Origins of the Eastern Old Growth movement - Pre-ENTS   Robert Leverett
  Nov 11, 2005 12:15 PST 


I'm glad you started this thread. Dr. Mary Byrd Davis is both a
cherished friend and colleague of mine. I wrote the forward to the 1993
edition of "Old Growth in the East - A Survey" and provided all the old
growth data for Massachusetts and lots of data for other areas of the
Northeast and some data for the Southeast. I also helped Mary edit the
original edition of the survey and provided data for the current update.

   Putting together that original survey was no small job. And let me
state for the record, Mary Byrd did a spectacular job in all ways. I
have long admired how she assembled the multitude of sources of
information stretching from Maine to Florida. Brother, did she have to
deal with some big egos. Few people could do what she did. I certainly
could have not.

   I'd also like to point out that Mary is a grand lady and a
multidimensional one. As an example, she speaks fluent French and is
very active in the French anti-nuclear movement. She often travels to
France. Although her doctorate is in English, she is extraordinarily
plain spoken and humble. From conversations with her, you'd never guess
the determination and dedication she has.

   Yes, Mary founded the Old Growth Clearinghouse. Yours truly also
participated in its formation, but as an assistant to Mary. She has
always been the central figure. My initial role was to help get articles
and to write quite a few of my own, which I did. My informal mission was
to keep the pump primed. Mary did all the difficult publishing work.

   As some general notes, and for those list members unaware of the
history, the decade of the 1990s was the golden era of the eastern old
growth movement. Names known well to the Ents on this list were
participants in the movement at some level. I speak of Will Blozan, Dave
Stahle, Lee Frelich, Charlie Cogbill, etc. If I can summon up the
energy, before I hang up my clinometer, I really would like to write a
book on the origin, rise, and accomplishments of the eastern old growth
movement because some of the stellar figures of the movement have
drifted into anonymity, e.g. Dr. Robert Mueller, X-NASA geologist turned
forest ecologist. He founded Virginians For Wilderness. Then there was
the Preserve Appalachian Wilderness (PAW) group - real forest rabble
rousers. PAW and South PAW were Earth First spin-offs. And yes, for a
time the excellent Wild Earth Publication was an important player in the

   If the eastern old growth movement now seems moribund, it is because
it has been a victim of its own success. We DID get the word out.
Scientific research in eastern old growth as burgeoned. There are many
speaking for the old growth now. But the movement still lives. The 7th
Ancient Eastern Forest Conference in Little Rock, AR next March is an
outgrowth of the movement and Mary was part of all the conferences with
the exception of this last one in New Hampshire (Sep 2004). I hope Mary
will rejoin us in March 2006.

    Taking it a step further, the Island Press book "Eastern Old Growth
Forests - Prospects for Rediscovery and Recovery" was an outgrowth of
the Ancient Eastern Forest Conference Series. Mary Byrd Davis, her son
John, myself, and a few others were the principal organizers of the
effort to write that book. Again, I think I could write a book about our
efforts to write that book. It certainly tested my commitment to work
for the cause completely in a volunteer capacity.

   In an indirect way, ENTS, itself, is an outgrowth of our common
search for old growth in the East and the Ancient Eastern Forest
Conference Series. And as many of you might guess, Will Blozan, our
distinguished president is up to his eye balls with involvement in the
whole shooting match. Will has stayed the course, beginning as part of
the movement in 1993. Lee Frelich is another who has been involved on
the side of science since 1994. Lee and the Mid-westerners were out
there on their own years before. That Dr Frelich is a stellar figure in
eastern old growth should come as no surprise to anyone in ENTS. Also,
the Lord of the Rings, himself, Dave Stahle officially became part of
the Ancient Eastern Forest Conference Series in 1994. He has been a
central figure ever since. But there are other players out there,
unknown to this list, who have dropped out along the way. Some major
performers like Rob Messick in North Carolina became locally well known
as old growth gurus and made discovery after discovery after discovery.
Key performers like Rob dropped out of sight for financial reasons. Man,
the stories that could be told.

   Least anyone think the true origin of ENTS springs from a few
eccentrics at my kitchen table, mesmerized by big trees and big tree
hunting - not so. The true origin of ENTS is deeply rooted in the
eastern old growth movement. The cofounders of ENTS were just looking
for new ways of highlighting what we were finding in the way of forest
gems and exceptional trees.


Edward Frank wrote:
Have any of you seen this book? It is advertised on the Old Growth Clearinghouse site?

Old Growth in the East - A Survey
Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest Mt. Vernon, Kentucky

The aim of this revision is to describe all old-growth sites in the East (over 40 acres in size) that are known to researchers.

Wild Earth published the first edition of Old Growth in the East in 1993. The revised edition updates old-growth descriptions in the first edition and describes old growth identified since 1993. For the survey as for the first edition, the author defines old growth loosely as forest, woodland, or savanna that looks largely as it would appear had not Europeans settled North America and that has experienced little or no direct disruption by EuroAmericans. The geographical area covered extends from the Atlantic coast of the United States to western Minnesota south through eastern Texas.  States with major changes in the number and of old-growth sites presented include Alabama, Minnesota, and North Carolina.

Mary Byrd Davis founded the Eastern Old-Growth Clearinghouse. She edited Island Press's Eastern Old-Growth Forests: Prospects for Rediscovery and Recovery (1996) and has published numerous articles on Eastern old growth in Wild Earth and other periodicals.

Old Growth in the East: A Survey (2003 edition) is available for $35 postpaid (paper copy) or $25 postpaid (compact disk - Adobe Acrobat .pdf format) from the Eastern Old-Growth Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 910476, Lexington, KY 40591-0476 . Checks should be made out to Earth Island Institute/Old Growth. The report can be ordered online by means of the Web page:  .

Ed Frank