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Forests under Fire

Forests under Fire: A Century of Ecosystem Mismanagement in the Southwest

Christopher J. Huggard
Arthur R. Gómez
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 307
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    Forests under Fire
    Book Description:

    The devastating firethat swept through Los Alamos, New Mexico, in the spring of 2000 may have been caused by one controlled burn gone wild, but it was far from an isolated event. All through the twentieth century, our national forests have been under assault from all sides: first ranchers and loggers laid their claims to our national forests, then recreationists and environmentalists spoke up for their interests. Who are our national forests really for?In this book, leading environmental historians show us what has been happening to these fragile woodlands. Taking us from lumber towns to Indian reservations to grazing lands,Forests under Firereveals the interaction of Anglos, Hispanics, and Native Americans with the forests of the American Southwest. It examines recent controversies ranging from red squirrel conservation on Mt. Graham to increased tourism in our national forests. These case studies offer insights into human-forest relationships in places such as the Coconino National Forest, the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, and the Gila Wilderness Area while also drawing on issues and concerns about similar biospheres in other parts of the West.Over the past century, forest management has evolved from a field dominated by the "conservationist" perspective-with humans exploiting natural resources-to one that emphasizes biocentrism, in which forests are seen as dynamic ecosystems. Yet despite this progressive shift, the assault on our forests continues through overgrazing of rangelands, lumbering, eroding mountainsides, fire suppression, and threats to the habitats of endangered species.Forests under Firetakes a closer look at the people calling the shots in our national forests, from advocates of timber harvesting to champions of ecosystem management, and calls for a reassessment of our priorities-before our forests are gone.ContentsIntroduction: Toward a Twenty-First-Century Forest Ecosystem Management Strategy / Christopher J. HuggardIndustry and Indian Self-Determination: Northern Arizona's Apache Lumbering Empire, 1870-1970 / Arthur R. GómezA Social History of McPhee: Colorado's Largest Lumber Town / Duane A. SmithThe Vallecitos Federal Sustained-Yield Unit: The (All Too) Human Dimension of Forest Management in Northern New Mexico, 1945-1998 / Suzanne S. ForrestGrazing the Southwest Borderlands: The Peloncillo-Animas District of the Coronado National Forest in Arizona and New Mexico, 1906-1996 / Diana HadleyAmerica's First Wilderness Area: Aldo Leopold, the Forest Service, and the Gila of New Mexico, 1924-1980 / Christopher J. Huggard"Where There's Smoke": Wildfire Policy and Suppression in the American Southwest / John HerronStruggle in an Endangered Empire: The Search for Total Ecosystem Management in the Forests of Southern Utah, 1976-1999 / Thomas G. AlexanderBiopolitics: A Case Study of Political Influence on Forest Management Decisions, Coronado National Forest, Arizona, 1980s-1990s / Paul W. HirtEpilogue: Seeing the Forest Not for the Trees: The Future of Southwestern Forests in Retrospect / Hal K. Rothman

    eISBN: 978-0-8165-3666-5
    Subjects: General Science, Environmental Science
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-x)
    Art Gómez
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Abbreviations (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction Toward a Twenty-First-Century Forest Ecosystem Management Strategy (pp. xv-2)
    Christopher J. Huggard

    The forests of the American Southwest underwent a dramatic transformation during the twentieth century. Parklike stands of old growth ponderosa pine with expanses of grasslands beneath fifty-foot verdant canopies have been reduced to tangled, invader underbrush and puny clusters of far less majestic trees. The conversion of the vegetative landscape during the century threatened wildlife habitat and endangered species such as the elf owl, Wied’s crested flycatcher, the Gila trout, and the red squirrel, among other biota. The near complete extermination of many of the Southwest’s great predators such as wolves and mountain lions has also allowed for the unnatural...

  7. 1 Industry and Indian Self-Determination Northern Arizona’s Apache Lumbering Empire, 1870–1970 (pp. 3-40)

    The Four Corners subregion of the American Southwest is a topographic phenomenon where the states of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado join borders at a common point. A unique feature of the greater Colorado Plateau, the Four Corners is a visual labyrinth of undulating land surfaces punctuated by the Colorado River and its principal southern tributaries: the San Juan, Little Colorado, and Gila Rivers. The Colorado Plateau region contains an estimated 108 million acres of land, comprising portions of western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, northern Arizona, and southeastern Utah.

    Although home to nearly one million ethnically diverse residents, only...

  8. 2 A Social History of McPhee Colorado’s Largest Lumber Town (pp. 41-66)

    Far down in southwestern Colorado, underneath the usually placid waters of McPhee Reservoir, lies the abandoned site of McPhee, once a lumber town and sawmill. Far deeper underwater than Shakespeare’s “full fathom five,” McPhee has faded from both scene and memory. Fishermen cast lines above it, boats race over it, and visitors look overhead, admiring the striking variety of vistas of land and water without realizing that they have, in fact, overlooked a grave. For a generation people called McPhee, nestled along the wandering banks of the Dolores River, home. Now, it is no more.

    The industry that gave McPhee...

  9. 3 The Vallecitos Federal Sustained-Yield Unit The (All Too) Human Dimension of Forest Management in Northern New Mexico, 1945–1998 (pp. 67-92)

    On January 21, 1948, Congress authorized the creation of the Vallecitos Federal Sustained-Yield Unit (vfsyu) on the El Rita Ranger District of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. The unit included approximately 73,400 acres of national forest, about 61,400 acres of which were classed as usable timberland.¹ The unit was designed with two purposes in mind: to protect the forest through sustained-use management and to stabilize three small forest-dependent Hispanic communities within its boundaries.

    The legislation that created the unit specified that, rather than putting the timber out for competitive bid, the U.S. Forest Service would sell it...

  10. 4 Grazing the Southwest Borderlands The Peloncillo-Animas District of the Coronado National Forest in Arizona and New Mexico, 1906–1996 (pp. 93-132)

    This chapter presents a case study of grazing in the Peloncillo-Animas District of the Coronado National Forest in southeastern Cochise County, Arizona, and southwestern Hidalgo County, New Mexico. Named for the Peloncillo and Animas Ranges, the district contained two noncontiguous divisions until the Animas portion was eliminated from national forest status during the 1940s. This district formed the easternmost extension of the Coronado National Forest, including the only portion of the forest outside of Arizona. The original southern boundary for both divisions was the international border with Mexico.

    The Peloncillo-Animas District provides an excellent case study for national forest grazing...

  11. 5 America’s First Wilderness Area Aldo Leopold, the Forest Service, and the Gila of New Mexico, 1924–1980 (pp. 133-180)

    Lightning was igniting blazes throughout the Southwest during the dry and windy summer of 1922 when AIdo Leopold made his way to the Gila country of New Mexico. The assistant district forester in the Forest Service’s District 3 noted the aroma of charred and burning timber as he approached one of the American West’s most remote regions that hot June day.¹ For Leopold and his colleagues in the Forest Service, the destructive fires threatened the very core of that federal agency’s being: timber as commodity. As a progressive conservationist, he fully accepted the Forest Service’s doctrine of fire suppression. The...

  12. 6 “Where there’s smoke” Wildfire Policy and Suppression in the American Southwest (pp. 181-210)

    In 1990 drought conditions in the American Southwest worsened as a light winter gave way to an even milder spring and, finally, to a moisture-free summer. For the residents of southern Arizona, the heat of the first few days of summer proved especially stifling. As the dry Arizona wind blew through the Valley of the Sun, the mercury at Sky Harbor International Airport already hovered near 115 degrees. On June 26 the temperature climbed to a new record high—122 degrees. While air conditioners worked overtime and backyard pools were filled to capacity in the Desert City, in Payson, a...

  13. 7 Struggle in an Endangered Empire The Search for Total Ecosystem Management in the Forests of Southern Utah, 1976–1999 (pp. 211-240)

    Before the late 1970s most Forest Service employees had tended to view their jobs as managing the traditional functions codified in the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960. Some foresters called this approach “functionalism.”¹ Although foresters had understood since Gifford Pinchot served as chief forester after 1905 that they must measure their success by the condition of the land, especially of watersheds, and they spoke of multiple use, they tended to classify functions such as logging, grazing, recreation, wilderness, and wildlife separately, though they recognized their interrelationship.

    As foresters prepared the forest plans under the National Forest Management Act...

  14. 8 Biopolitics A Case Study of Political Influence on Forest Management Decisions, Coronado National Forest, Arizona, 1980s–1990s (pp. 241-286)

    An endangered species controversy has raged on a national forest in Arizona for more than ten years, pitting biologists against astronomers, environmentalists against a university, government agency against government agency, and even staff members within agencies against each other. The issue has received national and international media attention, especially after evidence of politically manipulated biological studies led to congressional oversight hearings and a U.S. General Accounting Office (gao) investigation. Like the better known “owls versus jobs” controversy in the Northwest, this environmental battle has been superficially viewed as “squirrels versus ’scopes” because an endangered subspecies of red squirrel helped delay...

  15. 9 Epilogue Seeing the Forest Not for the Trees: The Future of Southwestern Forests (pp. 287-298)

    Forests in the southwestern United States have become more valuable as scenery than as timber…. Wait!Forests in the southwestern United States have become more valuable as scenery than as timber. In the most mythic part of the nation, a transformation as radical as the Industrial Revolution itself has changed the value of one of the commodities essential to the growth of the American nation. Traditional extractive natural resource use—timber cutting—has been replaced by recreational use of forests. The evidence is everywhere. In the Las Vegas Valley, where 19,775 new homes were begun in 1998, a check of...

  16. List of Contributors (pp. 299-302)
  17. Index (pp. 303-307)