Bachelor of Arts
School or Department
Faculty Mentor Department
American Studies | United States History
Today, the United States Forest Service has established itself as an enduring authority on federal lands management. However, in 1905 when the federal government established the agency, its fate was far from secure. Prior to 1905, people living in the West had unchecked access to public land resources and many disapproved of an expansion of federal power. It was the issue of forest fire fighting that gained public support for the agency, and animals, in large part, helped them succeed. Horses and mules were used for transportation, scouting missions and trail building before adequate technology existed. Every ranger was required to own a horse and these animals provided uniformity and respectability to the rangers who were at times disrespected. Additionally, rangers sent carrier pigeons to quickly communicate the location of fires. These animals helped fight forest fires when success for the agency was crucial. As technology gradually proved these domesticated animals obsolete, animals were used in a new method. The Forest Service used the public’s love of animals to gain lasting support for their agency and engage the public in preventing fires themselves, as evidenced by the use of Bambi and Smokey Bear. Throughout the first fifty years of the USFS, the role of animals shifted from an active fighting role to a prevention and educational strategy for the public. Using various American newspapers, periodicals and government documents, I demonstrate that animals played a key role in the USFS’ efficiency, visibility, professionalization, and public engagement and increased respect for the agency in order to create a lasting reputable agency that we still have today.
Honors College Research Project
Ipsen, Ellen A., "Defining an Agency: Animals, Fire, and the U.S. Forest Service" (2017). Undergraduate Theses, Professional Papers, and Capstone Artifacts. 148.
© Copyright 2017 Ellen A. Ipsen