The U.S. Forest Service: A History By Harold K. Steen [Review] / Earth Day 2005
...By Harold K. Steen
...Harold K. Steen
.The U.S.Forest Service: A History (centennial ed.). Durham, NC: Forest History Society; Seattle, University of Washington Press
, 2004.356 pp.ISBN 0-295-98373-6.US$25.00When I first perused this book in 1976, I thought Harold Steen, who currently teaches conservation history at New Mexico State University, had done an excellent job in publishing the administrative side of the U.S.
Forest Service.It is unfortunate that, with the exceptions of the photos, it doesn,t take into account what has happen to the other levels of the U.S.F.S. However, as Steen
says in his
original preface, ,It is regrettable that this work could include only infrequent references to the routine, daily lives of Forest Service personnel.The mass of available documents forced a focusing on the higher administrative levels and fairly well precluded more than an occasional glance at the real heroes of this story,the ranger and his staff, (p xxxiii).
Today as I re-read the book I find that, although the new preface brings the book up-to-date, I still agree with my original assessment of it.It is an excellent, thoroughly researched and scholarly book.It provides a detailed narrative of the Forest Service history.It is organized chronologically, which provides the reader with an understanding of the problems, controversies, politics, failures, and successes as they occurred.Steen
had access to original documents letters, diaries, files, and memoranda on which he
based most of the book with only limited use of secondary sources.In the new preface he
also made use of interviews with many of the Forest Service Chiefs and relied heavily on secondary sources.
The new preface is a short, precise and well-written addition to the original book.Its purpose was to update the material, and Steen
has done that capably.He
comments, ,Most of the Forest Service,s activities [since the original book was published] have not been controversial., However, the controversies that captured attention and created perceptions inside and outside of the agency have shaped the profile of the Forest Service since this book was first published, and so are the focus for this preface, (p. x).These controversies include environmental laws, wilderness acts, clear-cutting of forests, even the level of management discretion Congress should leave to U.S.F.S. management.Steen
concludes with a discussion of ecosystem management and how the official policy moved from protection only to include restoration of the ecosystem.