In the United States, the forest industry has vast history and legacy. A significant amount of the timber that is managed, sold, logged, milled, and marketed today is done quite literally in the footsteps of our predecessors. While much literature and history has been recorded regarding the forest industry in our country, there are still countless stories to be told particularly at the local, and primarily at the familial level.
As a forestry consulting firm, it is regularly our privilege to discuss the history of family tracts, something that most members of the industry may not get to experience to the same extent. These discussions frequently involve walking a tract with a landowner, and in most cases multiple family members, while they provide us with little known details about the history of their property. A sometimes-overlooked aspect of the woods to mill process, forest history is not just relevant to current management goals or profitability, it tells an often-unheard story about our predecessors’ understanding of the timber resources around them.
To avoid redundancy or repetition of other historical texts, most of us are familiar with the story of science-based forestry in America beginning with Gifford Pinchot, Carl Schenck, and the Vanderbilt family. What about the families that owned acreage of less noteworthy proportions, that may not have been able to be a part of the great American foray into modern forestry? Are their stories any less important? Arguably not, but history cannot possibly capture every detail of a subject. However, there is hope for the unsung portions of the narrative of American forestry. Although we cannot expect to capture all of its growth and development, those of us who live and work in the industry owe it to our predecessors to carry on the legacy.
Talking with landowners, for example, may provide great insight, but loggers, timber buyers, mill staff, and so many others have equally important stories to tell. As we approach the holiday season, think of years past and family gatherings when such events were still the norm. It is completely plausible that almost everyone can recall a story told to them by a loved one, and in some cases, the story may be the only comfort that remains.
Much like growth rings on a tree, we are all a product of our raising so to speak. To be scientifically correct, genetics do play a large role as well. Nonetheless, it is our charge to pass down our knowledge and our history in the forest industry to those around us. It is often difficult to imagine the impact that a small story can have, and many would argue that sometimes it is like talking to a board. But be patient and persistent, growth and understanding take time. Each individual story that is shared is more than a footnote in history, it is a piece of a much larger continually growing narrative. That narrative is the legacy of American forestry, and that is what will keep our country and our industry growing. So, take the time this holiday season to share a story or a part of your own history; because you never know the impact that your experience will have on the future leaders of our industry.