Saving the Forests of the South

May 26, 2011

Guest blogger Nancy Faget looks back at the people who saved the South’s forests.

I picked up Faces from the Past: Profiles of Those Who Led Restoration of the South’s Forests because I’m fromLouisiana. Anything written about the South interests me and profiles of people working in the South are always fascinating.  What first struck me about the publication were the photographs. Many of the rugged individuals profiled seemed to have a tall, lean look, as if they spent a lot of time outdoors.  What kept me reading (and giggling) were the personal stories, which were a genuine delight!

Take the story of H.G. (Mac) Meginnis (left), who was recruited by the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Station to work on the problems of soil erosion and flood control.  With the approval of the Service, for 75 cents Meginnis purchased a small abandoned chicken house and some insecticidal spray to get rid of the chicken lice. The insecticidal spray expenditure then was disallowed on his expense account on the grounds that getting rid of the lice was for the personal benefit of the employee, not for the benefit of the government!

The author, James P. Barnett, provides an “up close and personal” view of these early foresters and pioneers in the South.  He notes historical events, but the most interesting parts are the stories about some very good people. Mind you, most of them were rule breakers and independent spirits, attention-getters who knew that the work of “selling” reforestation was very important.  Consider Charles H. (Charlie) Lewis, Jr. (left) who was considered a master of public relations.  He’s remembered for being able to “recite the returns on investment in reforestation and punctuate it by throwing seedlings into the audience. He had his own version of a striptease where he would remove all items that were not made from a forest product.”

It’s not too soon to reserve a forest cabin for the fall, and I’m looking forward to waking up to the sound of wind rustling the trees.  Future visits to the forests will be more meaningful now that I know of those who preserved the place for me and my family.  You can find more information about Faces of the Past and read it here or track it down at a library.

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