Forests for the People (Paperback)

The Story of America's Eastern National Forests

By Christopher Johnson, David Govatski

Island Press, 9781610910101, 408pp.

Publication Date: January 25, 2013

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (1/25/2013)

List Price: 40.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Forests for the People tells one of the most extraordinary stories of environmental protection in our nation’s history: how  a diverse coalition of citizens, organizations, and business and political leaders worked to create a system of national forests in the Eastern United States. It offers an insightful and wide-ranging look at the actions leading to the passage of the Weeks Act in 1911—landmark legislation that established a system of well-managed forests in the East, the South, and the Great Lakes region—along with case studies that consider some of the key challenges facing eastern forests today.
The book begins by looking at destructive practices widely used by the timber industry in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including extensive clearcutting followed by forest fire that devastated entire landscapes. The authors explain how this led to the birth of a new conservation movement that began simultaneously in the Southern Appalachians and New England, and describe the subsequent protection of forests in New England (New Hampshire and the White Mountains); the Great Lakes region (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota), and the Southern Appalachians. 
Following this historical background, the authors offer eight case studies that examine critical issues facing the eastern national forests today, including timber harvesting, the use of fire, wilderness protection, endangered wildlife, oil shale drilling, invasive species, and development surrounding national park borders.
Forests for the People is the only book to fully describe the history of the Weeks Act and the creation of the eastern national forests and to use case studies to illustrate current management issues facing these treasured landscapes. It is an important new work for anyone interested in the past or future of forests and forestry in the United States.

About the Author

Christopher Johnson writes on conservation issues and is the author of This Grand and Magnificent Place: The Wilderness Heritage of the White Mountains. David Govatski retired from the U.S. Forest Service after a career as a forester, silviculturist and fire management officer on several national forests.

Praise For Forests for the People: The Story of America's Eastern National Forests

"As in the national forests, there is something for anyone to learn about in Forests for the People."

— Ecology

"The book is well organized and well written in a clear, jargon-free style....With its clear, straightforward style, Forests for the People is a valuable information source for researchers, students, and concerned members of the public."

— Native Plants Journal

"In short, this book provides an academically rigorous yet thoroughly absorbing account of the national forests of the eastern USA, from formation impetuses through to the breadth of present-day management challenges and solutions."

— Beneath the Treeline

"gripping detail... fascinating historic context...Our forests need many heroes. Johnson and Govatski provide the background, issues and motivation for the people to join a historical procession of champions—champions who have always been essential to protecting forests."

— Wisconsin Sierra Club's Green Review

"The book's overall structure, split between historical narrative and case studies, makes it ideal for classroom use ... In documenting the path taken to create and manage the national forests of the eastern United States—a very different path from that of their western counterparts—the book illuminates crucial issues facing America's national forests, East and West"

— Forest History Today

"A nice blend of the history of our national forests and the current issues challenging them."

— Wildlife Activist

"In sum, this book is a valuable resource for those who seek to better understand the evolution of forest policy, for environmentalists interested in developing effective strategies for collaborating with forest managers, and for historians seeking a concise overview of the development of the eastern forests. It is also likely to send readers into their gear closets, inspired to pursue new adventures in formerly unfamiliar parts of the eastern national forests."

— Environmental History

"The book is well organized and well written in a clear, jargon-free style."

— Native Plants Journal

"The first part of the volume provides the most detailed coverage of the establishment of eastern national forests that this reviewer has ever seen......a resource for students of both US forest history and forest policy."


"Overall, the book nicely traces the challenges faced and perseverance required to move the political will of a country towards a major environmental legacy. [Forests for the People] provides hope that, with perseverance and knowledge gained by scientists across the globe, we will move down the path of sustainability so desperately needed."

— Landscape Ecology

"The Weeks Act of 1911 is one of the twentieth century's most significant environmental laws. Few recall its powerful impact on once-cutover eastern forests, though their flourishing condition today is compelling evidence of its significance. Forests for the People probes this remarkable recovery and offers an engaging account of the Weeks Act's complex legacy; it rightly warns that we are not yet out of the woods."

— Char Miller

"Forests for the People both deepened and broadened my understanding of and appreciation for the eastern national forests and the struggle to create and manage them. By providing the first comprehensive history of the Weeks Act and then, through case studies, carefully examining the challenges of implementing the law over the last century, the authors have helped frame the discussion for managing all our national forests in its second century."

— James G. Lewis