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.