Tree by Tree: Destruction, Development, and Discourse in the Southern Longleaf Forests Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Shapard, Robert
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Robert Paine Shapard: Tree by Tree: Destruction, Development, and Discourse in the Southern Longleaf Forests (Under the direction of W. Fitzhugh Brundage) This dissertation, “Tree by Tree: Destruction, Development, and Discourse in the Southern Longleaf Forests,” is an environmental history that examines the near destruction of the once-vast longleaf pine forests across the American South, particularly during the intensive timbering of longleaf between 1880 and the 1920s. We understand more about critical chapters of the South’s past such as staple-crop agriculture, the rise of Jim Crow laws and traditions, and the growth of towns and cities, than about the historical abundance of longleaf and the relentless clearing of these forests by the early twentieth century. The same is true for longleaf in comparison to other large-scale environmental changes in the South, such as the engineering of rivers. In contrast to many histories of the New South, this dissertation treats longleaf forests as essential in the historical action. In doing so, the project reveals human perspectives, desires, choices, and actions that enabled the clearing of longleaf from more than 95 percent of its historical range between southeastern Virginia and east Texas. The project focuses on intersections between longleaf and landowners and community leaders in North Carolina, lumbermen in Louisiana, federal foresters in Florida, and Charles Mohr, Roland Harper, William W. Ashe, and Herbert L. Stoddard as representative figures working in natural sciences in the longleaf region. These figures questioned the prevailing impulse to use old-growth longleaf with no regard for a future growth, and others in the South and observers from outside the region at times decried the damage to longleaf forests by timbermen and turpentine operators. However, they did not make a sustained, broad, and effective critique of the clearing of longleaf, and the history of interventions in this clearing through the 1920s is a history both of deep concern for the natural environment and innovative thinking, but also limited commitment and imagination. In concluding, the project examines how longleaf advocates today are employing the history of longleaf in their ambitious efforts to restore portions of the longleaf ecosystem.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Barrow, Mark
  • Sturkey, William
  • Brundage, W. Fitzhugh
  • Leloudis, James
  • Watson, Harry L.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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