August 10th, 2012 by
Pinchot with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, 1907.

Pinchot with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, 1907. Credit: Emerson7/Wikimedia Commons

Saturday marks the birthday of Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forests Service. He is known as the “father of conservation” and credited for launching the conservation movement in the United States by urging Americans to preserve the past in order to protect the future. When asked by his father as a young boy, “How would you like to be a forester?” Pinchot answered, “I had no conception of what it meant to be a forester than the man in the moon … but at least a forester worked in the woods and with the woods — and I loved the woods and everything about them. … My father’s suggestion settled the question in favor of forestry.” Now, that’s what I would call loving what you do!

Pinchot traveled —no matter the cost — to learn forestry skills in a time when no American university offered a degree, or even a class, on the subject. After graduating from Yale, he took his studies abroad to France, where he began to frame his opinions on forestry. Upon his return to the United States, he first worked as a resident forester at Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Forest Estate before eventually finding his way to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he was named chief of the Division of Forestry. Around the same time his friend, Theodore Roosevelt, was being elected president. Then, the management of forest reserves shifted from the Department of Interior to the Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Forest Service was created. This new service tapped Pinchot to be its first chief.

Serving just five years in office, he helped the United States to go from 60 units covering 56 million acres of forest reserves to 150 national forests covering 172 million acres. After serving as chief, Pinchot continued his forestry services by helping to set up the Society of American Foresters. And, the U.S. Forest Service’s chief is honored with a 1.6 million-acre national forest in Washington that bears his name.

This weekend, I encourage you to go out and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be in one of our nation’s national forests or not, to celebrate Gifford Pinchot and his contributions to conservation and forestry.