America’s Largest Hand-Planted Forest: Re-envisioning a Visioned Landscape

Authors: Rebecca Buller*, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Topics: Cultural Geography, Historical Geography, Recreational and Sport Geography
Keywords: contextual frame, critical geography, cultural geography, forest, geographical imagination, imaginative geographies, Nebraska, representation, photography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


America’s, and once the world’s, largest hand-planted forest rises as a coniferous evergreen island within the Western Hemisphere’s largest sand dune field, the relic erg Sandhills of Nebraska. The Nebraska National Forest, Bessey Division can also boast being the oldest tree nursery in the US Forest Service. As a scientific environmental experiment beginning in the late nineteenth century, the standard narrative of the Bessey Division reads as singular and masculine—stereotypically western—based on themes of competition, Caucasian masculine biographies, and progressive science to “improve” nature. This narrative is continued in many land uses today, including the prominent masculine recreation of ATVing. As part of a larger photography project, this work aims to offer a different narrative, a re-envisioning of a visioned landscape, of the Nebraska National Forest, Bessey Division. Critical lenses and qualitative methods are employed to examine the historical and cultural geographies of the place, providing a new vision, neither singular nor a replacement to the old, but to offer the contextual frame that there are simultaneously hundreds of narratives/experiences in the past, present, and future.

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