Trailer Captions

The public lands become the way by which we know we are democratic. We own them.
And so, of course, we are going to disagree about how they should be managed.
[soft piano music]
For the first 100 years of the American Republic
our attitude towards the public lands was to get rid of them.
The General Land Office is just giving it all away as fast as possible.
That a nation would decide that some lands will never be given away,
that they will be held in the hands of the people –
It’s a remarkable step for a nation to make.
[violin music]
National Forest exists not for the benefit of the government,
but for the benefit of the people.
And the Forest Service always promised the American people
that wisely managed, these lands could be used for hundreds of years to come.
The people who are recruited into it are immensely idealistic
and they really do think that they know best. And sometimes
they get into trouble in a democratic context because of that.
The Forest Service was characterized by a palpable uniformity in gender,
ethnicity, background, education, and profession.
We didn’t get a full size badge. I now have a full size badge.
So you can see how far we’ve come.
[fire roar]
It’s like a thousand trains rushing over a thousand steel trestles.
The Agency, from the beginning, was obsessed with fire,
but it saw it as something it would get over.
Remember, only you can prevent forest fires!
[Smokey the Bear song: …cause everybody knows that he’s the fire prevention bear. Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear]
Smokey Bear, ah, had a midlife crisis.
He was 50 years old in a year when 34 firefighters were killed.
The national forests could not have been sold to the American people
without the guarantee of use.
It wasn’t timber people fought over in the early part of the 20th century.
It was always grazing.
Drawing lines on a map solves a lot of conflicts,
if you can agree on where the line is.
The heat was on to get the cut out. And timber was king.
It paid the rent. It ran the fleet. It did everything.
Recreationists are also increasing their use of the national forest.
And they’re gonna run smack dab into each other.
It’s about eco-systems.
Do they want ‘em preserved and locked up and people kept out?
Or do they want ‘em managed for multiple uses?
See our Western campgrounds have been taken over by hippie types.
People became more outspoken. Willing to get more involved,
unwilling to trust the government.
That’s when we lost the white hats.
And we went to the dark side.
[suspenseful music]
We don’t really know what we mean anymore by the greatest good in the forest?
[suspenseful music]
Finding the greatest good, of course, is a tremendous challenge,
because it changes over the years.
Whose greatest good is it now, whose greatest good will it be later?
[theme music]
And it is that debate and dialogue that makes the National Forest
a very vibrant part of our national culture.
[music swell]