Gifford Pinchot was an important American forester and conservationist around the turn of the century. He left a significant mark on the world of conservation through his belief that conservation meant "the greatest good to the greatest number for the
longest time". He held adamantly to his idea that people could live off the environment around them, and yet renew that same environment for generations to come.Pinchot was born in 1865 in Connecticut. He came from a wealthy family of loggers, but though his grandfather encouraged him to sustain the family business, Pinchot followed his father's more anti-deforestation advice, and decided to pursue forestry, first at Exeter, and then at Yale University. After
graduating in 1889, Pinchot continued his education at L'Ecole nationale forestiere in Nancy, France. It was there that he began to formulate his opinions concerning the appropriate use of forests.
Pinchot returned to the United States in 1892, and immediately began to experiment with making a forest useful, yet sustainable. He was successful within his first year.
Pinchot began work as a consulting forester, and soon was appointed to the
then new National Forest Commission, which was set up by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It was because of this commission that President Grover Cleveland chose to add a number of additional forest reserves, making their total acreage 21 million. However, Pinchot saw these lands as for public use, not as locked reserves, and much of the commission disagreed.
Pinchot then became head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Division of
Forestry, which later became the Bureau of Forestry. With the help of President Theodore Roosevelt, this division won the right to operate the forest reserves. This marked the beginning of the U.S. Forest Service and the national forest system. Pinchot also influenced Roosevelt in setting aside more forest for reserves, but with the election of President Howard Taft, he fell out of favor and was fired.
In his lifetime, Pinchot also helped set up the Society of American Foresters, and served two terms as Governor of Pennsylvania. In this role, he helped smooth the scars left from the Great Depression, setting an example for President Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps through the emergency work camps he formed.
Pinchot's style gradually changed, becoming less utilitarian, but holding true to
his goal to make the country the best possible place for its residents and their descendants, both ecologically and economically.
Through his work, Pinchot caused the differentiation between conservationists and preservationists, even arguing with John Muir at one point over whether or not to use water from a natural reservoir in California. He supported human
development and gain, but also saw the distinction between use and abuse. Pinchot's ideas about the environment as a whole remain with us to this day, as well as the acres and acres of forest he toiled to set aside. Gifford Pinchot died in 1946.
Quotes from Gifford Pinchot