Nature Next Door

Cities and Trees in the American Northeast

Ellen Stroud
Foreword by William Cronon

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: History / Environmental History; Environmental Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 192 pp., 57 illus., 9 maps, 6 x 8 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
  • Contents

The once denuded northeastern United States is now a region of trees. Nature Next Door argues that the growth of cities, the construction of parks, the transformation of farming, the boom in tourism, and changes in the timber industry have together brought about a return of northeastern forests. Although historians and historical actors alike have seen urban and rural areas as distinct, they are in fact intertwined, and the dichotomies of farm and forest, agriculture and industry, and nature and culture break down when the focus is on the history of Northeastern woods. Cities, trees, mills, rivers, houses, and farms are all part of a single transformed regional landscape.

In an examination of the cities and forests of the northeastern United States-with particular attention to the woods of Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Vermont-Ellen Stroud shows how urbanization processes there fostered a period of recovery for forests, with cities not merely consumers of nature but creators as well. Interactions between city and hinterland in the twentieth century Northeast created a new wildness of metropolitan nature: a reforested landscape intricately entangled with the region's cities and towns.
Ellen Stroud is an environmental historian at Bryn Mawr College, where she is an associate professor in the Growth and Structure of Cities Department, and holds the Johanna Alderfer Harris and William H. Harris M.D. Chair in Environmental Studies.

"The book illuminates the web of connections between forests and the quality of human life, and documents some of the ways in which people have strengthened those ties."
-Publishers Weekly, September 2012

"Stroud's idea that forests were shaped by human choice is an important complement to the standard story of forest succession in abandoned farmlands in the Northeast."
-Richard Judd, University of Maine

"Nature Next Door shows how urbanization, farm abandonment, state policies, and conservation have left the American Northeast far more forested than it has been since the eighteenth century or before. It is among the most profound and surprising transformations in the history of the American landscape- and quite different from the usual stories of decline and degradation that are so familiar in environmental history. No one has written about this process with greater subtlety, intelligence, and literary grace than Ellen Stroud."
-William Cronon, from the Foreword

Foreword The Once and Future Forest / William Cronon
A Note on the Maps

Introduction The City and the Trees

1. Water and Woods in Pennsylvania
2. New Hampshire Watersheds, Viewsheds, and Timber
3. Packaging the Forested Farm in Vermont
4. Who Owns Maine's Trees?
5. Fractured Forests and the Future of Northeastern Trees

Bibliographic Essay

"This book is to be recommended to forestry professionals and practitioners, as well as providing a valuable reference to both educators and students in natural resource management and policy."
-Benktesh D. Sharma, Human Ecology

"Ellen Stroud offers a compelling historical explanation for the return of America's northeastern forests. Historians, land managers, and elected officials would do well to consider the historical and continuing relationship between forests, towns, and cities in America's Northeast. Stroud's excellent book offers an instructive path into the woods."
-Aaron Shapiro, Environmental History, October 2013

"The extent of reforestation in the American Northeast is nothing short of remarkable, especially considering that it is the most urbanized region of the nation. Once 75 percent deforested, the region is now 75 percent forested. In this elegant volume, Ellen Stroud asks how that happened and finds unexpected answers."
-Albert G. Way, Journal of American History, August 2013

"Ellen Stroud...explores the Northeast's interconnected urban and rural spaces and invites readers to reconsider old assumptions about their separateness. Nature Next Door is essential reading for scholars and citizens interested in the relationship between urban and rural history."
-Anthony Penna, The New England Quarterly, September 2013

"With this intriguing book, environmental historian Stroud has fundamentally rewritten the recent forest history of the northeastern US. . . . Valuable for anyone interested in forestry, urban forestry, and land use or conservation. Highly recommended."
-Choice, May 2013

"Nature Next Door, while providing the ecological and cultural narrative that fills the gap between William Cronon's Changes in the Land and Tom Wessels's Reading the Forested Landscape, is as much about the future-the next hundred years-as it is about the past."
-Naomi Heindel, Orion

"Stroud's story has global implications far beyond the Northeast."
- J. Brooks Flippen, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Stroud helps us understand the process of change at many different scales."
- Harold Henderson, Planning

"Stroud writes with a clear and elegant voice. The stories of individuals that she weaves throughout her book, particularly those of numerous women, provide a warm human dimension to her landscape analysis."
-Janet Ore, Technology and Culture

"The book almost reads as a historical travelogue through the Northeastern forested landscape with occasional pauses to explore the political ecology that shaped present day forests."
-Benktesh D. Sharma, Human Ecology

"With this intriguing book, environmental historian Stroud has fundamentally rewritten the recent forest history of the northeastern U.S."