Article ID: CBB000954322

Trees as Technology: Planting Shelterbelts on the Great Plains (2009)


The turbulent climate of the Great Plains made windbreaks necessary for the protection of settlers and their livestock and crops. At first individual farmers tried to plant their own shelterbelts but with little success. The US Forest Service, with the establishment of the Bessey tree nursery, in 1902, and the field planting of the Nebraska National Forest, developed the expertise to carry out farm forestry on the plains. In 1934 the Forest Service undertook the Prairie States Forestry Project, an eight-year program to plant shelterbelts from Canada to Texas, in response to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. These shelterbelts were a technological solution to environmental and social problems. As they grew, successful shelterbelts developed forest characteristics and served as habitat for birds and wildlife. As systems that were both technical and ecological, shelterbelts embodied a confluence of culture and nature in the technology that farmers and foresters used to engineer a more suitable environment for American society on the Plains. Keywords: shelterbelts; Forest Service; Great Plains; social construction of technology

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Authors & Contributors
Saikku, Mikko
Myllyntaus, Timo
Hurt, R. Douglas
Lehtinen, Ari Aukusti
Björn, Ismo
Luukkanen, Olavi
Environmental History
Agricultural History
History of Science
Social Science History
Oxford University Press
Ohio University Press
University of Oklahoma Press
Yale University Press
Columbia University Press
University of Washington Press
Environmental history
Nature and its relationship to culture; human-nature relationships
Environmental sciences
Forests and forestry
Pinchot, Gifford
Muir, John
Schulman, Edmund
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
20th century, late
17th century
United States
Great Plains (North America)
North America
Rocky Mountains (U.S.)
United States. National Park Service
University of Nebraska

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