100 Years — and Counting

Created in 1905 and now celebrating 100 years of forest management, the United States
Forest Service has overcome a myriad of challenges to conserve some of our most important
lands and embrace a vision. It is an agency we should all be applauding — not once, but
twice, initially for confronting challenge, and then, for what it does today. Although the
Forest Service owes its successes to countless individuals, it owes its beginnings to a
trio of farsighted men who were environmentalists long before anyone thought to coin the
term. It was Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt who first recognized that it would not
be long before America’s vast forests would be in great peril. They were joined by George
Washington Vanderbilt, a man searching for a place to build a grand European-style castle
— and though the hills in which we now camped were the same ones cleared long ago for
farming, Vanderbilt realized his vision. The man would build his castle, and then, through
the practice of forestry as it had existed in Europe, he would restore the forest to what
it had once been, inadvertently bringing together men who would one day use skills learned
working his land to remedy some of the nation’s timber problems. To understand how this
agency has become so much to so many, we could do little better than to start among
Vanderbilt’s trees and mountains and streams on what is now Pisgah National Forest’s
“Cradle of Forestry.” This was America’s first eastern national forest, and quite arguably,
it can be said that the agency and practice of timber management began on these North
Carolina swaths at a time when land was cheap and people had little more than their pride.
Essentially, the making of our national forests can be traced to the Forest Reserve Act of
1891, which authorized the president to establish forest reserves. That same year,
President Harrison created the nation’s first reserve, the Yellowstone, separated today
into the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton national forests. In 1897, Congress passed an expanded
Forest Reserve Act, intended to protect the watersheds and furnish a continuous supply of
timber for the people of the United States. The following year, President William McKinley
hired Pinchot away from his work for Vanderbilt and made him chief of the Division of
Forestry. Following the assassination of McKinley in September of 1901, Theodore Roosevelt
ascended to the presidency, and retained his good friend Gifford Pinchot as chief. The
following year — in part because of Pinchot’s powers of persuasion — Roosevelt
transferred more than 63 million acres of forest reserves from the Department of the
Interior to the Department of Agriculture. But the most memorable legislation saw Roosevelt
create a name change. On July 1, 1905, the Bureau of Forestry became the U.S. Forest
Service. Read more about the Forest Service’s century-of-service history and see the
100-year timeline highlighting the agency’s important dates. Pick up the July 2005 issue of
MotorHome magazine on the newsstand — then subscribe to MotorHome so you can
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1 COMMENT

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