From the timbered shores of the Pacific Northwest to the marble halls of Washington DC, the choices about how we use our rich natural heritage are filled with controversy. Whether it is the protection of endangered species or meeting the needs of a growing public, the fate of public lands is constantly challenged by the constraints of democracy. Visionary foresters Gifford Pinchot and Aldo Leopold shaped the debate over land stewardship for a hundred years. Their journey from the “wise use” of resources to the idea of a “land ethic” has defined the evolution of the Forest Service and the management of National Forests and Grasslands.

At the heart of these struggles are the landscapes that have inspired us all. In a breathtaking high definition documentary, The Greatest Good takes the audience on a journey as compelling as it is uniquely American.

Part One: The Fight for Conservation

Historical images from numerous archives across the country capture the early days of the conservation movement. In an era of unchecked exploitation, a new breed of leaders emerges with radical ideas about adopting practices that benefit the greatest portion of the population.

Part Two: Building the System

In its early decades, the U.S. Forest Service had to invent the tools and policies needed to manage public lands. Natural and social disasters including catastrophic fires and the Great Depression had a powerful influence on the young agency.

Part Three: Boom!

World War II transformed the nation, as well as the U.S. Forest Service. The agency shifted from a stewardship role, caring for the land, to the role of production, fulfilling postwar demands. This was the time when the multiple use concept was put into action, and also the time when conflicts began to develop among competing interests.

Part Four: The Greatest Good?

With a more outspoken public and increased environmental activism challenging the interests of logging and ranching communities, the Forest Service found it difficult to determine the greatest good. A new scientific understanding of ecosystems helped form a vision for public land management that continues to evolve and guide the U.S. Forest Service.
This documentary brings together national organizations, renowned historians, political activists and major corporations to share their perspectives on one hundred years of conservation and the prospects for the future.


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