For many of us who head up to Cascade, Donnelly or McCall for the weekend, we see the signs for “Boise National Forest” or “Payette National Forest,” but we pay little attention or are unaware of the history behind those signs.
Local author, C. Eugene Brock, of Boise, has written “Another Time — Another Way,” a thorough look at the history of the U.S. Forest Service in Valley County, Idaho, from the 1920s to the 1970s.
Brock picks up the history of the Forest Service in Valley County just when national forests were established for all public domain in Valley County. Prior to that, before 1917, there wasn’t even a Valley County, just Boise and Idaho counties, and the national forests in that area were the Idaho Forest and the old Payette Forest as well as more than a million acres of land that eventually came into the national forest system in 1919.
Up until 1944, the Idaho National Forest, the old Payette National Forest and the Weiser National Forest made up the system of national forests in the area, leading to the formation of what we now know today as the Boise and Payette national forests.
Brock details the people and the places that made up this system of National Forest management and shares details of what life was like managing these vast tracts of wild country.
The early days of the Forest Service in the 1920s and 1930s saw a focus on construction of phone lines and offices, residential buildings for Forest Service employees, managers and rangers and service headquarters. It is also striking to note that much of the focus of the Forest Service in those early days was on fire management.
“Another Time — Another Way” is chronological and exhaustively documents the changes over time and the stories through interviews, letters and profiles of the people who worked for the Forest Service through the years. Brock’s research is interspersed with details from newspaper articles, government documents and maps of the districts, forest service roads and rail lines throughout the area at the time.
The book is generously populated with historical photos of the people and places from the time, and readers will enjoy just skimming its pages and looking at the photos alone.
But make no mistake, this 345-page book is a work of history, a thoroughly detailed look at the management of Idaho’s National Forests over the span of more than 50 years. Brock shares the stories and personalities of those early forest supervisors and rangers, documents the construction projects of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, tells the tale of the Loon Lake bomber crash in 1943 (a wreckage you can still visit today), looks at the Stibnite mining project, documents the advent of downhill skiing in Valley County and chronicles the construction of suspension bridges, cabins and fire towers through the years.
By the 1960s, Brock documents the chapter he calls “Management by Legislation,” including the impacts of the 1964 Wilderness Act, the 1965 Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the 1969 National Environmental Protection Act.
In the final chapter, “New Beginnings,” Brock continues to document the major legislation and their impact on the National Forests in Valley County, including the Endangered Species Act, Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act and the National Forest Management Act.
As for Brock’s qualifications, there’s a chapter on Brock, himself, who grew up in Nampa and graduated from the University of Idaho in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Forestry. Brock worked for 32 years in several forests in Idaho, Nevada and California for the Forest Service, and spent the last 20 years of his career as a district ranger.
Brock’s 30-page remembrances of his time with the Forest Service could be developed into its own book. He documents his own beginnings with the service working on fire crews in the 1960s and moving on to management positions through the ranks all the way up, eventually, to ranger. You’ll laugh out loud at his (mis)adventures skinnydipping in the river, riding horses and snowmobiling over cliffs. His experiences speak to the varying nature of the job, from firefighting and water testing to campground management and trail clearing. He even had the unenviable task of telling property owners what color to paint their buildings once their area was affected by the Wild Rivers Act.
For anyone who travels through Valley County and the surrounding backcountry, Gene Brock’s “Another Time — Another Way,” will give the reader a sense of the history of the place as well as the work — and fun — that went into managing those lands.