100th anniversary of creation of 'The People's Forest' is celebrated

By JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
May 17. 2018 9:22PM
Clare Mendelson, the supervisor of the White Mountain National Forest, on Wednesday welcomes guests to the opening of “The People's Forest: A Centennial Celebration of the White Mountain National Forest," an exhibit at Plymouth State University's Museum of the White Mountains. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

PLYMOUTH — On the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s establishment of the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), dozens of its champions gathered at Plymouth State University’s Museum of the White Mountains on Wednesday for the opening of “The People’s Forest” exhibit.

Featuring artwork, maps, photographs, displays, and interactive experiences, “The People’s Forest: A Centennial Celebration of the White Mountain National Forest” will be on display through Sept. 12.

Cynthia Robinson, the director of the exhibit, hopes it will provide visitors information about the WMNF and reinforce the feeling “that it’s theirs.”

Additionally, the exhibit is a conversation-starter, Robinson said, that will encourage “more participation in the way forward” for the forest.

Jane Difley, president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF), said that by looking back at the history of the national forest, “it reminds us that a lot of things are possible and to never give up hope.”

Once almost entirely privately owned, what is now the almost 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest — a portion of which is in western Maine — was established “after public outcry over uncontrolled logging and fires,” said the U.S. Forest Service.

The forest gets close to six million visitors annually.

Difley said with its many partners, the national forest is “a model” for engaging people in the discussion of the future for such an important public asset.

That discussion is “an opportunity to create, re-create,” the forest, said Difley. She added that SPNHF owns a number of lands that it thinks are very special and beautiful, but conceded that “we know the White Mountain National Forest is the gem, not only of New Hampshire, but all of New England.”

Clare Mendelson, supervisor of the WMNF, began her remarks with “Happy Birthday, Forest,” before adding that Wednesday’s opening ceremony for the centennial exhibit was just the first of many events during the coming 12 months to celebrate the forest’s milestone.

Like Robinson, she said the centennial exhibit was a great way for the public to learn not only about the forest but also the “amazing dedication” of many people and groups required to keep it running smoothly.

On the occasion of the WMNF’s centennial, Mendelson said it was appropriate to consider the U.S. Forest Service mission statement which she paraphrased as “we care for the land, we serve the people.”

While celebration is the order of the day now, Mendelson said going forward the question will be, “what’s our gift to the next generation.”


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