June 20, 2005

The Forest Service - II

While the Black Hills National Forest was the laboratory for conducting timber sales, the San Isabel NF here in southern Colorado was for a time a laboratory for indoctrinating recreational users in wholesome outdoor values.

You could call it "Smokey Bear versus the Bolsheviks," but Smokey was not invented until World War II and the threat of Japanese balloon-borne incendiary bombs. (Originally the anti-forest fire campaign used Bambi, but Walt Disney did not want to permanently give up his money-making cartoon deer to a government agency; hence Smokey was created by a commercial artist.)

A key player was the landscape architect Arthur Carhart, hired as the FS's first "recreation engineer" in 1919, at a time when it seemed like the National Park Service was a growing threat in bureaucratic budget wars.

Carhart came to the San Isabel, never a large timber-producer, with new ideas for the new automobile-oriented style of forest recreation. The Park Service put had put big hotels in places like Glacier and Grand Canyon that were served by railroads, but what about the auto tourist?

In only a few years, before he left to create the Denver Mountain Parks system and other large projects, Carhart worked with business interests in Pueblo, Colo., to make the "San Iz" visitor-friendly, with roads and campgrounds. (The above-timberline hotels never were built.)

"He created our idea of the beautiful--and the safe (because it is predator free) wilderness," writes Tom Wolf in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Pueblo's steel mill and the coal mines in surrounding counties were full of immigrants, but Carhart wrote, "The thousands of citizens of foreign birth or of foreign extraction found residing near the borders of the Forest . . . will through cooperation of the Forest and with the Industrial Companies, come to know the hills and by means of camps . . . these people will become better citizens and far less open to insidious suggestions of the radical agitator to strike at this land they have come to know and love."

Today's task: Take a Islamic jihadist camping.

More to come.

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