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The Weeks Act created the country’s eastern national forests and New Hampshire’s own White Mountain National Forest. In this ongoing series, NHPR looks at how the Weeks Act has affected the Granite State. Help us tell the story: share your connection to New Hampshire's forests through the Public Insight Network

He Created the Weeks Act but Wasn't a Hardcore Conservationist

John Wingate Weeks
Courtesy of The Weeks Estate
John Wingate Weeks

Lancaster’s John Weeks, who was responsible for the Weeks Act of 1911 that gave the government the authority to create national forests, appreciated nature but wasn’t a hardcore environmentalist, according to a historian who is also his great granddaughter.

 “He, himself was a businessman. He did not claim to be a conservationist in the classic sense of the word, certainly not in our sense,” said Rebecca Weeks Sherrill More. “But I think it is important that as a good businessman he understood that conservation was good business”

 Ms. More is a history professor who spoke late in February in Bethlehem at a meeting sponsored by The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Her theme was how Weeks being born in the North Country influenced him and gave him the tools he needed to get the Weeks Act passed.

 One of those tools was an appreciation for the value of hard work. She said Weeks once wrote “I have never been thankful enough that I was born on a farm that the hard work that I did at home was the real foundation which enabled me to accomplish what I have.”

 Ms. More said attending the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis also helped Weeks because the military training gave him a “sense of the strategic planning that is required to accomplish long-term goals, not just short-term ones.”

 Living in the North Country also exposed him to people with a tradition of public service in addition to giving him an understanding of how cooperation was needed to accomplish things, she said.

 “During his student years at Annapolis, his career as a banker and a businessman in Boston and his political career, he was somebody who worked well with others, this is how he has been described, and he inspired a sense of collective purpose.”

 It all came together in passing the Weeks Act.

 “His understanding of how to use a web of personal relationships to promote conservation as good business has its roots in his early years in The North Country,” she said.


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