Friday, March 4, 2005

Film honors centennial of U.S. Forest Service

Express Staff Writer

In observance of its 100th year of stewarding the nation's forests, U.S. Forest Service officials next week will show in Sun Valley a special feature-length documentary film that examines the birth of the agency and its evolution through ten decades of conflict and growth.

The two-hour, high-definition film, called "The Greatest Good," was produced over a three-year time span to help the Forest Service celebrate the centennial of its creation by an act of Congress in 1905.

The film will be shown to the public free of charge on Thursday, March 10, at 3 p.m. in the Sun Valley Opera House, located in Sun Valley Village.

Ruth Monahan, Sawtooth National Forest supervisor, said the film screening will be the first of several public events in the Wood River Valley region to celebrate the centennials of the Forest Service and the Sawtooth National Forest, which was conceived in 1905 as the Sawtooth Forest Reserve.

Monahan said "The Greatest Good"—which features rarely seen historic photos, sweeping landscape footage and dozens of interviews—tells a "complex and compelling story" of how the Forest Service has over the last century sought to balance the widely varied demands put on the nation's woodlands.

"I think it gives people a better understanding of why we are the agency we are today," Monahan said.

Narrated by Charles Osgood, anchor of "CBS News Sunday Morning," the film provides a close examination of the history of the Forest Service and the conflicts that have arisen from opposing viewpoints about how forested public lands should be managed. An original music score for the film was performed by the Skywalker Symphony, a branch of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

The film's title comes from a utilitarian maxim originated by philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, before being popularized by Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the Forest Service. In 1905, Pinchot advocated a reconciliation of "conflicting interests" in forest management by pursuing "the greatest good for the greatest number (of people) in the long run."

Co-producer Steve Dunsky said the film is intended to give a realistic overview of the federal agency that today manages 191 million acres of public land, an area equivalent to the size of Texas.

The film delves into an array of sensitive topics, such as the delicate balance between preservation and conservation, the conflict between the need to conserve and the desire for public use, and the inherent dangers and controversies of fighting forest fires.

The U.S. Forest Service was created in 1905, during Theodore Roosevelt's administration and at the height of the Progressive Era.

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