Tag Archives: jim kidd

The O.G. Forest Service Employees

Before our interview began, Mr. Jim Kidd declared to us that he came prepared to talk about the Weeks Act, with maps and documents in his possession. He feels strongly about giving the people behind it credit for their hard work, without which we may not have forest reserves today.

According to Mr. Kidd, the Weeks Act was passed in 1911 after a decade long process. The land was being overused for logging and railroads which was leading to “terrible floods” that made people decide that land reservation was necessary. Mr. Kidd described the “Cradle of Forestry in Ashville” that is the location of the first forestry school, started by the German, Dr. Schenck. It is also the location of the Vanderbilt family’s 20,000 acres of land, which Gifford Pinchot helped manage. This was the location where many involved in the Weeks Act were trained.

Before 1911, there were no reserves in the east, “what a task! how do you do that?” proclaimed Mr. Kidd, “there’s no highway system … most people got around on horses”. He went onto describe the toiling necessary tasks completed by these foresters. “they had to appraise it, they had to find out where the boundary lines were, they had to survey it, then they had to negotiate a price on it, and inevitably on 10,0000 there were people that contested ownership.” He then went on to describe the judicial process that became involved due to the fact that many people were claiming ownership from government grants that were given a century before, with many of the titles gone from fires and other problems. The federal court became involved and eventually cleared the title legally and allowed governmental purchase.

Mr. Kidd showed us a map of the surveying process from this work done on the Chattahoochee and I can only imagine the years that it took these workers to get the intricate details of such large tracts of land mapped out. He ended his explanation by saying that “it started in 1914 and it’s still going on today.” Mr. Kidd was involved in today’s processes of consolidating land. He showed us a map and indicated where there was a gap between the forest reserves and detailed how he would go and try to get the government to buy that land from its owner in order to consolidate, but congress appropriations often go back on their promises to the forest service.

It is still a taxing process today but as Mr. Kidd emphasized, the original forest workers at the start of the 20th century had to have been  extremely motivated workers to complete such a vast project. 

“There’s Nothing Romantic about Fighting Fires”-Jim Kidd

In our interview with Mr. Jim Kidd, he emphasized his years spent working, controlling, and managing fires in the Forest Service. He discussed the necessity for working with fire when he first entered the forest service when he stated,”back when I came to work, if you didn’t work in fire, you were done, it was a key element to working in the forest service.” He described how in the east, most fires that occur in forests are ground fires that can kill trees and cause damage, but are not the flame engulfing fires that you would see out west. A particularly interesting story that he told us about from his time working with fire was about the Talulah Forest in Rabun County, Georgia, which is right on the border of North Carolina. He described certain citizens who were angered by the fact that the Forest Service passed national trails legislation that made the river a wild and scenic region, therefore preventing them from any longer driving vehicles through the paths. Mr. Kidd said that this enraged people to the point of committing arson and described how, “they just about burnt that county up for years and years and years…we were on fire call every night.” He went on to describe how “that generation has moved on” and that there is no longer an issue of arson in this area. I found this story to be interesting because it shows the conflicts between community members and the forest service in regards to priorities. The forest service found the area to be valuable and in need of preservation while certain people seemed to feel otherwise. It should also be noted that Mr. Kidd was not talking about the members of this community as a whole, but rather just certain individuals. 

Jim Kidd

Growing up in North Georgia, Jim Kidd was no stranger to forests and spent a considerable amount of his time hunting, fishing, and exploring. After graduating with a degree in forest resources from the University of Georgia in 1972, Mr. Kidd worked first with a private forestry company before being hired by the Forest Service. Mr. Kidd has a tremendous amount of respect for the men who first created the national forests, and so working for the Forest Service was a great reward for him. Mr. Kidd spent time working in Arkansas and Georgia, where he specialized in timber and land management. Now retired, Mr. Kidd continues to serve as a consultant in Northern Georgia for timber land management, appraisal, and sale.