Technological forests : engineering nature with tree planting on the Great Plains, 1870-1944

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


As Euro-American settlers moved onto the Great Plains in the 19th century they planted trees to try and reshape the landscape and influence society and the environment. The federal government, through land grant laws and its forestry bureau encouraged this tree planting. In 1902 the federal government established the first federal tree nursery and used seedlings produced there to plant a 30,000 acre forest in the sand hills of central Nebraska. After three decades of tree planting experience the U.S. Forest Service undertook the Prairie States Forestry Project, planting shelterbelts across the continent from Canada to Texas, as a response to the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Over the course of the 20th century, as these forests grew they became naturalized, both as developing ecosystems and in the public perception as natural spaces for recreational activities. An envirotechnical analysis of this history shows the interactions of environment, culture, and technology; illustrates the historical use of organic technologies; and challenges the traditional categorization of natural and artificial.




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