Gordon Small

Interviewee: Gordon Small, Forest Service Retiree
Interviewer: Angelia Riveira
Interview Date: Friday, November 2, 2012 @ 10:00 A.M.
Location: Mr. Small’s home, Waynesville, NC
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AR – This is Angelia Riveira and I’m here with Gordon Small in his home in Waynesville, NC. It is November 2 and around 10 o’clock in the morning.AR – So, Mr. Small, can you tell me about your life before entering the Forest Service? 

GS – Okay, ah, I was born on Long Island, New York, but when I was about 7, the family moved up to Vermont and we settled, or moved up to one farm and then moved to a larger one. I was basically raised on a 425 acre farm. My dad was a tugboat captain in New York Harbor and he was gone two weeks of three. So, my mother and brother and I did the farming stuff. And, uh, had a lot of fun experiences doing that and it was Vermont and it was cold in the winter time, but we got used to that. And then uh, stayed there. Went to the University of Vermont and the University of Maine. Graduated with a degree in Forestry. Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in forestry, had an opportunity to go work in the north woods in Maine, but the uh, I had already experienced the woods of Maine with the mosquitoes and black flies and ticks and stuff and they paid about one quarter of what the tugboat business did. So, I went back to the tugs, put in a job application with the Forest Service and the soil conservation service and the uh, got hired by the Forest Service.

 

AR – What was your motivation in joining the Forest Service?

 

GS – Oh, I, haha, first off, I thought it might be a little broader work than working for the paper company, okay, and the other part was that, it was a larger organization with a lot more interesting things to do, or at least it looked like that. But I had this degree, and I thought, well, I’d better find out if this is really what I want to do. (laughing) And so, uh, the first job in the Forest Service was as a, somebody going out supplementing the continuous forest inventory plots. They couldn’t recover enough of the plots so we were working in Kentucky and they were sending us out on what was then the Cumberland National Forest and we were taking a series of plots to supplement what they had from CFI. And the um, we did that for about six months and then when that job was done, uh, and I worked for a great fella named Dick Miller and that was a great introduction to the Forest Service. I enjoyed what we were doing. I enjoyed Dick. He retired, he left the Forest Service and managed the New York State ranger school out in Wanakena, New York, but we stayed in touch and he was a, uh, a great way for me to start the Forest Service.

 

GS – Then they transferred me to a ranger district, like they did the rest of the crew, the Berea Ranger District in Berea, Kentucky. Uh, John King was ranger. The supervisor there at the time, a fella named Bob Collins, uh, had a strong military background and he was convinced since he did not supervise this timber inventory crew that we were a bunch of misfits and he directed the rangers to whip us into shape. And, uh, anyway, it was interesting. I was, I was less reverent toward Forest Service business than a lot of other people was at the time (laughing). And, my wife, uh, contributed to that delinquency when she created a jacket. No, a poster. A poster that said, uh, you know, uh, “Once upon a time, I could not spell Forester (and of course it was misspelled), but now I are one” (laughing). And I posted it up on the bulletin board. That was not a good move. But the uh, as time went on, the ranger and I got working much better together. Got a great assistant ranger in named Bob Brooks and Bob and I are still friends and things were working a lot more smoothly. I was doing traditional district work. Marking timber strand improvement work, we were doing timber sales, we were fighting fires, issuing special use permits, that kind of stuff.

 

GS – But then, something happened that I didn’t realize at the time was gonna change my career and my life. Uhh, the ranger, John King, and he was a good guy. He was really an outstanding person. He um, we had a very fragmented ownership pattern of the district and the acquisition for the eastern forests had stopped with World War II. And the uh, the money was slow to start back, but it, the Weeks Act money, this is back in 63, 6., The Weeks Act money was just beginning to come back and the districts competed, uh, for money. Whoever could come in first through the best tracks and so forth would get the money. And, John really wanted to see some land bought in his district and he had some offers from people to sell land, but the process had just changed. Up until that point in time in the Forest Service, they uh, it was all done on a value rations schedule based on the productivity of the land, things like this. But that was being thrown out and a new process called appraisals was comin’ in. Plus John did not like working with the supervi- , he liked, uh, Bob Collins, the supervisor, but he really didn’t like working with the staff up there. So he asked me if I wouldn’t mind trying that. And I tried it and I liked it. We bought some land. John was happy and I was happy and (laughing) the uh, I learned a lot.

 

GS – There was a fellow named Gotto Paterno in the supervisor’s office who worked buying land in the 1930s and he was the one that basically trained me in how to do this stuff. Uhh, and he was very good. Uhh, he taught me how to cross the t’s and dot the i’s and a very paper heavy process, but it worked out well. Uhh, he also told me something that has stuck with me through the years and I see things written now that put a different light on it, so I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this. Uhh, he told me, and it’s been my experience that the Forest Service, under the Weeks Act, did not go out and condemn land just to block in an area for example. Park Service, when they go out and establish a new national park unit, they will acquire ultimately all the land in the unit. And by condemnation or whatever. , Forest Service didn’t do that. What they did do – and they called it friendly condemnation and attorneys laugh when you use that phrase “friendly condemnation” but, that’s what it was. If you were dealing with a family who had, you know, say 60 or 70% of the title to a piece of land, but there’s no way in the world you could find out who owned the rest of it, or they didn’t have really all, you know, there’s some title questions. If they agreed, then we would take it to condemnation and clear title. That’s a whole different situation than moving in and kicking somebody off the property.  So, uh, some of that went on because there’s a lot of bad title, particularly in the Southern Appalachians.

 

So, where  were we, anyway. uhhh, – About that time in 1965 they –  had a study going on about establishing a new National Forest purchase unit. In the east before you have a national forest, you establish a purchase unit under the Weeks Act. And then you go in and see if you can actually acquire enough land and make it a national forest unit. And they set up a new one in eastern Kentucky in the, umm, – -hill country, the coal country of eastern Kentucky on the headwaters of the Kentucky River. And four of us, Tom Frazier, and myself, Ted Hensley, and the secretary and I can’t remember her name now, went over there to Manchester, Kentucky to start a new purchase unit. It had been…Ford Motor Company had once owned a lot of land in there and they had, they had been logged in the 40s and 50s, and uh, it was being mined. There were some active -surface coal mines around. Uhh, the country burned a lot, a lot of fires. When you drove through the area, it looked pretty rough. But, uh, so we went over to try. Ginny was a saint. Younger, didn’t know better (laughing). Oh, she really was. Pregnant. Uhh…(Laughing).

 

Ginny Small – (I cried a lot )

 

AR – When did you two get married?

 

GS – 63, 64. Yeah, 64

 

AR – Before you joined the service?

 

GS – No, no. Just, uh, at Berea?? She was going to Berea College and (laughing). I guess I’ll tell the story. Uhh, I had asked somebody where you met women around here. And they said, well, a good place is the Student Union. So I walked into the Student Union and met a woman (laughing). And anyway, uh, we got married and lived in a -couple of professors’ houses there when they were on sabbatical for a while. But when the Redbird opened up we went over there together. Umm, it was, it was different. Uhh, it was a coal town and the coal trucks, small town, coal trucks ran through town all the time. There was dust everywhere. You could dust your counter in the morning and by evening it had this grey dust all over it. And, – there were gob piles. You know what gob piles are?

 

AR – No.

 

GS – When they, when they mine the coal, this slate comes with it. And they have to separate the slate. It has a high percentage of carbon. And they put this stuff in great big piles. They used to. I’m sure they don’t do it anymore. After a while, it catches fire by spontaneous combustion and it burns for years. And it smells of sulfur and other good stuff. And, so you had this (laughing), this kind of a smell to go with it. But the thing that really fired me up, when you got out in the woods, and – remember, it had been burned and cut over, and there were blackberry briars everywhere when you went out to do crews and you had 15-20 foot blackberry briars all around. But you, the -land had such tremendous potential and when you got into a little pocket of actually decent trees, uh, you could tell that this land was more productive for hardwood timber than about any other place I’d ever seen and I still think it is. Uh, we have great Appalachian hardwoods here in western North Carolina but they didn’t have the site index. They didn’t have the productivity that that line in eastern Kentucky had. But it had lots of issues, lots of problems.

 

GS – Uhh, the first property we dealt with was owned by Redbird Timber Corporation but that was a spinoff from the Ford Motor Company. Ford still had an interest there. The Ford Motor Company had bought that property initially because Henry Ford liked to control all elements of production and in the early years, cars had a lot of wooden parts, so he acquired over 100,000 acres of land in that part of the world, set up an office, they sent surveyors  out. Land records are horrible. They did the same thing the Forest Service did. They ran a lot of land titles through court to clear them up in different, different proceedings but they took an awful lot of stuff to court to clear it up. They produced the finest set of base maps I have ever seen. Uh, on -rolls, and they had whole bunches of ’em, but they might be twenty feet long and they’d be four feet high and you’d just roll ’em out on the table. And they were works of art, but they were also the best information on title – in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. And uh, so we worked with some with the Ford people that were still there and Redbird Timber and we actually were able to buy, uh, 70,000 acres of those Redbird lands to start things off, Redbird Timber Company lands. We hit a stump at one point, where um, we weren’t able to proceed until we had a survey of the property and that was gonna be expensive and a long, long term job. A fella named Ralph Morgan from the regional office in Atlanta had been a surveyor in a previous life before he had his job at the time. And he came out there and spent several weeks with those maps and he created a survey that passed muster and, uh, we were able to proceed and acquire the property. There’s a lot of, there’s always a lot of heroes if you will, in all these stories that make things happen and there’s different folks, but Ralph was a huge help during that time. Then we bought some other lands. When I left there, I think we’d acquired just under a hundred thousand acres. And the uh, when we get done here I’ll show you some stuff about that. It’s kind of fun.

 

AR – K.

 

GS – But the, um, I was promoted while I was on there. I was promoted and we moved over and then I was promoted again on the site and given responsibility for heading up the acquisition program on the Red Bird. Uh, and then, in 1969, the regional office under – Hans Rahm who was the director of lands and minerals in Atlanta. And Hans decided they wanted, that, something else that I should have mentioned – We were focused on Weeks Law Acquisition on the Redbird. It was Weeks Law money. Uh, but something new came on the scenes in, let me see if I have, I think I’ve got a note here about just when this was passed…Uhh, oh, anyway, the land and water conservation fund…The Land and Water Conservation fund came along about that time. – And people, and we had a problem with having a limited pe-, limited number of trained people on lands work because the lands stuff had quit in WWII, a number of years had gone by and we lost a lot of skills. So Hans wanted to fast track some people for land staff positions on the forest. And I was selected for that job, so they pulled me out of the Redbird and sent me to Atlanta. And I served as a review appraiser for about a year and then I worked in special uses. I worked in Minerals. I worked in different things. And uh, enjoyed the time there.  We lived outside of Atlanta and when we lived there, there were three million people and now there are a bunch and where we lived is about forty miles from the edge of this…we used to be on the outskirts of Atlanta. It’s amazing to go by and see that now.

 

GS – Anyway, uh, enjoyed the stuff. Working there in the regional office. Worked for Ralph Morgan and then ultimately for Phil -Etchison, who is one of the real heroes of the land acquisition program in Region 8. He still lives outside of Atlanta. Anyway, uh, moved out to the Ozark National Forest as land staff. Responsible for lands and minerals. And, I spoke to you about, uh, condemnation earlier. In this case, I think the uh, well I’ve been trying to see if I’ve got a note here about just when that was passed. But anyway, I think that was about 1965. And then the uh, somebody had discovered a cave, uh, on the Sylamore District of the Ozark National Forest. And it was a very spectacular cave. And the uh, so, and the Forest Service was getting very active into recreation development at that time. We were setting up lots of new recreation areas. And this cave was a unique experience for the Forest Service. We had – a geologist on staff on the Ozark (Don Williams was his name) and – and a lot of other folks, they proceeded to develop this cave in a way that would maintain the natural features of the cave, uh, and then open it up to the public. But in the process, there were about thirty parcels of land over that cave in private ownership and the, the concern was that different types of pollutants would come, it was, come down through the soil and it was what they call karst topography. It was very porous, stuff that you got from the surface might conceivably get into the cave. So before I got there, the previous land staff had gone out and uh, attempted to negotiate, uh, those acquisitions but they had fallen through. So, uh, uh, they’d gotten different appraisals, they made the new offers, the people, every one of them, turned them down and the Forest Service proceeded to condemn the 33 tracks. And I arrived out there just as the condemnation stuff was getting started. And that was, that was interesting. It, it uh, I learned a lot about that process. Got to be a witness a few times and this kind of stuff. But it was, it got done. And they uh, and all that land now is part of the national forest over the cave. And the cave’s a neat thing to visit if you’ve never been to the Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas. It’s uh, it’s one of the best ones for seeing all variety of what can happen in a cave. Some caves are just tunnels, but this one is a really beautiful cave. But we did a lot of other things there. Um, I had mineral responsibilities, um, and a new natural gas field opened up. NEPA. You know, all these changes were going on. Things had been pretty stable up until the 1960s and suddenly there were, you know, Silent Spring was published in 1962, uh, and the different land trusts were beginning to be organized, these nonprofit corporations that focused on protecting special places. Lots of things were beginning to happen.

 

GS – But the uh, NEPA had also recently been passed in 1969. And, and, uh, you know, when any new law comes into effect, it takes years before all the regulations get written, people know how they’re gonna do things. But, by that time, people were beginning to get some ideas of what we were supposed to write environmental impact statements for. And I argued the best I could that we didn’t need to do that on these oil and gas operations on the national forest because the Department of the Interior had the primary responsibility and all that kind of stuff. That didn’t cut it. So, we had to do an environmental impact statement. And, this’ll tell ya how things changed. We wrote that environmental impact statement and had full public involvement assisting with the regulations and got it all done in about three months’ time. And then we proceeded to process leases and they developed. And, uh, that in itself is an interesting story. Um, a fella named Bruce Kilgore had been assigned to me from resource staff because of a reorganization. Bruce turned out to be the ideal person to go out on the ground and inspect those sites as they were going in. He was a huge guy – that helps (laughing). But he was, but he, he would take no nonsense. But he could work with the natural gas well drillers. Uh, we tried to work at the road building process through the Forest Service engineering, but they couldn’t move as quickly as the oil and gas companies wanted to and so I would take a, a soil scientist with me at an abney level and we’d go out and flag in the roads, uh, and the locations for the drill sites. And that worked well and so the district took over those responsibilities after a while and, and did that. Uh, we only had, we only had made one bad call. We missed one spring alongside a road and that resulted in major problems for a long time. But other than that it all went quite well.

 

GS – Umm, well let’s see. Then a whole lots of things were changing. The Forest Service decided too about that time that we shouldn’t be building, improving roads on privately owned land. We were investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in development of roads and improvement of roads and when those run across private land they decided that we actually needed to have an easement. We, the lands people, knew that all along, but nobody wanted to get hung up in that process, but they decided we would. So we went from acquiring zip rights of ways to acquiring about 20 a year. And those, we would negotiate 90% of those. But, about 10% of them we would take through condemnation. But condemnation for a road right of way is a lot different than condemnation, taking somebody’s house, you know, whatever, so that would, that did not cause a whole lot of stir. The rangers were surprised that it didn’t, but it didn’t. And so we, that was, I feel good about the fact that we were able to do that. While we were there, we acquired a lot of land for the forest. We uh, uh, a lot of land exchanges that, you know, I always felt good when we were able to do that. The uh, and then last couple of years we were there, uh, land management planning was getting a lot of emphasis but prior to the passage of the National Forest Management Act, we did something called unit planning where we did coordinated planning, integrated planning, for specific units of the national forest. And supervisor wanted me to take that on too, so we did. And, uh, we planned several units on the Ozark land, St. Francis National Forest, that kind of stuff. Uhh, we got some good people in to help run that. A fellow named Jack Thornton who’d been a ranger, uh, in Georgia, uh, was assigned to me to help do that project as well as a draft person. And Jack did a fantastic job and uh, he stayed there the rest of his career. He did a really good job.

 

GS – But anyway, uh, about 1977, I had an offer to go to the Washington Office and, and be chair of what you might call the – Land Purchase Desk. And so, I went in and did that. We were there for a couple of years. We lived in Centerville, Virginia. It was, um…The thing I remember most about it now, I guess I need to step back for a minute and talk about the acquisition process. The Weeks Act required that every purchase be approved by the National Forest Preservation Commission. That was the commission established by the Weeks Act. And they only met four times a year. So that made a very cumbersome acquisition process in terms of you getting time and money to land owners and stuff like that. So our task was actually moving cases through the NFRC and then on the policy side, as all these things were changing and new acts were being passed, National Trails System and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and all these kinds of things, the idea of buying something other than fee title was gaining a lot of favor in some quarters. Not in my quarter, but in some quarters (laughing). And we, so, I worked for the office of General Council, and with Jim Snow, the fellow that wrote this article. And Jim and I’ve been friends for a long time. But he, um, we put out the first agency direction on the use of, uh, I think we called the chapter Scenic Easements cause that was all the talk at the time. Now they call ’em conservation easements and all kinds of different kinds of easements, but the uh, that was, that was interesting. I spent two years there.

 

GS – Oh! Mentioned the National Forest Reservation Commission. Mentioned something that has bothered me of recent and I listen to what the Forest Service is doing. Uhh, when we first sent the Redbird Acquisitions through, to the National Forest Reservation Commission, we didn’t own a lot of the minerals on the initial acquisition. Uh, TVA held 40,000 acres of them. People say, oh well that’s not so bad, that’s not a government agency. But, TVA was why all the coal was being mined in eastern Kentucky (laughing), uh, and then we had a lot of outstanding mineral rights, the Ford Motor Company owned 10,000 acres of mineral rights under there and of course they were gonna mine those. And the National Forest Reservation Commission began to wonder, well why are we buying land in an area that’s gonna be all torn up, and the uh, so I wrote, you know, a memo, uh, and it wasn’t edited very much. It went up the line, went through the Office of General Council, signed off by the Chief of the Department and everything else. And, uh, they uh, basically pointing out that things were changing and new laws were coming on board and, you know Clean Water Act, there was a lot of other stuff that was taking place that uh, was ultimately gonna change the way people mined and if you take the long view, it is better that we actually be in position to help address those issues than not be. The reason we were over there was that the people in Kentucky began to notice that when you were in Frankfurt, that uh, and the Kentucky River was flowing by, they estimated two hundred tons of sediment per acre were coming off the headwaters of the Kentucky River. I mean you could almost walk on that water. And, the uh, so they really, that was one of the reasons the National Forest Service established in the east, was uh, you know, water and adequate flows and water quality became an issue. So, we were over there for that purpose. But the National Forest Reservation Commission had valid concerns. But they accepted our explanation. But, but today, and, and now outstanding mineral rights are owned, you know, by whoever – John Doe may own the mineral rights under your property and his deed probably gives him the right to go in and whatever, to recover those minerals. Uhh, and, we also had outstanding mineral rights, oil and gas rights, on the Allegheny National Forest and I had noted of late that the agency is trying to impose NEPA on private rights, which, I, I don’t understand and the uh, when we bought that stuff on the Allegheny, when we bought that stuff on the Redbird, we knew what we were getting in to. We went in with our eyes wide open. Uh, but it was, anyway, just a little bit of editorializing, but back in 65 and 66 and 67 on the Redbird, I mean, we saw that stuff all the time. Subsequently, Jim Snow has managed, got the TVA to convey those 40,000 acres of mineral rights to the Forest Service, under Forest Service jurisdiction, I should say. And, the uh, it’s all, the Redbird now is a very unique place and land where an awful lot of coal mining is still going on. But it was neat to be able to be part of that project. That was a big deal.

 

GS – Anyway, back on, when we left the Washington Office,

in 81, and we went out to Milwaukee, uh, to the regional office in Milwaukee where I was the director of lands, minerals, and watershed and we enjoyed Milwaukee. People thought that had to be the worst regional office in the Forest Service. I’ve seen ’em all, been to all of ’em, and I think Milwaukee is the best regional office (laughing). – Milwaukee and the Lake States up there are a special place. Taxes are horrible, but the uh, they provide great schools. They provide parks and trails and all this kind of stuff. Uh, they had a new downtown mall that was connected to our office and they had, when visitors came we could take them over there not only to eat, but they had these great videos about Wisconsin and stuff and get them acquainted. But it was just a neat place to be. And the uh, and by Lake Michigan they had festivals every summer. Uh, I’m kind of into Irish stuff and they had an Irish festival and beer (laughing), a lot. But it was a very, very enjoyable place to live. Great place to raise kids. And I thought, my gosh! I really didn’t want to leave that. Ginny and I enjoyed Milwaukee and the, I really enjoyed what we were doing.

 

GS – Now, what made the move particularly interesting – Ronald Reagan was elected president about the time we went out there. Uh, I don’t know whether it was the killer trees or what, but anyway, he came up, or somebody on his staff came up with the idea of an asset management program. We would dispose of portions of the national forest to help pay our debt. Uh, those of us that spent our careers building the national forest were not wildly enthused. Uh, the regional forester and I went in and talked to the chief’s office at the time about, why don’t you exclude these because we’re not, the lands out west were reserved from the public domain. The stuff under the Weeks Act was acquired and had a different set of statutory guidelines. It was gonna be a little tougher to dispose of, but why would we do this? You know, uh, can’t we go back and argue? But the regional foresters in the west didn’t want that because they said you guys have all the political clout back there in the east because of all the different states we’re in and so forth, and, uh, they did not, they were not anxious to have us out of that. So we stayed in. And, regional land directors would get together. The directives would come out of the White House and we’d get together in different spots and decide how we would address those. Uhh, anyway, I won’t bore you with all these details. But the public went berserk, absolutely berserk. And they uh, it was the best thing that ever happened to us (laughing). I’ve since learned that sometimes we do our best under adversity, but the uh, uh, there was little anecdotal things I thought were classic. When the Weeks Act was first established and different states had to pass enabling legislation that said, yes, we want you to come in and buy land, even the state of Alabama just less than fifty years, about fifty years after the Civil War, was one of the first states to ask this Yankee federal government to come down and buy land, so things had to be pretty tough. And but, the state of New York said no, we’ll meet our public land needs with the uh, Adirondacks and the Catskills areas and we don’t need the federal government. But we, uh, during the 30s, during the depression, the Soil Conservation Service, uh, they’d buyout unsuccessful farms relocate folks. And those lands wound up in what would be called land utilization projects and we had a land utilization project in a little place called Hector, New York in the Finger Lakes region. And the uh, uh, one of the things, since it was not a national forest, and not subect to the Weeks Act, it could be put up for sale. So we began putting out stuff about considering putting that up for sale. Every congressman in the state of New York, and there’s a bunch of ’em, fifty-somethin’, and the senators, and Ithaca Univ- uh, is home to, I forget the name of the university now, but they uh, they went, everybody just went crazy. Congress passed a law making that a national forest and authorizing us to buy land in the state of New York. We’ve – since acquired some land in New York State on the Hector. And I thought, now that’s interesting how stuff works out.

 

GS – During the Carter Administration, while I was in the Washington Office, we’d been buying a lot of land in Ohio because that was a late getting started forest and then WWII came – it was very fragmented. The administration supported buying a lot of land in Ohio. I spent a lot of time in that first assignment in DC answering congressionals about people complaining about us buying land. After the asset management, uh, debacle, umm, the people in Ohio, when they had their National Forest planning meetings and so forth, asked us to buy, they requested us to buy 500,000 more acres in the state of Ohio because they suddenly realized that they might actually lose the national forest. And they, uh, so that was, that worked out remarkably well. But, in the meantime, though, uh, the administration cut off much of our funding for land acquisition. When I went out to Milwaukee, just before arriving there, they had three million a year just on, there’s a lot of different things to lands and I’ll talk about that later. But, just the money from land purchase, we had three million dollars a year which helped pay for an awful lot of the people on the various national forests that were doing lands work. Well they cut that down to a million. So we had to find homes for a bunch of folks, or whatever. Some retired, some took different jobs. We reorganized the way we did business. It had to become more centralized. But we were able to continue to do what we were doing. It bothered, it hurt because we lost the ability to develop a lot of new skills, uh, to bring people on board. But we were able to continue. But we could not ask for money to buy an acre of land. The idea being that well, okay, we’ll just shu-, we may not be able to sell any, but we’re sure not gonna buy anymore, ok? Well, uh, lo and behold, remember I briefly mentioned land trusts? Uh, the Nature Conservancy was formed in 1951. There are now well over a thousand land trusts in the country. We used to work with the land trusts, uh, in fact, when I was in DC the first time, how they helped us since our process might take nine months to two years sometimes to close on a tract of land. And people sometimes couldn’t wait, so when in those cases, we would go to a land trust and say, hey, we’re gonna buy this but it’s gonna take a while. Will you go in and purchase the land from the land owner, hold it for us, and then we’ll buy it from you? And they did a lot of that. And, and uh, but that was kind of what their role was. When, when uh, we were told not to buy any more land, there were several of these land trusts by that time, and lots of conservation- organizations being formed, Wilderness Society, American Rivers, and on, and on, and on, and they had all shared an interest in seeing that certain lands were acquired. So, they began to put together a list of lands that they thought should be acquired by the Forest Service and they would send and take this list to the Hill and work it quite effectively. Now initially we had to watch out, because first off, all, some didn’t understand the federal process. They didn’t understand the way we appraised and so forth. And they’d offer people, uh, prices that we could not, not support. And also, we didn’t want them dictating what lands should be in the national forest. That was something that ought to be coordinated, but not, you know. So we worked to the extent that was appropriate, we worked with them, and being sure that what they did, uh, made some sense. And it worked. We acquired quite a bit of land during that time.

 

GS – Uh, in fact, we acquired more land during that time in Region 9 than we did before Reagan came in office. But we had a democratic congress and a republican president, so, and you know, this is small potatoes compared to the things they were talkin’ about, so nobody’s gonna fall on their sword over it. But it’s uh, it worked. And in Vermont, for example, the Green Mountain National Forest went from about 200,000 acres to over 300,000 acres because Senator Leahy is from Vermont and he chaired a key Congressional committee. Uhh, and he had a political ad when he was running for reelection of him walking along the Appalachian Trail in Vermont and the, the little tag line rang, “This is the man that saved the Green Mountains -” (laughing). But, he, to all his, he did a lot of good things. Uh, he initiated a northern land study when Diamond International, I think it was, sold a million acres of land in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and upper New York State. There’s a lot of paper company land up in the northeast. I mean, northern Maine, northern half of Maine is practically all paper company ownership. And suddenly the people who had used these paper company lands to hunt and fish and hike on and so forth, the paper company allowed that sort of thing, suddenly they might be blocked out if this land went for any kind of development. So they put pressure on, we need to have some sort of a real in-depth study of what’s going on and what we can do to address it. So they initiated the northern lands study. And the Green Mountain National forest handled most of the study. We worked with a modest sum, but the forest, the Green Mountain did most of that. Worked out fine. From the northern lands study came something called the Forest Legacy Program where we could buy forest legacy easements. Uhh, anywhere that a state agreed with the process and they supported the particular acquisition, uhh, where if, particularly in areas that were under threat of development like western North Carolina here, if the landowner was interested in keeping that land in forestry, then we could pay them the difference for what the land would be worth to develop and how much the  the land was worth for forestry. Pretty popular program. Ultimately it became, it was, the states chafed a little bit over the fact that we had the final say on the appraised value. Uhh, so they finally, after I left, I think they actually got it transferred to where the states primarily administer it now. But uh, it’s a um, it was an interesting outcome. Uhh, while we were in Milwaukee…

 

GS – Uhh, let’s see. We’ll go to uh, after Milwaukee, uh, in 1989 I was selected as Director of Lands for the Washington Office. Lands covers a lot of things. I just, I made a little list here because I can’t, I can’t remember all these, uhh, while thinkin’ about it. Land purchase we’ve talked a lot about. We do a lot of land exchanges, less than we used to because now when somebody lives (drinking water), somebody lives next to national forest, they like that. They don’t want a (coughing). When we moved here, we wanted to live next to national forest. Well, we couldn’t find a place we liked next to national forest but we back up to the Blue Ridge Park, so nobody can get behind us. There’s no planning, no zoning here, so nobody can put something in that might get in the water, you know, that kind of stuff. So people like living next to public land. So our exchange program began to run into real issues – rights of ways of course, land use authorizations, special use permits, leases, umm, when I say “FERC” you know what I’m talking about?

 

AR – Mmm mmm.

 

GS – Federal Energy Regulatory Commission?

 

AR – Mmm mmm.

 

GS – Issues -, licenses for hydro power. A lot of those hydro power developments are national forest land. Uhh, in the 1920s, they passed the Federal Power Act and everybody thought how hydro power was a very good deal. Uhh, all around, and it actually is a pretty good deal. But to expedite the process, they cut everybody out of the process except, you know, FERC could make the final decision… well, the federal power folks could decide where a dam was going. They could, could dam as needed. They didn’t have to listen to the adjoining agencies or anything else. The Supreme Court modified that substantially, uhh, probably 25, 30 years ago, and suddenly we had a lot of input and we had to work closely with FERC. And I, in fact, when I was in the Washington Office I had somebody on my staff that was a FERC coordinator. Because these licenses were issued for 50 years and in 50 years they came up for renewal. And there were issues about, okay, the power company was letting this much water out of the dam, was that sufficient to support certain species down below? Lots of recreation use opportunities were around these lakes, but they needed to be properly coordinated and developed. And so those kinds of things started to get addressed. We worked a lot on that. We also did federal interchanges with the Corps of Engineers and other outfits. Uhh, lots of records for a hundred ninety some odd million acres of land. Land status records with everything from rights of every different kind on it, uh, we kept the official land status records from whichNational Forest maps were developed and other things, but the big deal was also how the 25% fund was distributed. It was based on acres in a county,and the counties kept track of those acres because they were gonna get money for the acres of public land.  Congress subsequently  passed the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Act and that again was put more emphasis on the land status records.

GS – Title claims and encroachments – we have hundreds of thousands of title claims and encroachments where people will build something, uh, sometimes unaware, sometimes on purpose. We’ve had people just obviously go across the painted boundary line and build a house and challenge us to do anything about it, you know. If you push the government hard enough, they can do something about it and in those cases, we did something about it. We, we’ve had houses that have been torn down or moved and stuff like that. Uhh, stories about taking the marshal out when you move a fence or whatever just so the guy doesn’t shoot you. But the uh, we have lots of those. Of course, we’re responsible for appraisals. We had lots of Indian treaty right issues that started coming up and we got involved in a lot of that. And we ultimately had responsibility for the land -linr surveying program.

 

GS – Anyway, got into DC. I thought, well, you gonna have to be very politically astute in a job like this, but I soon realized that’s not what’s required. What’s required is that you tell everybody the truth. You tell everybody the same story – both sides, all the time, every time. And, if you do that, you’re fine. And if you do that, uhh, folks come to you when an issue blows up or new legislation or whatever, they will respect what you have to say. Uhh, we would get a lot of things we did in the Washington Office, and I’m not gonna try to go through all those kinds of things, but uhh, we had sometimes forty or fifty bills every year.  A lot of them were private bills. Forest Service had a lot of ski areas for example, that you can argue about the good or the bad of that, but they, a lot of ’em came up. Particularly out in Colorado and Utah, places like that. They didn’t make money off skiing. They made money off the real estate and so it was very tempting for people to try to have a land exchange – they call it a land exchange. We were required to make equal value exchanges. We couldn’t cut anybody any special deals. We had to have, get at least the same amount in the value of lands elsewhere as what we were trading -. But people kept trying to work around that, very creatively. And we’d get a number of private bills sponsored by some Congressman. Uhh, and sometimes there are more than private bills. Sometimes people, groups would introduce legislation to try to influence the way we did our business. Uhh, and like I say, sometimes there’d be as many as forty bills. We had about, we were only one of many staffs. We had about forty percent of the legislation. We worked with the  Forest Service congressional folks, but the uh, we were able, I’d say 98/99% either stop the bad stuff or amend it so it didn’t hurt the National Forest System -. But it was, uh, that was one of the things I felt good about. That we were able to actually succeed at that. Uhh, we had all kinds of different types of issues up there. Uhh, the military for example, would periodically want to expand operations, you know. We could do well winning these private bill arguments and so forth, but when you go up and testify with military, and the congressman who has a military base in his district, (laughing) he has a certain affinity (laughing). So we only prevailed in about 50% of the military stuff. But the uh, it was, it was interesting.

 

GS – There were some things in DC like we had a statute that required us to get fair market value for the special uses we had on national forest. The land uses we authorized. We had over 70,000 different land use authorizations on the national forest system. And they ranged anywhere from summer home permits to electronic sites to roads to rights of ways for power or other things. All kinds. Even had permits for grunting worms in Florida. That was a little different. But the uh, we had never been funded well in uses. We had some acquisition money would come and go. But the stewardship stuff – the basic lands work that wasn’t cutting ribbons. Congressman like buying land because if you got a group out there really enthusiastic and you actually close the deal and you can go out there and stand at the shore or stand at whatever, you cut that ribbon and get press, that was a cool thing. So there was a…they like doing that. But, the routine, mundane, day-by-day stuff – not so much. And special uses was all that. However,  they directed us to get fair market value for communications sites. For example, and we knew we were gonna be appraising on the low side here. We couldn’t go for top dollar on this stuff. It would never get anywhere. -An example is i- outside of Los Angeles is the mountain called Mount Wilson and I don’t know if you’re familiar with it or not but it had a  ton of electronic sites. We’d often joke about the fact you’d go out there, break an egg, and it would microwave (laughing) in no time at all. But uh, tremendous amount of sites. We were getting 50 thousand bucks a year for that site. . And things got complicated. In the old days when you put up an electronic site, somebody’d go out and put a box up there and that box was their use. Now you have a box and you might have fifty different uses in that box – somebody takes a card in, slides it in, and you’ve got a use if you’ve got the antenna and so forth set up. So it was an adminstrative headache. But anyway, we developed some appraisal approaches to deal with that and a very conservative estimate was…We should have been getting a million dollars a year for the Mount Wilson site. Well the National Association of Broadcasters, there were other groups that fought us strenuously on this. Uh, cell phone people didn’t care about the price. They’d pay anything, just give us access, you know. It ranged all over the board. But thank goodness there are people up there who are on the Hill who are supporters of good government. Dale Bumpers, a senator from Arkansas and an important Committee Chair, he had communication sites in his district. And of course, he checked to see how much flak he was gonna get, but he supported us going forward. It took four or five years, but eventually the electronic site fees got implemented and, but that, it shouldn’t be that hard to do what they require us to do, but it is.

 

GS – Umm, I’m just going down the list here. I added some things that I really liked about, and I missed this in Milwaukee, but when I first got to Milwaukee, they had a very ordered process but it took forever and it was sequential. It wasn’t parallel. There’s lots of things you can do on lands where you can do at the same time to really cut the process down. So we did a lot of work on that to make sure that we can move a whole lot more, you know, more quickly and faster and so forth. Umm, if I had to summarize, when we were in the Washington Office, we lived in Rockville, MD while we were there. We liked Rockville, MD. – It was amazing to me to see people come in, you know, foresters tend to be folks who like the outdoors and they like smaller towns and don’t like…But DC could be a lot of fun. But, some also had the impression that in order to move along in your career, you had to have your Washington Office stamp. So they’d come in, but they’d gripe and complain the whole time they were there about the traffic, the cost of everything, and all that. Nobody wants to hire somebody who’s always down in the mouth, so the worst possible outcome would be that they’d wind up in this job for the rest of their career. -I mean, there’s a lot to like about DC and they uh, sure, I mean, any place you go, uh, there’s good and bad. And if you look at the good, you’ll be happy if you keep focus on the bad, you never will be. But uh, that was interesting to watch. Uhh, let’s see.

 

AR – Would they seek out positions in DC because it would improve their career chances or that would just naturally happen?

 

GS – Did what now?

 

AR – Would they seek out positions in DC?

 

GS – Oh yeah, sure, yeah, yeah.

 

AR – And then be upset when they were there?

 

GS – Well, now just get unhappy because they were shocked at what they had to pay. Maybe a family member was unhappy or they changed schools or any number of things. But the cost of living was always a problem. It was expensive in DC, not as bad as San Francisco, but it was bad. And the uh, some people made out like champs depending on when they moved and some people lost money, so we generally broke even and we never did get well and never did get hurt. But uh, I guess that’s okay.

 

GS – Uhh, I jotted down some things. One thing I really like – the Forest Service when I was there, working with folks, we had a lot of really good people. I hired a fella named Dave Sherman who’d come in under the Carter Administration and worked with the Park Service, but he was a, he’s fantastic. We’re good friends and he has lots of initiative, done a lot of good things for the agency. Uhh, but he made a  comment after coming over to the Forest Service at that point in time. He’d never seen an agency so professional as the Forest Service was in those days. And I, I thought that was great. A lot of really good people.

 

GS – Uhh, another thing that we did, an example of that, was the Greens Creek Exchange in Alaska. Admiralty Island was a special place and Congress had designated it as a Wilderness, but there’s an also an area on the Island where Kennecott and their predecessors had filed some, some um, mining claims. And they had a- hardrock mineral mining operation there and a part of  Admiralty Island was set aside for this mineral activity. But, they only, I don’t need to go into a lot of detail, but you know when, when the, when this country started out, we acquired a lot of land in the West, you know – Louisiana Purchase and all this kind of stuff – nobody much livin’ out there. And the idea was to, let’s get some development in the west, let’s do something. Thegovernment had no money but they had, the federal government had land and lots of it. So they passed lots of laws. You’ve heard of the Homestead Act probably and the railroad grants and all that kind of stuff. They also had passed the Mining Act in 1872 which said you could go out and file a claim and then if you proved up your claim, you could have the land for currently it was 2 bucks an acre. Lots of fraud, some mining development. But the big deal was for, as far as development of the country, yeah it got people out there, they actually did find some minerals and so forth. 1872 law is still in effect. There’s been a lot of flak on the hill for the past 40/50 years between people who say we have to get away from this process, and use strictly a mineral leasing approachlike we do for oil and gas. They pay the government a percentage of what they make, ok? Industry and many of the western congressmen have strongly opposed that. It can be a real heated discussion and the uh, they were having one of these very heated discussions when this  Greens Creek Exchange came forward. But they had claims they were operating on, but they had other areas, that everybody knew had minerals on them, and they wanted to get title to that land. But, the industry would say, well just file more claims. And I’m sure that the act was written in such a way that that was gonna be difficult for them because they, they started working this exchange process and the exchange process included them giving, uhh, land, but they also included leasing the minerals rather than having mining claims. Uhh, we were blessed. Our chief appraiser in the Forest Service was a fella named Paul Titman and Paul had to work for the BLM before he came to us and he understood a lot of this business about uh, title claims and mineral leasing. The industry would like to say, well, hey you know, we don’t have any good examples of where we lease and all that, but in truth, there’s quite a bit of evidence on private land. So Paul did a yeomen job getting the information together and analyzing it. And we did come up with a process and the people that Kennecott sent to negotiate with us were absolutely fine. You know, they didn’t come with any attitude or anything else. They just came to solve the problem and I was absolutely, uhh, thrilled about that. Now, what we worked out was not, didn’t make everybody happy by any means and there were people in the department who were unhappy that we were trying to make this happen and all this kind of stuff, but it did happen and Congress did pass it and I felt good about that. We used to get a lot of…this is a little bit of bragging (laughing)..and Ginny is shaking her head (laughing)..but the uhh, when people work on a piece of legislation, uh and it was passed, it’d be something we’d call the Red Line Edition of the bill and we’d frame it and give it to ‘em, you know. I’ve got one up here that’s for Indian legislation but that’s just one of hundreds that we worked on. After retiring, I received a copy of the redline edition for the Greens Creek project – kind of liked that.

 

Break

 

GS – I’m just gonna touch on different bits and pieces I passed over, but the um, one thing Ginny and I learned as we moved around, uh, was that everything was a lot better if you actually got involved in what was going on in the community instead of just hiding within the Forest Service family and the um, that could be church, that could be community activities, whatever. But you actually, yeah, you knew you were gonna move again, but uh, you developed friendships and your kids, everybody, family was just better off. And, another thing that was interesting, remember Ginny and I came in the Forest Service in 1964, that’s when we were married. And the uh, at that time, working wives was not a common thing. And the Forest Service had a whole different way you moved people then. They would have a certificate of eligibles that somebody would pick off of. The fickle finger would move and you’d get notice to be at so and so in two weeks’ time and you just did it. You didn’t argue about it. If you argued about it, you’d be fired, so it was pretty cut and dried. There were reasons they called us the marine corps of the civilian service (laughing). But the uh, um, it, but then working wives became a bigger deal and they finally had to change the process to where you actually apply for a job, but if you apply for the job, you have to be willing to move. You can’t back out then, but you uh, it got to be a softer, gentler Forest Service (laughing) when it came to families. And they uh, but, when we first got on board, and you know, we didn’t think anything of it, but it was a different world. The things that happened in the 60s and 70s in this country are just unreal. Some good and some not so good and anyway, umm, some things I also wanted to…

 

GS – One thing I really liked about doing lands work, um, you made a difference for the long term. You know, I like forestry. The sound of a chain saw doesn’t bother me at all (laughing), but the uh, you know, particularly in the piney woods, if you’re a forester, it’s kinda like growin’ corn and um, I really liked the fact that we were putting together national forest units, making them more effectove, or whatever, and they um, uh, and you never can tell what the future holds, but there’s a really good chance that what you spent your life doing, will, you know, last after you. Umm, when I was in Arkansas, there was a State wildlife biologist, an old guy, been around for a long time, held an ivory guard though. When I was, I forget what the occasion was, but it was in the Russellville Office and we talked and I said, well what is it that you like about the national forests? And he said, what I like about them is they give us options for the future. And as time has gone on, you know, things have really changed, uh, you know, 60-80 years ago a lot of people were farmers and other things, uh, in the 60 and the 70s, we had  3% percent of the population producing all the food and fiber. Everybody was focused on Bambi and they were offended by the sound of a chainsaw so things just got kind of turned upside down, but those changes were coming. But, whatever the public wants, uhh, these lands used for or needs them used for, as long as we don’t tamper with the multiple-use legislation and recognize that these lands can be used for a  variety of uses, these national forests can be there to meet all kinds of needs, things that we haven’t even thought of now. Uh, so I really think, whatever we happen to be doing, so working in lands, we’re building the foundation, or trying to build a manageable unit of public lands and then the management of them, the emphasis in the management of them, was something that was interesting, but somebody else could argue about, but our concern was let’s get those lands where they need to be and the best we can determine and go from there.

 

GS – Umm, another thing that was very satisfying was when I was often assigned problem children, and they um, these problem children sometimes turned out to be the best employees that I had. But, and I never, never studied my navel on this as I was going through the agency, never thought much about it. Um, but toward the end, I began to wonder a little bit in how did things work out the way they did and I’m absolutely positive that it was one thing, because I was positive. I believed we could do what we were doing. I was there early. I stayed late. Used a lot of humor. I uh, but everybody knew that, you know, I was sincere in what I was doing, cared about it, it meant something, and I’ve had people come in and tell me, particularly at the region, that we love coming into your staff cause everybody seems really busy and into what they’re doing and so forth, instead of reading the newspaper and doing stuff like that. So I, I never thought about it, never wondered about it you know, never did anything consciously different, but it just worked and I, I felt good about that. They were, people were enthusiastic about what they were doing.

 

GS – Umm, the, after retiring – retired in 1996 – and we moved, we were in Rockville and we were living in a townhouse in Rockville and we sold the townhouse and we came to western North Carolina ahead of time. We were looking at where we wanted to go. I wanted to be in Ashville because at that time, I got interested in technology and playin’ around with stuff. But Ginny had lived, moved with me for 30+ years and I figured she ought to have kind of a say in this. So she wanted to be in a small town. See you don’t know these towns, but we went to Hendersonville and everybody there, first you didn’t really feel like you were in the mountains and second, everybody there was older than we were. So we went across the ridge, uh, and in the Brevard area and everybody there was in Transylvania County. Everybody there was living behind locked gates and we didn’t really like that. We came across the ridge into Haywood County and we drove into Waynesville and they had the streets closed for a fair and Ginny said, “Any place that will close their main street for a fair has to be all right.” (laughing) So we stayed. So we wound up in Haywood County.

 

Ginny Small – It was October. The Apple Festival was going on… on Main Street.

 

AR – What year was that?

 

Ginny Small – Uhh, 16 years ago, 17 years ago?

 

GS – 17 years ago, yeah. Now, we’ve lived a lot of places and there’s an awful lot of good places. There’s only one or two, one place we lived that we wouldn’t go back to. But the uh, a lot of good places to live in this country. Every place has got something good about it. But…

 

Ginny Small – And we might even go back there now, because it’s changed so much.

 

GS – But this, this spot for us, I am a forester, I do like trees. I do like being out in the woods. Trees grow well here. I like hardwoods. I like the variety of the species. The climate here is the best we’ve seen anywhere. I’m a weather geek and I’ve been keepin’ records for a long time and the um, the highest we’ve seen here is 88 degrees and that was last year. And the coldest is three below. I, I grew up…

 

Ginny Small – He’s, he’s not saying anything that’s personal, other than Forest Service. But, he is a weather geek and, my own personal belief that is directly related to Gordon’s inquiries to Channel 13 in Ashville the first 6 months we were here, um, they started a weather spotter program in which he has participated now.

 

AR – Okay

 

Ginny Small – So he, he gives regular reports from… …to Channel 13.

 

GS – But it’s a, but, yeah, I didn’t we didn’t, neither one of us had a whole lot of big plans about what we were gonna do in retirement. People sweat and worry about that stuff. We just kinda let it happen. And I’ve discovered that if you’ll work for free, there’s no shortage of things to do (laughing) and the uh, but the uh, oh, when we moved here, one of the first things I got involved in, uh, I was into computers and a friend at church said they’re hosting something over in Silva, let’s go over there. So I went over there for that little discussion.

 

Ginny Small – That’s over in Jackson County.

 

AR – Okay.

 

GS – And the um, there was a lady there from an organization called Pathways and they were putting recycled computers in the homes of disabled folks and they asked if we wouldn’t mind helping out, so we did that for a while. And, you don’t realize, particularly in this area where there’s a lot of Cherokee, uh, how serious a problem diabetes can be and how isolated people can get, so being able to get on the internet and you know, talk with people was a big deal, even back then. Started a computer user group, president of that for a while. When we moved here, there was a crisis in our little development. There was a fraction of the number of homes here that there was there and suddenly, one of the provisions was no trailers. Well somebody moved one in and we had, we weren’t an association at the time, but half a dozen of us got together, we had a lawsuit. The trailer was moved out. We became incorporated. Served as president of the association for a while. Uhh, I was on the board of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy for six years and they are a land trust. And the, uh, oh, I started work for Haywood Waterways as project manager. I actually got paid for that. It was a non-profit focused on reducing on point pollution in the Pigeon River Watershed. Umm, did a job for the, oh, NRCS – National Resource Conservation Service. Uhh, over in um, the county, a couple of counties west of us where the state had permitted four trout farms on a branch of Santeetlah Lake and it put too much phosphorous in the water, or at least that’s what the state said, and they were getting these big blooms of algae and so forth and there were some homes alongside the lake there that really didn’t like that. Well the state was in a bind because they permitted them. They finally decided the best way to do was to try to buy them out, so folks knew my background so they hired me to go buy out the trout farms, which I did. Uh, it was interesting. I tell you, it’s fascinating to do stuff when you’re not with the government (laughing).

 

Ginny Small – It’s different.

 

GS – Yeah. It’s a, what startled me was the fact that we were just ?? – I was president of the computer user group, the year Y2K was comin’ along, but prior to that, step back, we decided wouldn’t it be fun to host some sort of a IT gathering here in Haywood County. And we have a community college. They have a high tech center. So those of us, like I represented the computer user group, we had a librarian at the county library who was really into this stuff, two or three other folks, and of course, the high tech folks just get together and form a say, let’s do this. And we did. And it was the best attended event they’d ever had at the high tech center. But it was just strictly that. Nobody was really, you know, it would just happen. And that was kind of fun. Uh, I helped out a little bit when uh, Champion sold the 80-something thousand acres of land here and got out of the paper mill business. The paper mill was bought by somebody else but there are 4500 acres on the headwaters of the Pigeon that ran into Lake Logan and folks weren’t familiar with how you work this process so I gave ’em a little bit of assistance on how you do that. Ultimately it was acquired. Some land went to the Forest Service, some to the boy scouts, some to the Episcopal Church and different places, but it was a good feeling to see that happen. I’m very active in church and served on a lot of committees and was deacon for a couple of times, that kind of stuff. Served on county commissions like the engineering review board for slope ordinances.

 

Ginny Small – Went on work trips down to the Southern Mississippi after Katrina and helped rebuild houses.

 

AR – Oh wow.

 

GS – Yeah, we spent some time down there. Um, different things. But we have decided it’s almost time to retire now. (laughing) We’re gonna do a lot less. But uh, anyway.

 

AR – Do you think holding these leadership positions in the Forest Service influenced you becoming so active in your community once you retired?

 

GS – Made me a lot more comfortable doing it. I mean, I grew up on a farm, okay? I’m as introverted as you get. You leave me alone and I’ll go in my cave and I will roll that rock across the front and you will not see me again.

 

Ginny Small – He speaks true.

 

(laughing)

 

GS – And so, I never thought I’d be testifying on legislation in Congress or I’d be talking to hundreds of people at a time at different gatherings and so forth. Lands was very technical and very legal and there’s lots of archaic public land laws laying around. Supposedly a political appointee was going to go up and supposed to represent the administration, but that quit a long time ago. Usually it was the chief or a deputy chief’s something who’d go out and testify. But when these technical bills would come up, they got tired of turning around every time a question was asked and asked us the answer to it. So they decided and the department approved that I could go up and testify for these particular types of bills, which I did on several occasions. First time or two, the administration sent somebody along to sit in the audience to make sure I behaved myself, but the uh, uh, after that, it was fine. Got used to it. Like I say, that was (laughing), a lot of us in forestry really didn’t mind being in the woods (laughing) and the uh, but you know, ultimately it’s all people business.

 

GS – There is something, another point I’d like to make that, awful lot of people, including Forest Service employees call the Green Land Forest Service land, and it’s not “Forest Service” land. It’s public land administered by the Forest Service, but it’s called National Forest System Land. It’s, in various legislation, Jim Snow had a hand in this too of making sure that that term was codified – National Forest System – and not Forest Service Land. When all the timber issues came up in the agency, and we can talk forever about how it might have gone different ways on that, uh, but for a while, you know, we thought, well, we’ll just educate folks and they’ll like clear cutting as much as we do. Well it didn’t work out that way. But the uh, uh, well, we just need, need to realize that truly they are the public’s lands and we may as foresters or as engineers or as wildlife biologists or as archaeologists or whatever ologist you happen to be, your particular view of the elephant may not be the whole picture and sometimes, you know, I think the pendulum has swung way too far in one direction now with the agency. It’s just fumbling around. When we were there, we just happened to be there at a good time, when the agency and morale was very high. And I saw, read a survey two or three years ago where they surveyed about 200 and some odd agencies and the Forest Service was at the bottom of the list in terms of morale and that was shocking. But, I’m glad I worked with them with I did. I’m very grateful for the experiences I had and the people I got to meet and work with…

 

Ginny Small – One thing you haven’t talked about…

 

GS – What….?

 

Ginny Small – The one hundredth celebration of the Weeks Law.

 

GS – Oh yeah, (laughing), Jim Snow called me late or sometime in 2010 and he said, do you know what’s gonna happen in March 2011? Now I’ve been retired for a while, but after a little bit it dawned on me that that’s gonna be the hundredth anniversary of the Weeks Act. And he said, what do you think the agency’s doing about this? So I started asking questions and I found the agency was doing zip squat, nothing. Talked to a lot of folks, sat up a lot of mailing lists and drafted up a bunch of stuff to try to get some awareness. Now being retired, it was interesting. People I knew in the agency when I was over in the Chief’s Office, deputy chiefs, stuff like that. Then I’d call and they wouldn’t return the call ‘cause I think they knew what I was calling about. But the regional foresters in region 8 and region 9 were very enthusiastic about the idea. And they got on board. And, now the White Mountain National Forest was always gonna do something because they consider themselves the genesis of the Weeks Act and North Carolina, they think they were the genesis of the Weeks Act, so they were gonna do something. But nowhere else was anything gonna happen and it was a great opportunity to remind people that what the Forest Service did when they took over these cut over, burned out, eroding lands, and now they want them in the wilderness, now they want them in some other special designation that they don’t trust the agency to look after these lands, and yet this is the agency that brought them back from, you know, county governments who were more than happy to see them go to federal ownership because people were giving them up for taxes. Umm, I just I don’t understand. I appreciate the fact that a lot of folks have gotten on board and have done things – the Forest History Society published this, which is good, but it’s everybody’s individual view of the elephant. It’s not a, you know, it’s not a…we all look at it differently. You have things written from different people, from different perspectives. But at least it focuses attention on the fact what the Weeks Act was. Years ago, this is written, uhh, and it’s considered the bible, but it’s a lot of years old. But it’s pretty darn good – The Lands Nobody Wanted. I talked about the Red Bird. ?? of the Red Bird, a fellow Harry Caudill, an attorney published this Night Comes to the Cumberlands and it talks about what was goin’ on in that part of the world. It was a neat book.

 

GS – Anyway, anything else you need to ask about?

 

(laughing)

 

AR – Is there anything else you want to share?

 

GS – Oh probably so, but I…(laughing)

 

GS – I was…

 

Ginny Small – He left out the human interest stuff.

 

GS – Human interest? (laughing) Well, yeah, but I, it is a fact that movin’ around the way we did, and we did not move…we were very fortunate. We got to stay in Milwaukee for about 8 years. Our youngest…

 

Ginny Small – This was only our fourteenth move

 

AR – How many times did you move all together?

 

Ginny Small – Fourteen.

 

AR – Fourteen times?

 

Ginny Small – Fourteen from the time we first left Berea. Or maybe he had fourteen different from the time that…

 

GS – Yeah on the Somerset

 

Ginny Small – From Berea to here was fourteen. But there are others in the Forest Service that have moved many more times than that.

 

GS – One of the supervisors I had on the Ozark that I really liked was Larry Henson. He’s since died, but he was a really good guy. He was an up and comer, but he had moved 11 times in two years.

 

AR – Wow.

 

GS – Yeah. Now we had, we had three daughters that came along at different times. Two of them took the moves fairly well. One of them took two years to get over it. She always felt that if she made new friends, she was being unfaithful to her old ones (laughing). But uh, and when she was graduating from college, the college wanted to know a paper that they could send the announcement to.

 

Ginny Small – I got a call…We were living in Rockville…I got a call from Kathy. She was just sobbing her heart out. And, you know, you think about, is she pregnant? Has her roommate committed suicide? What’s going on here, you know? And she finally kind of calmed down; finally long enough that she could talk to me. The campus news bureau had sent her a form to fill out to return to them to send to their hometown newspaper about her graduation. I said, well Kathy, that’s wonderful. She says, but Mom! I don’t have a hometown!

 

AR – She didn’t know where to send it?

 

Ginny Small – And I said, Kathy, call the news bureau and tell them you need three more copies. She says, why? I said, well you have four hometowns. (laughing) And she did. Mmm hmm.

 

AR – So when you guys moved, did you, um, did you live in the forests or in cities?

 

GS – (Laughing) Cities. (laughing) Cities. First, you know, Manchester was, you know, I guess it was…anyway, it was a small town, maybe 2000 you know. Berea was about 2 – Berea was a college town.

 

Ginny Small – At Manchester, we had a tiny two-bedroom apartment upstairs over a barber shop that sprayed for bugs every Wednesday, overlooking Main Street of Manchester. Main Street in Manchester meant a little narrow street with coal trucks, loaded coal trucks, rumbling through every hour of the day. The first night we were there, there was a street fight – two women fighting over some guy underneath our living room window. So..

 

AR – This was in Kentucky?

 

Ginny Small – This was in Manchester, Kentucky. Uh, there was a Piggly Wiggly there. I learned the first week that when you put an egg in something you’re cooking, you always crack it into another bowl first because it may have a baby chicken in it or the bread and the cereal had bugs in it. It was, you know, after the second or third week, we learned to go to London and do our grocery shopping.

 

GS – Know that town outside the plateau we were in. We were in a plateau. We were in the hill country.

 

Ginny Small – Our first two children were born there. Our oldest daughter was a little preemie, three pounds, two ounces ?? Um, born in December and the closest hospital then that you wanted to use was in London. So uh, she was in the hospital for two months after she was born, in the winter time with snow and ice on the roads. So there would sometimes be two or three days that we could not even get to the hospital to see her. That was in 65, so before the days of rooming in and so forth and so on. We touched our daughter for the first time and we got her dressed to bring her home when she was two months old.

 

AR – Oh wow.

 

Ginny Small – So…

 

GS – Ginny was young, thank goodness (laughing)

 

Ginny Small – I cried a lot.

 

AR – Yeah.

 

GS – Oh, we had the land under fire protection. the first time federal fire protection, I mean in 1963, they’d had 2, they’d had  twenty – when the county guard in Clay County went to bed that one night, he had 27 going fires and most of them larger than two thousand acres and the uh..

 

Ginny Small – Gordon would go to work at 5 o’clock in the morning and get home at midnight

 

GS – But my boss, who was divorced, he was dating somebody else. See he was happy to have me do the fire stuff. Ginny got a little upset with the fact that I wasn’t getting any time off (laughing). She accosted him in the laundromat (laughing).

 

AR – So it was hard for you?

 

Ginny Small – Well, we brought this little tiny five pounder home from the hospital with instructions not to take her out because of all the coal dust in the air.

 

AR – Yeah.

 

Ginny Small – What with respiratory problems. But yet, he was on fire duty and working weird hours, as I said, leaving at 5 and 6 o’clock in the morning and getting home at 11 or 12 o’clock at night. I have to go to the grocery store. I have to go to the laundromat. But there’s no time to go when I can’t take Jennifer out.

 

AR – Yeah

 

Ginny Small – You know, so… Not only did I cry, but I occasionally threw things. (Gordon laughs)

 

GS – Yeah, but it’s a, um, like I say, we lived a lot of places we liked and met a lot of good folks along the way and that was all good.

 

GS – One thing I was gonna touch on, I’ll just run down this quickly, change was accelerating. Now, I made a note, I might do a little research on this, uhh, I talked about these old public land disposition acts when the idea was to dispose of the public land rather than acquire any. Those are back in really after the Civil War, most of ’em. The oldest non-profit conservational organization is American Forests and it was started in 1875. The Society of the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is now called Forest Society still exists in 1901. They were a moving force in getting the Weeks Act. The Weeks Act was passed in 1911, bought a bunch of land, the depression came along, bought a bunch more land. Most of the land we bought was bought in the depression. When WWII came, stopped the acquisition. the Nature Conservancy, probably the most capitalized land trust started in 1951. Silent Spring in 62. We started to work, or I started to work for the Forest Service in ’63. They moved from schedules to appraisals in the early 60s and the Red Bird Purchase Unit in ’65. But then there’s the Wild and Scenic River Act in ’69, the National Trails System Act in 1968, NEPA in 1969, Uniform Relocation Act which affected us a lot in the way we did business, 1970 – Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, in 1971, the Endangered Species Act. In 73, the Eastern Wilderness Act. In 75, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. In 1976 National Forest Management Act. In 1976, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. In 1980, uh, and it just, the historical and archaeological legislation in 74 and 80. I- The Small Tracts Act was enacted – in 83, Ski Area Permit Act in 86, Federal Land Exchange Act in 88. Just one thing after. Every one of these things had significant impacts on the way we did business. Change was all the time and now the bulk of the Forest Service during the later years got focused on, you know, the land management planning process and the controversies and stuff. I was grateful that I was working in this particular area. It was. It’s a very unique area. A lot of people considered it a black box.

 

GS – Another thing we did is that we established – a predecessor got us started and I continued it – – we had a national training center because we had Forest Supervisors and District rangers, that didn’t know much about land stuff. This lack of experience could get the Agency in a whole lot of,  trouble. So we had two week sessions, uh, and weeklong sessions out at Marana Arizona. Uhh, in a facility out there and we, we’d put on serious courses on how you, -, -manage  your Lands responsiblities. I had a boss one time when we were doing stuff, uhh, who um, it’s kind of fun to wheel and deal with big wigs you know, and it’s good for your ego and all that kinda stuff, and so, uh, there was an opportunity in an area they thought might be fun to move on so -he went ahead and started negotiating a deal and that put us, could have put us in a really bad spot. He recognized that just in time and then he said, I’ll tell you what, I promise I won’t ever do that again (laughing). But, but the…it is unique and it does require some specialized training and understanding and experience, but anyway, tried to provide that through that the training courses. We also have a correspondence course that people could take and get certified for different jobs. That was initially held at, I think, Colorado State or University  of Colorado – I can’t recall – but then it was moved into, um, oh, what’s the name of that college in Fairfax County? I can’t recall.

 

Ginny Small – James Madison?

 

GS – No. I can’t recall it now, but anyway, it was hosted there. I presume it’s still going on. I don’t know. I have tried. One thing I didn’t like when I was in the Washington Office last time was that I would get retired Forest Service folks come in- lobbying for bad legislation and that would happen because they’d get hired and paid good salaries to represent them, you know, to come in and try to push stuff. And they um, that, I said, man, when I’m retired I’m not gonna darken the door again. Well, John Ramey’s a good friend and he moved over from the Cherokee to supervise here in North Carolina. He asked me to put together a, a good summary of the stuff on the payment – in lieu of taxes and the 25% fund and I did that for him. Didn’t get paid for anything, just did it… and I have gotten involved with the forest on the Weeks Act stuff. But the uh, uh, I have tried to keep my distance from – somebody else is runnin’ it now. I need to, I need to just think about other things. But anyway, like I say, I was grateful, still am for the opportunity, experiences. As Ginny said, sometimes it wasn’t easy on the family, but from my, I don’t know – I think Ginny feels the same way – there’s plusses and minuses. If you stay in the same place all your life, it has some, you know, some really nice aspects to it. Of course they never forget what you did in high school, but then when you, if you move around a lot, uhh, you get to meet a lot of new people, you get a lot of different experiences, you get exposed to a lot of perspectives that you wouldn’t have gotten exposed to. So, um, there’s plusses and minuses. I think our kids have a different, a broader view of things maybe than someone that never did get a chance to move around.

 

Ginny Small – A lot of things – Kathy our middle daughter was the one who had problems with the moves and the transfers – and so, we recognized this and began to let her go back to visit friends that she left behind. And when we moved to Wisconsin in June. In December while they were out of school between Christmas and New Year’s, we let her fly back to Virginia to visit her friends there. And here was a 14 year old kid, who got caught in snow storms in Chicago with plane changes and schedule changes and airport changes, but she handled it. Umm, there just seemed to be, uh, maybe maturity level is not the right world, but there was an ability to cope with things that uh, we noticed missing in their cousins and their friends and so forth and so on. But when we moved to Wisconsin also, um, our youngest, Heather, had just turned 6 in April and she was in kindergarten. The next year, in April when she turned 7, I found her – we had given her a little suitcase that she could pack to put her toys and books and whatever she wanted to take with her when she travelled to put that in. And I found it in her room and she had the bottom drawer of her bureau open and she was pulling everything out and puttin’ it in her suitcase. Umm, I asked her what she was doing. She told me she was packing to go back to Virginia because she was tired of all the snow (laughing). We have a picture taken the day before that on April the fifth or sixth, whatever it was, the three kids are standing out on the stoop in front of the house. This is April and they’re standing in a foot and a half of snow and it’s snowing so hard you can barely see their faces (laughing)

 

GS – And blowing

 

Ginny Small – And blowing

 

GS – It always blew (laughing) in Milwaukee

 

(garbled)

 

GS – Somebody sent us a Christmas card once and they lived I guess in Arkansas and they sent us a Christmas card of them at some lake or beach or whatever.

 

Ginny Small – It was at the beach

 

GS – At the beach, you know and it was sunny and sandy on Christmas. So we went down to Lake Michigan, lakefront with ice piled up (laughing).

 

Ginny Small – Lots of ice! That thick where the waves had washed up and frozen.

 

GS – And anyway, we got a picture down there and sent that to them next Christmas (laughing)

 

Ginny Small – Here’s our beach. Here’s our beach picture.

 

GS – Here’s our beach picture (laughing).

 

GS – Anyway, I don’t have anything else.

 

AR – Did you, um, did you have a lot of encounters with the public throughout your work?

 

GS – Yeah.

 

AR – Yeah?

 

GS – Yeah, uhh, a lot of course with land owners, uhh, and when I was responsible for the unit planning process and we had these public sessions, uh, designing those and leading them and so forth, uhh, and I got to go, at the national level, got invited, and in Milwaukee as well, to an awful lot of industry and interest groujp meetings. Uhh, of course then there was the friendly stuff with the land trusts and that kind of stuff, but then they would, the mineral folks – the mineral people really do know how to throw a party. We’d get invited a lot to those kinds of things. But you get to speak at a lot of different gatherings. The summer home for people, for example, was when I was there, it was still an issue, particularly around the fees for summer home permits. Back in the early years of the Forest Service when the agency’s future was still tentative, I think there was an effort to build some support, and so they started issuing permits for summer home places and we wound up with twenty -thousand odd summer homes in the national forest system. No big deal back then, kind of a big deal now and there are places in Idaho, for example, where we might be chargin’ a few hundred dollars for the use when the market value might be several thousand dollars a month and the um, uh, so the fee schedule was a concern and there’s a big issue about the attitude recreation folks like them cause they get to count ’em as recreation visitors. Lands folks were a little ambivalent about it because they thought well maybe that had been a mistake to actually do that kind of stuff back then, but the uh, I got to speak at a number of those kind of things. Got lobbied a lot in DC. There were some professional lobbyists that specialize in  the Lands area and they’d come by and see me a lot but there are all kinds of people that would come in and talk to us about stuff. Uhh, I feel good about the fact, for example, we had enough flexibility when I was in DC anyway, to create a, we call them composites – special areas – that we’d focus on and the um, and that would help get funding to protect some of those places.

 

Ginny Small – But Gordon, Gordon has always been a very private person. He doesn’t make a big deal about what he did. Umm, when we were in DC, he did a lot of great stuff, but yet, if you weren’t directly involved with him in this, you never knew what he did. Since retirement, um, he’s built his own reputation here in Haywood County. Very few people know what he did. He’s very private about all of this.

 

GS – Anyway, like I say, glad, never would have thought I’d be doin’ what I wound up doin’. And I never knew the Forest Service even had something like this when I went to work for them and that probably wouldn’t have been interesting even if I knew it. But the way I kind of backdoored into it, I really got very enthusiastic about it and and it’s something I could put my life into that I felt might count for something in the long run. But I really liked what that old fella told me in Arkansas, that what he liked about the national forest were the options for the future. And I think that’s absolutely what they are. Anyway, appreciate the opportunity.

 

AR – Thank you!

 

The Interviewee:  Gordon Small worked for the Forest Service from 1963 until 1996. He has held a variety of positions and has worked in a variety of locations during that time. Most of his responsibilities involved land acquisition, uses, and management. Mr. Small’s first job in the Forest Service was working on the Cumberland National Forest (now Daniel Boone National Forest) dealing with continuous forest inventory plots. He then worked on the Redbird Purchase Unit and opened an office in Manchester, KY to oversee the acquisition. While working in Kentucky, he met his wife, Ginny, and the two married in 1965. Following his time on the Redbird, he transferred to the Atlanta Regional Office where he worked on land and water conservation, mineral rights, and review appraisals. He then transferred to Russellville, Arkansas and worked as a Lands and Minerals Staff Officer and then worked as a Staff Officer in Land Management Planning. In 1977, Mr. Small was transferred to the Washington Office and worked in the Land Purchase staff desk where he dealt with congressional issues, worked with the National Forest Reservation Commission, and wrote Forest Service manuals. In 1980, he was promoted to Director of Lands, Minerals, and Watershed for the Eastern Region of the Forest Service and worked out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1989, Mr. Small returned to the Washington Office as Director of Lands (SES). Mr. Small retired in 1996 and he and his wife, Ginny, moved to Waynesville, NC. Since his retirement, Mr. Small has been involved in a variety of different activities that include forming a property owners’ association in his community, starting a computer user group, serving as project manager for the Haywood Waterways Association, serving on the board of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the Engineering Review Board for Haywood County. He has also been involved in many volunteer projects including setting up computers for Cherokee Indians suffering from diabetes, rebuilding homes in southern Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, and volunteering within his church. Mr. Small is very proud of the work that he has done in the Forest Service and values the relationships he built with other Forest Service employees over the years. He cites the Weeks Act as the most important piece of legislation in establishing forests in the eastern United States and has been somewhat disappointed that the Forest Service has not done more to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the act.

The Interviewer:  Angelia Riveira is a graduate student at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. She is working toward her Master’s degree in history and is also pursuing a certificate in Public History. For her thesis, she will be researching the emergence of flea markets in the United States.

Description of the Interview:  The interview took place in Mr. Small’s home in Waynesville, NC. We conducted the interview in his dining room. His wife, Ginny, was present throughout the interview. She also participated in the second half. We conducted the first portion of the interview for 57 minutes. We then took a break for about 20 minutes so Mr. Small could show me maps of the areas where he worked, some awards he won while in the Forest Service, and recommend books about the Weeks Act and the southeastern forests. During this break, Mrs. Small also spoke about her experiences raising their family while Mr. Small worked. Mrs. Small noted that she sometimes encountered difficulties in their moves, particularly in Washington, D.C., when it became more common for Forest Service wives and other women to hold jobs. She felt that these women often weren’t interested in her because her job was to raise their family. She found it much easier to deal with the moves and loneliness by building relationships within the different communities in which they lived. She also noted that it was sometimes difficult on their children when they moved all the time, and that one daughter in particular found it especially hard. Overall, however, she and her husband both agreed that moving made their children more independent and mature than other children their age. During the break, she encouraged her husband to be more forthcoming about personal information instead of focusing so much on Forest Service policies. She shared a few other personal stories about her own and her husband’s experiences while her husband worked in the Forest Service. Once we started the second portion of the interview, Mrs. Small answered some questions about their family life and also answered more personal questions about her husband’s accomplishments. The second portion of the interview lasts for about 39 minutes. The sound quality is pretty good as there were no interruptions during the interview. However, the sound of wind from an open window can be heard in a few portions. There are also spots where the sound of Mr. Small drinking or moving items around on the table can also be heard. I stayed at the Small’s home for about 3 hours. The time outside of the interview was spent discussing their personal lives, different regions of the United States, politics, and my studies. Mr. Small and his wife have placed no restrictions on the use of this interview.

Content of the Interview:  The bulk of the interview focuses on Mr. Small’s career in the Forest Service, which spanned from 1963 to 1996. We briefly discussed his life before entering the Forest Service at the beginning of the interview. There is also a short section in the second half of the interview where Mr. Small and his wife discuss their life after retirement. Regarding his career in the Forest Service, Mr. Small explained the various positions he held, the people he worked with, the locations where he worked, and the impact of various legislation on Forest Service policy. While Mr. Small was not given any questions in advance, he prepared for the interview by putting together two pages of notes listing topics he wanted to cover and information he thought was important. Mr. Small was enthusiastic about discussing his career and policies in the Forest Service. He characterizes himself as being an introverted man; his wife characterizes him as being rather shy about his accomplishments and personal life. As mentioned above, Mrs. Small contributed to the second half of the interview. This was not planned, but I decided to allow it because Mr. Small seemed more comfortable discussing more personal issues when encouraged by his wife. Mrs. Small discussed moving to a small town in Kentucky, giving birth to her first daughter, and raising her children on the move. She also contributed some of her husband’s community contributions after he retired. Throughout the interview, Mr. Small emphasized the importance of maintaining public lands, his pride in working in a field that contributes to continuing public good, and his satisfaction with his Forest Service colleagues.

Note on Recording: A Zoom recorder with dual microphones built in was used to record this interview. The audio file is saved as a .wav file and is of high quality.