wilderness System administered under special Secretary's regulations. Visits to the BWCA in 1964 totaled 246,000. The Forest was widely known for its wealth of fish and wildlife, including moose and timber wolves. A fleet of three seaplanes, two with water bombing equipment, provided fire detection, initial attack and administrative use.

The Wayne-Hoosier was described as lying in the central hardwood region with good potential for growing quality hardwood. Some of the Wayne's units were in the coal mining area and presented particular problems in strip mining and reclamation. The largest recreation developments were the Vesuvius near Ironton, Ohio and the German Ridge near Tell City, Indiana. A major recreation project underway was the Monroe Reservoir, a flood control impoundment in the Brownstown Ranger District. Fiscal year receipts on the Wayne-Hoosier amounted to $110,672. [22]

In order to introduce Region 9 to the new National Forests which became part of their "family" in 1965, the Contact featured each of four new Forests in its November 10, 1965 issue.

The Allegheny National Forest, supervised by Leroy K. Kelly, administered an acreage of 472,344 acres (gross acreage 726,477). Established in 1923, the Allegheny was described as "a compact forest of good sites, with over 40% of its marketable volume in black cherry timber. Fiscal year 1965 receipts were $1,045,402. The current emphasis was on planning and development of recreational facilities of the Allegheny Reservoir. The current recreation and road construction budget for the Reservoir was over $2 million.

The Green Mountain National Forest, supervised by Paul S. Newcomb, contained 232,479 acres (629,019 gross acreage) and was described as a productive northern National Forest from which 40 cents per acre was returned to the counties under the 25% fund. The Green Mountain foresters kept busy during the winter sports months with six special use winter sports areas and more in growing demand.

The Monongahela National Forest, supervised by Ephe Olliver, contained 806,321 acres (gross acreage 1,641,993) and encompassed the major highlands of West Virginia. They boasted great timber potential with varieties including white pine, red spruce, Appalachian and northern hardwoods. One important new job was the planning and developing of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. Fiscal year receipts of $1,119,631 included $701,152 for a gas storage lease.

The White Mountain National Forest, supervised by Gerald S. Wheeler contained in Maine 45,857 acres (gross acreage 81,316) and in New Hampshire 678,476 acres (gross acreage 805,138). This Forest included the spectacular Presidential Range with the highest peaks in the northeast. Recreation was the big business and sightseeing in the mountains the main attraction. Hiking and mountain climbing were popular, and all the winter sports programs were growing. Recreation charge program receipts in 1965 amounted to $30,000. [23]

The Regional Office

Another Move

Over a period of three months in the summer of 1966, the Regional Offices of the Eastern Region moved once again. It was a short distance move, only across the street from their old location to the Greyhound Tower Clark Building, where they occupied the 6th-9th floors and part of the 5th. [24]

Operation of the Regional Office—Accounting

The accounting system of the Forest Service is centralized with each Region maintaining certain accounts and sub-accounts. Funds made available by Congress for operations flow from several appropriation items, and the accounts and sub-accounts of the Regional Office, Supervisor's Offices, and District Offices preserve the multi-fund arrangement. The accounting system allows charges against the several appropriations and controls the outer limits of expenditures. Other accounts exist to allow the Region to be able to respond to requests for information on the costs of various program breakdowns. The net result is a system with more than 100 functional accounts and about 40 sub-accounts.

Until the 1960's, there was much sub-account work carried on at the District level. Accounting work for timber sales, billing and collecting were done at that level. Upon recommendations from the Deckerd Report, this system was changed so that such accounting was done at the Region and Forest levels. This was a relief to many District Rangers, who were not accountants by training, vocation, or preference. [25]

Another reform suggested by the Deckerd Report was centralization of all voucher examination activity at the Regional Office. Voucher examination and certification is a high volume operation best performed at the Regional Office. [26]

Personnel Management

The high level of esprit de corps of Region 9 was testimony to a sound personnel management philosophy provided by Harry Halvorson and other dedicated people. Considerable attention was given to training of personnel. There was one problem in the first assignment of college-trained specialists. Often, such persons were assigned to a specialist position at the District level for two or three years. They rarely worked in other capacities to find their niche. The Deckerd Report suggested a mandatory program of planned experience for new professionals in forestry, engineering, administration, and possibly some of the other professions. The Chief agreed and ordered such a program to be inaugurated as financially feasible. [27]

Workload Analysis and Manpower Control

The Region's workload analysis system was a technique for measuring the financing and staff necessary to carry out function of each field organization. Periodically, the volume of business for each item of work was determined for each organization. The end product was the total man-hours required to carry out each job. This was translated into the dollar requirement to be put into the budget. After funds were appropriated, they were distributed from the Region to the Forests and Districts, using the work plans as a basis with some adjustments for local conditions. Over the years the system became overly complex. In the 1960's the Forest Service began a process of simplification. This too was a relief to District Rangers, who had as many as 200 work projects to analyze each year. [28]


By the 1960's the Region was expanding the use of contracting for services to accomplish work on National Forest lands. The reason was that in many instances contracting was more economical than using Forest Service personnel and equipment. Timber stand improvements under contract might cost $20 to $25 per acre as compared to $30 to $35 per acre if done by force account.

One disadvantage of contracting would be the lack of depth of trained and qualified personnel to fight forest fires and to provide administrative skills on units where few Forest Service regulars exist. When temporary employees were hired, they were usually supervised by permanent employees. There was an advantage to this system when emergencies arose, for instance a forest fire. The work crew was already organized and could be quickly dispatched to the fire. When a fire starts on a National Forest, there is not enough time to draw up contracts with fire fighters.

The Region tried to remain pragmatic on the matter of contracting, using contracts for seasonal work or highly technical tasks. In this way, the permanent and many temporary employees were available for the more regular jobs. [29]

The Future of the Eastern Forests

The Conservation Foundation

In 1974 the Conservation Foundation, a private non-profit research and communication organization which focuses its work on conservation and the National Parks and Forests, undertook a broad examination of the eastern Forests. Deputy Regional Forester John A. Sander served as liaison in this significant effort. Their report, titled The Lands Nobody Wanted, concluded that the historic role of the eastern National Forests must continue. They must remain working National Forests, continuing to produce in terms of recreation, timber, and minerals. However, said the report, "We must not permit their degeneration into low-grade, disturbed environments lacking in distinction." [30]

The report spoke highly of the accomplishments of the Forest Service in reestablishing the eastern National Forest System, which it described as land "that only recently nobody wanted." Terming this "one of the great conservation achievements of American history" made even more remarkable because it was achieved by a federal agency at a time when there was widespread debate about the efficacy of the federal government. To preserve and protect that achievement, the report recommended that the future management of the National Forests for a long time be based on two principles: one, provide public benefits that cannot be supplied by private lands because they are not available or because an economic incentive is absent; two, restore the forests as natural environments distinct from man-made environments otherwise dominant in the East. To make the two principles compatible, the report recommended that the Forests and their products should be used only to the extent that the continuing process of restoration was not interrupted.

The report recommended several management prescriptions: first, that the eastern National Forests be used only to augment the national production of hardwoods and that private forests in the East become the main source; second, that since the market for softwood products was growing, a greater portion of these woods should also be grown on private lands; and third, that the National Forests should concentrate on producing sawlogs from superior hardwood and softwood species with long growing cycles.

There were practical and long-range considerations in the recommendations of the Conservation Foundation. The emphasis on the long growing cycles for the Forest Service was reasonable because the Service could afford to wait out such cycles while private forest owners could not. Also, such a policy would ensure future generations of hardwoods for furniture and veneer. The report considered the hardwood National Forests of the East a "national treasure" which the federal government alone could protect and preserve.

For recreation, the Conservation Foundation recommended that the eastern National Forests specialize in those dispersed, low intensity types of activities which required large areas of relatively natural terrain. High intensity uses or those likely to be commercially profitable should be left to private lands. Public lands should provide the wild rivers, the rugged mountains, and the wildlife habitats, while private lands should offer developed facilities at a fair price.

Principally to "demonstrate to decision-makers the intensity of the demand for high quality recreation," the report advocated modest user fees be collected on recreation sites. To encourage private landowners to manage their forests profitably for recreation and timber, the report suggested certain financial incentives. This, it was hoped, would reduce the demands on the National Forests.

In keeping with their principle of restoring the National Forest as natural environment, the Foundation recommended what might be considered temporary wilderness. These would be relatively remote areas where timber could be managed much like wilderness on very long rotations and cut at the end of the cycle. In the case of hardwoods, it could be more than a century during which there would be no cutting. Such areas would be established in addition to and not as a substitute for truly designated wilderness. Nevertheless, they would satisfy many of the needs of people who desire scenic or wilderness experiences and who would accept something less than true wilderness. [31]

Reaction Within Region 9

Naturally, there was a mixed reaction from the Forest Service and throughout the Eastern Region to the Conservation Foundation's far reaching recommendations. Many of the ideas were well received, while others seemed hopelessly visionary. Regional Forester Jay H. Cravens reacted to the recommendations in relatively conservative but nonetheless positive terms. He moved to improve the quality of National Forest management and multiple use coordination in order that the needs of more diverse publics might be met. Cravens coined a phrase for the kind of management he wanted to emphasize—"sophisticated under-development." The idea was to show the new environmental sensitivity of the Forest Service and, to use Cravens' words, "to design and lay our roads gently on the land consistent with resource and aesthetic needs." [32] Regional Engineer Floyd Curfman helped implement this philosophy in road designs and construction.

In line with Cravens' new management initiatives, the Region played an important role in developing a multiple use plan for the Monongahela National Forest which would answer many of the protests about clearcutting there. Then in conjunction with Region 8, the Eastern Region developed a land use planning process for all of the National Forests of Appalachia. The two Regions did pioneer work in land use planning on the Appalachian National Forests project, and the basic principles two Regional staffs developed were incorporated into the Resources Planning Act and the National Forest Management Act. [33]

Changes Experienced at the Forest Level

Implementing the new directions meant profound changes in National Forest planning. In the past, management plans had emphasized timber production. For instance, using aerial photos to survey the entire forest in 1938, foresters made the first real comprehensive timber management plans for the Nicolet National Forest. A much improved second plan was devised for the years 1953-63 which gave consideration to timber types, size classes, growth, planting needs, recreation possibilities, resident population, forest protection, land surveys and forest industries. A third management plan was developed to cover 1964-75. Added to the previous considerations were road and waterfront zones, wild and scenic areas, and necessary wildlife openings. [34]

The emphasis on timber in planning affected budgets. Prior to the 1970's, 50% of the Green Mountain National Forest budget went toward timber management. But in the 1970's attention began to shift; the timber program received only about 31% of the budget. Recreation and wilderness, wildlife habitats, and acquisitions have assumed larger roles of the Green Mountain picture. [35]

Steve Harper, current Supervisor of the Green Mountain National Forest, recently made the following comments on the present day diversity of National Forest management:

"Each year we get a budget and certain basic targets that come down to us ultimately from Congress, through the Chief's Office and the Regional Office. Our budget is in twenty different pots and we have to maintain the integrity between those. We get a certain amount of money for timber management and a certain amount for wildlife and for recreation management. We have to maintain integrity between those and we're expected to do so many things—so many acres of wildlife improvement habitat and keep our campgrounds open for a period of time . . ." [36]

Resource Protection

The Biggest Threat—Fire

When Region 9 acquired its southern forests in the 1930's, it inherited what was for the Region a new kind of forest fire problem. The Region, by nature opposed to forest fires of any kind, now had to try to stop the practice of setting fires in the southern forests. It was a monumental project. Local wisdom, perpetuated by generations of practice, told the people of Appalachia, southern Indiana, and the Illinois and Missouri Ozarks that burning was the thing to do every year or so. They were accustomed to days and even weeks in the burning season when a pall of smoke hung over their whole region.

The job of the Rangers and others of the Forest Service was to convince the local people that what they had always done was wrong. It was made more difficult because they were themselves usually not local people but outsiders who were viewed with suspicion.

In the 1930's the Rangers could not control all of the fires; "We just went out and talked a lot," says a former Ranger. [37] They made talks and did slide shows on fire prevention in school houses and churches, sometimes three or four times a week. In areas where there was little other entertainment, the foresters' traveling show often drew good crowds. There were even those residents who came to believe that fire prevention "wasn't so bad." But, there was more to the job than that. During the fire season, Forest Service employees often spent their entire days fighting fires. "We'd go out in the morning, look for a fire and work on it; next day if it hadn't rained, we'd go out again." [38]

In reality, the fire prevention program made little progress in the 1930's. Even when there were hundreds of CCC men to fight the fires, the burning continued. There are even stories of local boys setting fires on Fridays and Saturdays so they would not have to compete with the CCC boys for the local girls on the weekends. [39] But the fire situation improved greatly during World War II when many young men, the ones who set fires, were away in the Armed Forces and other local people moved to the cities to work in War industries. After the War, many of these people did not return to the rural areas. Also, improved roads, especially in the Missouri Ozarks, made it easier to prevent fires from spreading. [40]

One of the leading figures in forest fire prevention and suppression in Region 9 was Bill Emerson. In a career that spanned 35 years in the Forest Service (with four years out for Army service in World War II) Emerson had many assignments of which one was supervisor of fire control on the Superior National Forest. After that he had the tag of "fire fighter" hung on him. The Superior National Forest was a good place to learn about fires. It is the largest National Forest in the Eastern Region, and it had few roads for fire fighting equipment to use. When Emerson first came to the Forest, there were as many as 50 manned fire towers. Some of the towermen (or women) had to be flown in to their stations and often had to walk miles carrying their supplies after the plane landed them on a lake. When it rained and there was no danger of fire, the towermen could not be relieved, so they sat for days with little to do and nothing to look at but soggy wilderness.

In the 1930's spotter aircraft were introduced on the Superior, and the need for so many fire towers declined. Today, there are no manned towers left. When weather conditions indicate the fire danger, the Forest sends out two flights of spotter planes per day across the Forest. [41]

During several tours of duty on the Superior in the postwar period, Emerson made many contributions to improve fire fighting. The patrol flights had to be carefully planned and coordinated to insure that the huge Forest was adequately covered. [42] If a fire was spotted, the task of getting fire fighters to it was greatly complicated by the dense forest cover and lack of roads. Over the years techniques were developed to deliver teams of fire fighters with their equipment to the scene of the fire by airplane which landed on the nearest lake. [43] Emerson was instrumental in introducing the fire fighting technique of using aircraft equipped with water scoops. The crafts are able to swoop down over the surface of a lake and scoop up hundreds of gallons of water. Then they fly to the fire and dump the water on it. In all of Emerson's assignments after his experience on the Superior, he worked with fire. He ended up in the Regional Office as Branch Chief of Fire Control under Assistant Regional Forester Bunky Parker. [44]

Fire Prevention and Suppression Since 1965

Forest Fires in the Eastern Region

Since Forest Service and State and Private fire prevention programs have been established in the Eastern Region, there have been no holocausts and fires involving thousands of acres are no longer frequent. However, when private property, amenities, and improvements are mixed in with National Forest lands as they are in the Eastern Region, a fire of several hundred acres can be costly.


Under the federal system of the United States, the states have responsibility for fire protection in rural areas. When there is a mixture of state, private, and federal lands within the boundaries of a National Forest, fire protection responsibilities become complex. Naturally, the Forest Service has a primary interest in fire protection on National Forest land, referred to as "greenlands" because federal land is indicated on Forest Service maps with the color green. Both state and private land on maps are shown in white. "Whitelands" would normally come under state or local jurisdiction for fire protection. Because of the problems of divided, responsibilities and the need for improved fire protection on state and private forest lands, the Forest Service's office of State and Private Forestry has carried on programs for decades to assist the states and local fire departments in forest fire prevention and suppression.

For control of fire within the boundaries of National Forests, various arrangements have been made. Sometimes the Forest Service provides the protection for "whitelands" as well as "greenlands." In turn, where state facilities are available, both types of lands are protected by state fire fighting organizations. Balancing the fire protection work load in this manner provides the most efficient and effective use of the available fire fighting resources. Until recently, the State of Illinois paid the Forest Service to protect its lands in or near the Shawnee National Forest. However, the funds have been reduced and the Forest Service no longer protects State of Illinois lands.

Nearly all Ranger Districts throughout the Eastern Region have their own fire fighting equipment and personnel. One exception is the Medford District of the Chequamegon National Forest which, even with large blocks of "greenland," has surrendered all fire fighting responsibility to state agencies. An equivalent amount of "whiteland" is protected by other Districts of the Chequamegon to balance State of Wisconsin and National Forest fire protection responsibilities.

Cooperation with Rural Fire Protection Districts

There is one other way that fire protection can be provided to National Forest lands. The Clarke-McNary Act of 1924 provided for a cooperative program with rural fire protection districts, many of them small town and township fire departments located near enough to National Forests to provide fire protection on call. Under cooperative agreements the Forest Service agrees to reimburse these fire protection units for their response to fire calls to protect National Forest land. The agreements also provide for the Forest Service to assist the states in protecting state and private lands in a similar manner. The Rural Community Fire Protection Program, Title IV of the Rural Development Act of 1972, authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to provide financial, technical, and other assistance to state foresters to organize, train, and equip fire departments in local areas to prevent and suppress fires. Surplus property from many federal agencies was made available. [45]

The Shawnee National Forest announced in March of 1987 that responsibility for frontline fire fighting within the boundaries of the Shawnee in three counties would be assumed by six local fire departments under a contractual agreement with the Forest Service. Such protection had formerly been provided by the Shawnee National Forest. According to the Forest Assistant Fire Management Officer Dennis Gillen, "It's been the gradual strengthening of the rural fire protection districts that allowed us to make this switch." In areas where the local fire departments were not deemed ready to assume the responsibilities, the switch was not being made. The change was necessitated by budget cuts imposed by the Gramm-Rudman Deficit Reduction Act and the lack of State of Illinois funds to pay the Forest Service for protection of state of private lands. By shifting responsibility to local departments, the Shawnee National Forest would be able to reduce its fire protection forces and expenditures.

Under the new local system, forest fires, whether on private, state, or National Forest land, are to be reported to the local fire departments, who will handle the fires initially and, if necessary, call for back-up from the Shawnee National Forest if the fires are on National Forest land. [46]

Typically, the fire departments involved in the contract program throughout the Region are small town or rural volunteer departments supported by taxes from town or township government. Most states also allow the formation of local fire districts in rural areas where no other fire service is available. The fire departments of small towns, townships, and rural fire districts are likely to be under-financed and have aging and sporadically maintained equipment. They are usually staffed by volunteer firefighters who are rarely trained in forest fire fighting. On the other hand, the volunteers are usually willing and dedicated fire fighters who volunteer because they want to serve their communities and protect their and their neighbors' homes. [47]

Aerial Detection

Another cost-cutting measure in fire prevention has been the replacement of fire lookout towers by aerial detection throughout Region 9. Fire experts have learned to recognize when and where there is high risk and that is when flights are ordered. For instance, flights are ordered after a thunderstorm which has severe lightning. On some National Forests, the aerial detection is done by state aircraft.

The National Interagency Incident Management System

Since about 1982, a new concept in fire fighting has developed. The National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS) was developed to manage natural disasters including forest fires. NIIMS allows local, state, and federal agencies to develop cooperative agreements and identify the resources, skills, and equipment they have available. When an incident occurs in any of the indicated jurisdictions, the NIIMS system activates to make efficient use of available resources with common communications between all agencies involved.

If the Forest Service has a "bust", loses control of a fire and needs the help of a large organization, it feels comfortable under the NIIMS System in calling on local sheriffs for traffic control, on Civil Defense for equipment and evacuation of people, and on the state for fire fighting forces. Some agencies may have aircraft that can be used. All the agencies can work together secure in the knowledge that a joint effort is being made and that it is being coordinated.

NIIMS has not eliminated the fire compacts among states which began in the 1950's. The Middle Atlantic Compact, the Northeast Compact, and a new Lake States Compact still exist as organizations dedicated to organizing joint efforts to prevent and fight forest fires. State and Private Forestry works with these programs.

Major Fires

In recent years Region 9 has had several major fires. In 1986 there was the Spring Lake Fire on the Nicolet National Forest. The fire was the result of a prescribed burn by the Forest Service. The burn was executed and declared to be out, but the next day an unpredicted 85 m.p.h. wind swept through the area, probably a jet stream touchdown. The high wind rekindled the fire and spread it, creating a fire that eventually burned nearly 1,200 acres. Power lines blew down causing a multitude of new fires not only on National Forest land, but also on State of Wisconsin lands. The combined fire fighting force of several hundred from other states and other National Forests fought the fires several days before getting them under control.

The Mack Lake Fire

The Mack Lake Fire of May 5-9, 1980 according to Fred Lintelmann, Regional Fire Prevention and Training Officer, has been used as an example in many different training sessions. Lintelmann considers the fire one that "identified some problems in our preparedness." According to Jack Godden the lack of experienced leadership and understanding of fire danger and potential for extreme fire behavior were serious problems. The fire took place on the Huron National Forest. Like the Spring Lake Fire, the Mack Lake Fire originated with a prescribed burn. In this case, the fire escaped and burned out of control in jack pine, which can be a very volatile fuel. The trees characteristically have many low branches and contain resin which creates a fire problem when they become very dry. Jack pine leaves much pine litter on the forest floor and when fire catches there it can spread quickly up dead branches into the crowns and then really takes off. While the prescribed burn was taking place, an unexpected high wind blew the fire into the jack pine and out of control. The District team was not prepared for what happened. The fire burned a large area, including lakeside homes on Mack Lake. One person died in the fire. Because the fire stemmed from the prescribed burn, there have been numerous lawsuits and claims for damages against the Forest Service. [48]

Why Prescribed Burns?

When prescribed burns lead to major fires like the Spring Lake and Mack Lake Fires, the natural question is why is the Forest Service setting fires? In 1978, the Eastern Region published a brochure titled "Life by Fire" which explained its position on prescribed burning. The brochure explained that fire has always been a factor in the natural forest. Most of the common trees, shrubs, and herbs have developed through the centuries of natural evolution the ability to reproduce following fire. The jack pine, for example, has cones that will open and release seed only under intense heat.

Today's forest managers, according to the brochure, recognize the importance of fire in the forest life cycle. In the eastern National Forests, there are seven basic reasons to plan for fire: fuel reduction, prepare sites for tree planting, insect and disease control, timber species control, wildlife habitat improvement, rangeland management, and maintenance of natural conditions.

Even if all possible precautions are taken, a prescribed burn is a calculated risk. Not everything can be predicted, and even things that are predicted can go wrong. The process has become much more sophisticated in recent years, and the experts continue to work on improving it, but it will probably never be perfect. Today's calculations and plans are based on computerized data collected over years. This is a far cry from the old days when a forester would check the dryness of the fuel, listen to the weathercast on the local radio station, and say, "Hey, I think we can have a burn today." [49] The "Life by Fire" brochure was designed to convince the public that the Forest Service was capable of managing fire for the benefit of the National Forests. It was also a declaration that fire was now a part of the management process. Regional Forester Steve Yurich stated that the Region had always been proud of keeping fire generally out of its 14 National Forests, but in recent years foresters had begun to notice "unnatural changes in the environment." Many areas were covered with older trees which had quit growing, suffered from disease and were no longer able to reproduce. In its compulsion to prevent fire, the Forest Service had robbed the forest of the natural forces that give it life. But now the Region had altered its thinking. Said Yurich, "We are seeking to work with nature, through fire, to give life to future forests and the many gifts they give to us."

Fire in the Wilderness

Since the establishment of many wilderness areas in the National Forests of the Eastern Region, a controversial issue has become the question of what is to be done about fire in these areas. When there is a wildfire, is it to be fought? And can prescribed burns be used in wilderness areas? To illustrate the intriguing aspects of these questions, one has only to look at the Hercules Glades in the Mark Twain National Forest. The Glades are a picturesque mixture of hardwood ridges and prairie valleys. They were created by extensive fires which occurred over the centuries, not only natural fires but fires set by prehistoric Indians and by early settlers.

The Hercules Glades are located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, near Ava, Missouri, and have been designated as a National Wilderness. The Glades themselves are prairies, covered with native grasses and are very good for grazing. However, as fire has been kept out by Forest Service protection, pioneer species of native trees and shrubs have come in, particularly cedar. The Glades are losing their ecological character and becoming something else. Eventually they will become forests if the situation continues.

Many people, including some wilderness proponents, in Missouri want to use prescribed burns in the Hercules Glades to return them to the conditions for which they were made wilderness. On the other hand, as a matter of principle, wilderness proponents such as the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and other activist organizations, oppose prescribed burns in any wilderness. Lightning caused fires are uncommon in the area, so for years the Forest Service maintained the ecological system of the Hercules Glades by prescribed fire. Now that the area has been declared a Wilderness some proponents of wilderness oppose any use of fire, other than naturally caused, even though the ecosystem is fire dependent.

If there is a natural fire in any wilderness area, the present policy is to allow it to burn within pre-set criteria only if it has an approved plan, as long as it does not exceed these limits or does not threaten to destroy other values in the area. The Forest Service has the authority to contain fires in wilderness areas, but they do not necessarily put them out immediately. It is not a "let it burn" policy so much as it is a wilderness management policy which lets nature take its course. [50]

Administrative & Forest Fire Information Retrieval Management System

Outside nearly every Forest Service Ranger Station is a Smokey Bear sign which reports the degree of forest fire hazard that day. This information comes from the Administrative and Forest Fire Information Retrieval Management System (AFFIRMS). This is a computer network which collects, stores, and compiles data on weather and fuel conditions, and together with the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) produces indices which provide guidance in planning what fire fighting resources will be needed that day. The information may be released to the public news media and posted on the Smokey Bear signs, but it is used primarily by Forest Service in being prepared for fires.

Will Smokey Put You in Jail?

For many years Smokey Bear has had the image of a friendly guardian of the forests, but in recent years the fire prevention campaigns of the Forest Service have taken a different tack. Television spots produced by the Washington Office and the National Advertising Council and broadcast by stations in National Forest areas are taking a hard-line approach. One ad depicts a average middle-aged family man being booked and locked in jail for unintentionally starting a forest fire. The ad depicts Smokey in a way that changes his image. Many people believe that the traditional approach of Smokey Bear is much better. After all Smokey is not a bad guy. He is there to be your friend and help you prevent forest fires. You are a bad guy if you start a forest fire, but Smokey is not going to punish you for it.

However, Forest Service fire prevention officials now have a different idea. The point they wanted to make with the new approach was that even a person who inadvertently starts a forest fire, has committed a crime. The ad wakes people up and that is what it was designed to do. It won a national award for effectiveness.

Another ad featuring Smokey Bear is on tapes which are distributed to radio and television stations by the Regional Office under a cooperative program between the Forest Service, the Ad Council, and the state conservation departments. The tapes present a different, more potent image of Smokey Bear and contains the following lyrics to a song:

I'd gladly pay the fine,
but I didn't count on doin' no time,
That's until Smokey slammed the door
and threw away the keys!

Studies have shown that the bear with the ranger hat is recognized by 95% of people in the country and an even higher percentage of children. "Only you can prevent forest fires" is generally recognized as the most popular saying in advertising history. One can point a finger at almost any American child and say the first two words and the child will supply the last four. The Smokey Bear image can be quite effective in convincing people that they could get in trouble if they are not careful with fire in the forest. [51]

Interregional Fire Fighting Coordination

Coordination at the Regional Level

Each National Forest is prepared to fight its own fires, but occasionally fires spread so fast that outside help is needed. When such help is needed, the call goes to the Interagency Fire Coordinating Center in Milwaukee. It is headed by Len Mason. The Center maintains a current inventory of the agencies or jurisdictions in the Northeast Area that are able to supply fire fighters. It also coordinates the efficient mobilization of fire fighting resources. When requests for assistance come from other Regions, the Center follows much the same procedures.

Assistance to Other Regions

Participation by the Eastern Region in fire fighting in other Regions began in 1960 when selected overhead personnel were sent to five fires in Region 1. The first use of Region 9 fire fighting crews in another Region was in 1970 when 690 fire fighters were sent to fires in Region 6. State crews joined National Forest crews for the first time in 1973 when both were dispatched to fires in Regions 1, 4, 5 and 6.

The help to other Regions was returned in 1976 when the Walsh Ditch (Seney) Fire on the Hiawatha National Forest required 28 crews from other Regions as well as 91 overhead personnel and specialists. Almost as much support came from other National Forests within the Eastern Region.

Since 1979 there has been an exchange every year of fire fighting crews, overhead and specialists with other Regions. The magnitude of the effort depends on the severity of the fires. In 1985 and 1987 came the largest mobilization and dispatch of eastern resources, including Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and state crews. [52]

The 1985 Fire Mobilization

In the summer of 1985, forest fires in the southeast and West created what was to that date "the worst fire situation in Forest Service history for those areas." Hot and dry conditions in the southeast caused by an extended drought and summer temperatures in excess of 100 degrees made forests potential tinder boxes and made fire fighting conditions almost unbearable.

Region 9 involvement began in early April. Regional Fire Coordinator Len Mason was awakened at his home in Milwaukee by a call from the National Interagency Fire Coordination Center (NIFCC) in Boise, Idaho. A serious fire known as the School House Ridge Fire was burning on National Forest land in North Carolina in Region 8. Mason immediately dispatched five crews, 100 men and women, to the fire. Other assistance followed during what came to be known as "the twelve days in April" when wildfires swept across lands in North Carolina and South Carolina, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of timber, claiming lives, and leaving many homeless. In May more fires broke out in Florida and more crews were sent. In early July a plane loaded with fire fighting crews and their equipment departed from Rhinelander, Wisconsin to fight the Wheeler Fire in Los Padres National Forest in California. Bill Menke, District Ranger at Cass Lake on the Chippewa National Forest was Regional Liaison Officer in charge of the five crews that went to the Wheeler Fire.

The work was difficult, dangerous, and dirty, but according to Menke, the crews were eager to defeat the fire. "Once you've been to some fires, you get fire fighting in your blood and you don't like to be left behind," he said. Barb Soderberg, Recreation Technician of the Superior National Forest, was so excited when she stepped from the plane returning from fire fighting that she said, "You just give me two days to do my laundry and I'll be ready to go again!" After a second tour of fire fighting, Soderberg was no longer concerned about laundry; she simply "threw the clothes away." [53]

Local Appreciation

The fire fighters received frequent signs of how much their efforts were appreciated by local people. One California lady baked the fire fighters a pie with apples from a tree they had saved. The people of Ojai, California, whose town was threatened by the Wheeler Fire, put banners all over town welcoming the fire fighters and thanking them. Home owners offered off-duty fire fighters the use of their swimming pools. People brought home baked pies and other goodies to the fire camps. When the weary fire fighters returned to their homes, citizens often gathered at airports and bus stations to welcome them home. [54]

Fire Fighting at the Regional Level

Modern Forest Fire Fighting Techniques

According to Jack Godden, Regional Office Director of Aviation and Fire Management, there are two steps in extinguishing a forest fire. First is to establish a fire line by digging a trench deep enough to reach bare earth around the perimeter of the fire. The second step of fire fighting, according to Godden, is the "mop-up." During this operation, a fire is made safe after it is brought under control. This is done by removing burning material along or near the control line, felling snags, trenching logs to prevent rolling, and eventually putting the fire "dead out."

The worst time of day for fire fighting is from 10a.m. to 6p.m. During those hours, ambient temperatures are highest and fires burn hotter. Winds also tend to be stronger during these hours. Often, the most effective time to fight a fire is at night, although night fire fighting is not as safe for the fire fighters.


Naturally, the prime consideration in forest fire fighting is safety. Not only is there the threat of the fire, but fire fighters can be injured because of poor footing, rough terrain, rolling rocks, and poisonous plants and snakes. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are also severe threats.

Today's fire fighters wear hard hats, leather gloves, boots, goggles, fire resistant pants and shirts, and carry their own fire shelters. They are organized, trained, equipped and dispatched as crews under qualified overhead (supervisory and coordinating teams), and all crews operate on the fire line in communication by radio.

Qualifying to be a Fire Fighter

Fire fighting requires physical strength and endurance. To qualify, personnel must pass a physical fitness test. The test requires each potential trainee to step up and down at a regulated pace for five minutes. The person's pulse is then taken to determine the heart rate. This is applied to a formula which takes into account weight and age and indicates relative physical fitness. The minimum score for fire fighting is 45 points, which would theoretically qualify the person for strenuous and extended work on the fire line.

Once physically qualified, the fire fighters are given 32 hours of instruction and practical training. When that is successfully completed, the trainees get a "red card" which identifies them as qualified fire fighters. Fire bosses will not admit an individual to the fire line without a "red card."

In recent years, more and more women have become fire fighters. The requirements are the same for men and women, and although there may have been doubts about the first women's physical strength and endurance, these have largely been dispelled and women fight fires on line side by side with men. [55]

The End of the Towermen

Fire towers began to be phased out in the late 1960's and were removed. Their place was taken by airplane observers. This system worked better at less cost. Blind spots between towers were eliminated, and ground crews were not necessary to check every little brush fire. Air surveillance proved to be less expensive, faster, and capable of better control in an actual fire. Also, to prevent forest fires, a rolling chopper purchased on the Hiawatha National Forest was used to reduce the large accumulation of pine slash into small pieces that are ground into the soil. "The 1950's and 1960's were the days of the fire towers, the 1970's were years of air detection and decreased costs." A safe prediction is that the 1980's will see a trend toward citizen detection because so many more homes are being built within National Forest boundaries. [56]

New Thinking in Forest Fire Management

Recent thinking in the Forest Service, influenced by economic analysis has come to question whether every forest fire on National Forest land should be put out as quickly as possible. In some cases it might be more cost efficient to let a few more acres burn than to expend a great amount of effort and money to save them. Obviously, this is a procedure which must be applied in specific instances and only after carefully evaluating the situation. When lives and private property are threatened, such a policy could not be considered. However, pressures to move toward such policies are mounting because of rising costs of fighting fires. Another factor is increased difficulty in finding competent fire wardens. In the past, the Forest Service has been able to engage local people, living on or near the National Forests, to serve as fire wardens for modest pay. The use of such fire wardens provided quicker reaction to fires and made it possible to put them out before they become large and unmanageable. However, this system died out in the 1960's. In 1971 physical fitness standards all but eliminated the warden system, relegating them to fire prevention tasks. The kind of person who will make a good fire warden is becoming increasingly difficult to find. [57]

Development of Facilities


There were few roads into the forests in the early days. Sometimes a narrow gauge railroad went into old logging areas. The first roads built were called "fire lanes" because they provided access to the fire towers and served as firebreaks. As the timber grew to harvestable size, the road system was expanded, and Congress appropriated money expressly for construction of forest roads and trails. Later Congress provided a means by which the purchaser of the timber paid for the road. The builder recovered the cost by paying less stumpage for the harvested timber. Because the size of logging trucks has increased in recent years, larger roads and sturdier bridges are necessary in some National Forests. Maintenance of many roads that are part of larger systems are a cooperative effort between the Forest Service and the counties and local towns. Trails are cooperatively groomed by the District staff and snowmobile, hiking, or skiing clubs. [58]

In the early days on the Monongahela National Forest very little money was appropriated for road construction and maintenance ($1,126 in 1921 and $2,340 in 1923). In the days before tractors, grade was broken by a horse-drawn plow. Bulldozers were used in the early 1930's. [59]

In the postwar years many miles of timber access roads were built. The location and construction of which was left largely to the discretion of the timber operators. Their interest in the roads ceased with the completion of logging operations on the sale area. Many of these roads became impassable for future use.


In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson requested the establishment of hiking and horseback riding trails in various parts of the country, including the Lake States. In November of 1965 the Contact newsletter reported a meeting of Forest Service people from the Chequamegon, Chippewa, Ottawa, and the Superior National Forests with representatives from the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation and the Michigan Conservation Department to discuss the proposed extension of the Gitchagumi Horseback Riding Trail from Minnesota through upper Michigan. The trail had been renamed the North Country National Scenic Trail and would eventually extend from New York to Montana. The Hiawatha National Forest was assigned to be coordinator for all preliminary planning for that part of the trail which would traverse the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. [60]

The Long Trail, a hiking trail, runs from Canada to Massachusetts. The Green Mountain National Forest staff shares maintenance of the trails running through Vermont with the Green Mountain Club, which works strictly with volunteers. There are shelters every five miles or so. The Forest Service does the heavy maintenance on shelters, leaving the light maintenance for the volunteers. The shelters are lean-tos with a floor and three sides; each looks out over a view and has a fireplace. The shelters can accommodate about eight people in sleeping bags, an alternative to tenting. [61]

There are 462 miles of forest trails including the Long Trail on the Green Mountain National Forest and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail on the Green Mountain, White Mountain, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The Chippewa National Forest supports more than 200 miles of trails and 30 campgrounds.

In the summer of 1986 Hiawatha National Forest entered into a voluntary "Adopt-a-Trail" agreement with a horse-riding club, the U.P. Distance Riders, to maintain the Bay de Noc Grand Island National Recreation Trail. The Forest Service provided the club with tools, materials and incidental expenses while the club provided the labor for clearing and repairing the trails. [62]

The Ottawa National Forest has an extensive trail network. As of 1981 it had 106 miles of hiking trails, 215 miles of snowmobile trails, 25 miles of cross-country ski trail and 68 miles of canoe trails. Some 45 miles of the hiking trail are part of the North Country National Scenic Trail. [63]

Under an agreement between the Sierra Club and the Monongahela National Forest, volunteers have worked thousands of hours on hundreds of miles of trails. In 1986, for the second straight year, 12 volunteers of the American Hiking Society spent two weeks extending the North Country Trail through the steep and wooded country of the Manistee District. Some 164 miles of the 3,200 trail are on the Manistee National Forest. [64]

Ski Development

Large scale skiing on the White Mountain National Forest has been going on so long that it is difficult even for retirees, to remember when it did not exist. Development of the Wildcat Ski area was started in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Ski areas were established early at Waterville Valley and Cannon Mountain. Expansion took place at Mittersill, then Waterville Valley and Loon Mountain. Ken Sutherland recalls attending a winter sports Forest Service workshop in Montana in 1966. It was held because of the increase in the need for ski developments out West: "They were talking about this big wave of recreationists that was going to come along, thousands of people descending on them someday soon, and it took me three days to figure out what was going on." The anomaly was that while Sutherland, as a recreation expert on the White Mountain, had been "born and brought up with the people in recreation," the National Forests out West had never experienced heavy recreation pressures before. What surprised Sutherland was that the conference—was talking about "throwing out a net" to get more skiers and other recreationists. Back on the White Mountain National Forest they were already being forced to place restrictions on such uses. [65]

Human Resources Programs

All of the Forest Service employment programs such as the Job Corps which are exempt from federal personnel regulations and are designed for special segments of the population are called Human Resource Programs (HRP). This, it would seem, is to distinguish such efforts from natural resource programs.

Within the Regional Office the HRP staff manages the various programs. The purposes of which have been, as the staff puts it, "to accomplish natural resource work while relieving the effects of unemployment on individuals and society." [66]

In terms of funding of the Human Resources Programs since 1977, the trends have been for the Job Corps to grow slightly and for the Senior Community Service Employment Program to grow more rapidly. The Youth Conservation Corps and the YACC were funded at relatively high levels during the President Jimmy Carter years. But the Reagan Administration virtually terminated both programs by cutting off funds. [67]

All of the benefits of the HRP programs have not been to the target groups. The Region and each National Forest have gained from the programs, not only in the considerable resource work done by the programs but in the flexibility they have forced on the Region. Massive employment and training programs have had to be set up in amazingly short times. Gearing up for such programs has included providing living facilities and recruiting staff and enrollees. The flexibility of the Forest Service staffs at the Regional and Forest levels has been tested, not only when the programs were set up but when they were reduced. [68]

Volunteers and Seniors Programs

After commenting on the recent budget cuts in trail maintenance and recreation development, Supervisor Steve Harper of the Green Mountain National Forest exclaimed, "Thank God for volunteers." Virtually every one of the Green Mountain's campgrounds has a volunteer host, usually a retired person who goes up to stay at the campground during the summer and help out doing minor maintenance and greeting visitors. The local Audubon Chapter usually does some sort of wildlife work. The Districts coordinate the volunteer activities. The Forest Service has just started to work with cross-country ski groups wanting to establish trails and build shelters. [69]

There are, however, inherent problems with the use of volunteers. Camper groups which have taken responsibility as volunteers for certain National Forest areas may become extremely proprietary. According to Billie Hoornbeek, Historian/Archaeologist of the White Mountain National Forest, the Forest Service has to be careful that the volunteers "don't get so entrenched that they are the tail wagging the dog. We're not supposed to cater to special interest groups, but be there for all." [70] On the Chippewa National Forest, the Human Resources Programs include: Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), Youth Conservation Corps, Concentrated Employment Program, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, Minnesota Emergency Employment Development Program, and volunteers.

The Huron-Manistee National Forest made use of the SCSEP to do office work, maintain recreation sites, host campgrounds, and other appropriate activities. The YCC assisted with the river permit system, construction of North Country Trail, campground maintenance, wildlife improvements, and erosion control. Volunteers, such as the Michigan Trail Riders Association installed a new pump at McKinley Trail Camp, and high school classes in the Touch American Project picked up trash, inspected and cleaned bluebird boxes, and constructed wood duck boxes which they placed in the field.

Finger Lakes National Forest

During the 1930's the federal government through various programs and agencies acquired lands in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, all states with no National Forests. Most of these tracts of land were administered by the Soil Conservation Service until 1954, when the lands were offered to the states. The State of New York did not want one large tract of about 13,000 acres called the Hector Land Use Area. Located near Ithaca and between Lakes Seneca and Cayuga, the tract was an area of beautiful forests and lakes which would lend itself well to multiple use management. The logical thing to do was turn it over to the Forest Service, and this was done. To the Region 7 Regional Office this was the "land nobody wanted." One consideration was to have the Allegheny National Forest administer it.

The area became the Hector Ranger District of the Green Mountain National Forest and resulted in upgrading the Forest to a GS-13 National Forest. With its Ranger Station located at Montour Falls, New York, the Hector District developed what Green Mountain Supervisor Steve Harper describes as "a real neat program." There are hiking and horse trails, picnic and campgrounds, and fishing. The District has issued permits for about 2,000 cattle to graze in the summer, and it harvests about 400,000 board feet of timber each year. A new emphasis has been placed on environmental education, handled through cooperative programs with Cornell and Syracuse Universities. Both schools are located nearby.

During 1983, the Reagan Administration launched an Assets Management Program under which certain blocks of federal lands would be sold. Local people in New York became incensed when they learned that the Hector District was on the list of assets to be sold. Congressman Frank J. Horton of New York, responding to pressures from his district, rallied the entire New York delegation in Congress, the second largest, to support a measure to create a new National Forest of the Hector District. With that kind of broad based support, the bill passed Congress and the Finger Lakes National Forest was established in 1986.

With District Ranger Hilary Dustin in charge and with three other employees, a forestry technician, a range technician, and a business management assistant, the newest National Forest began to operate. Much of its staff and administrative support is still provided by the Green Mountain National Forest. Even though the operation still resembles a Ranger District, it is legally a National Forest and it continues to expand its already diverse programs. [71]


Since the major reorganization in 1965, the Eastern Region has consolidated the functions of the two former Regions into one truly functional Region. Other recommendations of the Deckerd Report were more gradually implemented. Recommended changes in accounting, personnel and contracting were accomplished in time. Several of the reforms suggested by the report of the Conservation Foundation in The Lands Nobody Wanted were also adopted over a period of years. Some changes in recreation, for instance, had to wait until the 1980's. These will be discussed in the next Chapter, which takes up the "Management of Resources." Many of the issues raised by the report of the Conservation Foundation surfaced in the forest planning process and ultimately in the forest plans of the 1980's. These plans will also be examined in a later Chapter.

Great progress was made in improving the techniques and coordination of fire suppression on a Regional scale. At the same time, the road and trail systems were improved and facilities for skiing developed. The Human Resources Programs continued and were expanded to include volunteers and senior citizens. In 1986, a new National Forest was added to the Region.

Reference Notes

1. Draft Regional Manual, 65-A-0036, Box 22, PRC, RG 95.

2. Joint Management Improvement and Manpower Review Team, "Review of Management Practices and Manpower Utilization in the Forest Service," Draft (July 1965), pp. 1-2. (Hereinafter cited as the Deckerd Report).

3. Ibid., p. 3.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. "Forest Service Implementation Report," Appendix to Deckerd Report, III, p. 9.

7. Deckerd Report, pp. 18-19.

8. Ibid., pp. 57-58.

9. Ibid., p. 55.

10. Ibid., pp. 55-56.

11. Ibid., p. 58.

12. "Implementation Report," III, p. 15.

13. Deckerd Report, pp. 62-63.

14. Ibid., p. 60.

15. Ibid., p. 64.

16. Ibid., pp. 65-66.

17. Ibid., pp. 66-67.

18. "Implementation Report," IV, pp. 16-17.

19. Contact, September 23, 1965.

20. White Mountain National Forest, Interviews.

21. Contact, December 3, 1965.

22. Contact, February 18, 1966.

23. Contact, November 10, 1965.

24. Contact, April 29, 1966.

25. Deckerd Report, pp. 77, 81-82.

26. Ibid., p. 80.

27. Implementation Report, Appendix to Deckerd Report, VI. 26; and Deckerd Report, pp. 82-83.

28. Deckerd Report, p. 86.

29. Ibid., p. 96.

30. William E. Shands and Robert C. Healy, The Lands Nobody Wanted, A Conservation Foundation Report, (Washington: The Conservation Foundation, 1977), pp. xiii-xiv.

31. Ibid., pp. xiii-xv.

32. Jay H. Cravens to David Conrad, February 1987.

33. Ibid.

34. Kennell M. Elliott, "History of the Nicolet National Forest," p. 50.

35. John A. Douglass, "History of the Green Mountain National Forest," p. 116.

36. Steve Harper, Interview, October 1, 1986.

37. Bill Emerson, Interview, August 13, 1985.

38. Ibid.; and Elliot Zimmerman, "The Forest Remembered," Unpublished manuscript.

39. Milwaukee Retirees, Interview, August 13, 1985.

40. Bill Emerson, Interview.

41. David Tucci, Interview, October 1, 1986.

42. Bill Emerson, Interview.

43. Superior National Forest, Interview.

44. Bill Emerson, Interview.

45. Fred Lintelmann, Interview, December 18, 1986.

46. Southern Illinoisan, March 11, 1987, p. 16.

47. Larry Lipe (Volunteer Fireman, Makanda Township Fire Department, Makanda, Illinois), Interview, May 27, 1987.

48. Ibid.

49. Fred Lintelmann, Interview.

50. Ibid.

51. Ibid.

52. USDA Forest Service, "How We Served, From North Carolina to California Eastern Fire Fighters Prove Their Stuff," pamphlet, 1986.

53. Ibid.

54. Ibid.

55. Ibid.

56. Diane Y. Aaron, "A People's Legacy," p. 8.

57. Ken Sutherland, Interview.

58. Supplement to Rhinelander Daily News, July 29, 1983, pp. 42-43, 47.

59. 50 Year History of the Monongahela, pp. 35-36.

60. Contact, November 10, 1965.

61. Steve Harper, Interview.

62. "Adopt-a-Trail," Hiawathaland, July 1986, p. 1.

63. Ottawa National Forest, Annual Report (Ottawa National Forest, 1981).

64. Branching Out, August 1986, p. 4.

65. Ken Sutherland, Interview.

66. CR/HRP Staff, "Historical Perspective."

67. Eastern Region, Human Resource Programs in the Eastern Region, A Progress Report 1980 (Milwaukee, 1980), p. 6.

68 Ibid.

69. Steve Harper, Interview.

70. Billie Hoornbeek, Interview.

71. Steve Harper, Interview.

Smokey Bear Fire Prevention sign, 1960.

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Last Updated: 28-Jan-2008