NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FOREST SERVICE HISTORY TO CELEBRATE LINK BETWEEN RAILROAD HERITAGE AND PUBLIC LANDS
MISSOULA, MT - Today, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation announced a $50,000 leadership grant to The National Museum of Forest Service History (Museum). This grant will support the construction of the building and education program of the Museum’s planned National Conservation Legacy and Education Center.
“The National Conservation Legacy and Education Center, to be built in Missoula, will be an ideal setting to discover and celebrate the heroic and inspiring stories of individuals and communities drawn together by the railroad industry and our nation’s forests and grasslands. People are fascinated by trains, the adventure of rail travel and the history of railroads connected to exploring our nation’s most majestic landscapes,” said Dave Stack, Vice President and Executive Director of the Museum.
"Without railroads, the rapid settlement of the West could not have occurred. In the early 20th century, railroads provided the vital link for rural America and national forests with distant metropolitan centers, moving people, supplies, and ideas across vast distances at revolutionary speed," said Lincoln Bramwell, PhD, Chief Historian, USDA Forest Service and member of the Museum’s Advisory Panel of Historians and Social Scientists.
For over 100 years, the Forest Service depended upon the BNSF and its predecessor railroads for the transport of people, supplies and pack animals as well as the emergency transport of firefighting equipment. Railroads continue to serve as an important transportation network for our national forests and grasslands and the forest, mining and cattle industries dependant upon these public lands. “We look forward to working with BNSF to share our common heritage with visitors at the Center,” said Stack.
“The BNSF Foundation is pleased to support this important project,” said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. “The Railway sees great value in supporting the Forest Service’s rich history in the West, and we are proud to be a partner.”
BNSF saw the value of partnership with the Forest Service in the agency’s early days. In 1915 the Forest Service, the former Burlington Railroad, the town of Estes Park, CO, and the Biological Survey worked together to transplant elk to Estes Park on the Colorado National Forest where they had previously been extirpated. This is but one example of many, many cases where the railroads and the Forest Service found themselves in partnership early on.
The Museum Board, volunteers, staff and partners have just completed three years of site preparation, building design and exhibit planning for the 30,000 square-foot conservation education center. As a showcase for the Museum’s collections of more than 40,000 objects, the Center will encourage visitors to explore the cultural, ecological, economic, political, and social history of the lands and people that have defined the nation and given meaning to the term conservation.
In announcing the Foundation’s grant, Dave Stack also thanked new partners of the Center including Bell Helicopter, Minuteman Aviation, the Max and Betty Swanson Foundation, The Pack Shack, Pacific Northwest Retirees Association, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sierra Pacific Airlines, Union Pacific Foundation and the Waterous Company.
Along with a thoughtful estate gift from Morton J. Lauridsen, a member of the Museum and employee of the Forest Service in the 1930’s, the Museum’s capital campaign is hitting its stride. In the past year, individuals and organizations have contributed more than $400,000 in support of the Center. To date the Museum’s partners have contributed nearly $4 million in gifts and pledges to meet the $12.7 million capital campaign goal.
“Through the Center’s virtual museum and archives and traveling exhibits, our shared history will resonate with school groups, geotravelers and train buffs throughout the country and around the world. Providing conservation education and illuminating the historical context for conservation in the U.S. are key components of the Center’s mission,” said Gray Reynolds, President of the Museum.
About the National Museum of Forest Service History