Arthur Woody And the Legend of the Barefoot Ranger
Arthur Woody was the most famous forest ranger who ever refused to wear a uniform. Born in 1884 near Suches, Georgia, legend tells us that he witnessed his father kill the last living deer in the mountain region around 1895 when he was 10 years old. He never forgot this experience. In 1918, he became Georgia’s second forest ranger. He ultimately presided over 200,000 acres of national forest. That same year, he began stocking non-native rainbow and brown trout into his beloved Rock Creek Refuge (later to become Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area, the nation’s first wildlife management area). He also began to restore native brook trout, or “specks,” as he fondly called them.
In 1927, he purchased five young fawns from the Pisgah Reserve in North Carolina. These, and other deer purchased over the next few years, served as the basis for a growing deer herd that would eventually expand across the mountains and once again populate areas where they had been absent for many decades. Ranger Arthur Woody was a larger-than-life character who dedicated his life to helping others in his community during the very difficult economic times of the Great Depression. He was also a visionary who worked tirelessly to restore the forests of North Georgia and the wildlife that lived in those forests. His instincts for what needed to be done guided him through many successful endeavors and left people shaking their heads in amazement.
“Do what needs to be done and ask permission later” became his creed during a three-decade-plus career with the U.S. Forest Service. Here, for the first time, is the never-before-told story of Georgia’s most famous forest ranger, and one of America’s true conservation pioneers.