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Documentary traces evolution of national forest use ethic

A new two-hour documentary movie about the century-long effort to find a balance between conservation, preservation and utilization of the nation”s forests and other natural resources will have its Madison premiere Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. in the Wisconsin Historical Society auditorium, 816 State Street, Madison. A Q&A discussion of the film will follow. Admission is free.

Titled “The Greatest Good,” the film traces the evolution of public and governmental attitudes about the nation”s forests and other natural resources. “The Greatest Good” is narrated by Charles Osgood and uses rarely seen footage and photos, dozens of interviews, and sweeping aerial landscape photography to tell the complex story of the USDA Forest Service and the effort to conserve disappearing natural resources and maximize the social benefits from those resources.

Among those featured in the film are Aldo Leopold and environmental historian (and Leopold biographer) Curt Meine of the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Sciences and Letters.

Leopold, who promoted the idea of preserving some areas as “wilderness” while working for the Forest Service in Arizona, figures prominently in the documentary. Leopold later wrote his popular book, “A Sand County Almanac,” after moving to Wisconsin to become assistant director at the Forest Service”s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison and later joining the University of Wisconsin faculty.

R. Bruce Allison, arborist and author of the recently published second edition of “Every Root an Anchor: Wisconsin”s Famous and Historic Trees,” and Chris Risbrudt, director of the Forest Service”s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, will introduce the film. Also available to discuss the film afterwards will be William Cronon, the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography and Environmental Studies at the UW-Madison.

The film was produced by the Forest Service to commemorate the agency”s 100th anniversary this year. The April 12 showing is sponsored jointly by the Forest Products Laboratory, Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and the UW-Madison Department of Forest Ecology and Management.

Additional information about the film and a trailer can be viewed here.

Information about the April 12 program at the Wisconsin Historical Society can be obtained from the society at: (608) 264-6485 or here.