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Gifford Pinchot and THE First Foresters


The Untold Story of the
Brave Men and Women
Who Launched the
American Conservation Movement

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Gifford Pinchot and THE First Foresters


The Untold Story of the
Brave Men and Women
Who Launched the
American Conservation Movement

Gifford Pinchot

Gifford Pinchot

American history was changed forever—and for better—by the generations who took the reins in the early twentieth century. Amid the turbulence of our new century, we can draw actionable inspiration from Gifford Pinchot and the Old Timers who created the U.S. Forest Service. Bibi Gaston has compiled their words into timeless traits of character. She makes clear that we are all descendants and beneficiaries of these courageous, intrepid individuals. Gaston challenges us to reach for a comparable legacy. With this field guide, we’re equipped for the journey.


—James Strock, founding Secretary,
California Environmental Protection Agency,
author, Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership

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Discovering The Old Timers


They hailed from the Sandhills of Nebraska, the small farms of Iowa, and one-stop towns from Maine to Tennessee. They were called the “Old Timers” not because they were old, but because they’d seen and done and endured things the rest of us can hardly imagine. The term Old Timers was one of respect. They were to be revered. The Old Timers served the American people in days not so long ago—in days before we forgot who we are. Today, their stories serve as a model for addressing some of the greatest challenges the world has ever known.
The Old Timer narratives were lost for a time, but not for good. They had been kept on paper, typed or written longhand, and archived, lovingly, caringly, as promised. Perhaps the Old Timers were just waiting in the wings for the moment when we could hear them—when we were in need of birdsong, or a lullaby, or a map with directions for the road ahead. At the right time, their tales of duty, perseverance, gratitude, kindness, compassion and honor would serve America and help lead her out of the woods.

 

Discovering The Old Timers


They hailed from the Sandhills of Nebraska, the small farms of Iowa, and one-stop towns from Maine to Tennessee. They were called the “Old Timers” not because they were old, but because they’d seen and done and endured things the rest of us can hardly imagine. The term Old Timers was one of respect. They were to be revered. The Old Timers served the American people in days not so long ago—in days before we forgot who we are. Today, their stories serve as a model for addressing some of the greatest challenges the world has ever known.
The Old Timer narratives were lost for a time, but not for good. They had been kept on paper, typed or written longhand, and archived, lovingly, caringly, as promised. Perhaps the Old Timers were just waiting in the wings for the moment when we could hear them—when we were in need of birdsong, or a lullaby, or a map with directions for the road ahead. At the right time, their tales of duty, perseverance, gratitude, kindness, compassion and honor would serve America and help lead her out of the woods.

 

Here is a different kind of story.

Not a story of the great man or the great event, but a narrative by and for the people. Here are 226 unknown men and women whose work in the woods, on the plains, and in the desert made it possible to live the lives we do, who held a mirror to our deepest selves. Here are men and women we can be proud of, whose words matched their deeds, who were humble, grateful, and full of anticipation for the America that was yet to be. Here is a reason to fall in love all over again with the dream of America as it once was and will be once again.

In 1905, practically no one knew what a professional forester was or why a trained and tested cadre of men with badges and green uniforms should be sent out like satellites into the darkest, most barren reaches of America. But Pinchot knew: conserving America’s resources meant not just conserving her water, trees, and wildlife, but finding the individuals who were committed to conservation and putting them to work.

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The Baked Apple Club


The Baked Apple Club


Gifford Pinchot started the “Baked Apple Club” in the home his parents gave him, located six blocks from the White House in Washington, D.C. On Thursday nights a merry gathering of young forest officers, stenographers, and assorted professionals gathered to listen to experts of the day report on subjects related to conservation and the environment. Baked apples, gingerbread, and milk were served. Some of these young men and women were Yale students who saw it as a kind of refreshment. Others who came up through the Civil Service and from less privileged backgrounds saw the Thursday gatherings as an opportunity for a lecture and
a meal.

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Our Forest legacy


Our Forest legacy


From Bertha E. Adams's narrative

"My forbears came from New England as pioneers to western New York when it was a wilderness inhabited by Indians and wild animals. Pioneering was in their blood, and ere long, some of them pushed farther west into the wilderness of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Then, later, cousins slightly older than myself went to Iowa and Nebraska to do their parts in the settlement of those regions. In time one, an aunt, returned to New York State and very vivid is my memory of her accounts of their struggles in trying to make houses in those then far-away places.

"The story thrilled me, those early settlers were tillable-landhungry. Therefore, they considered the forests as liabilities rather than assets, since they possessed nothing but their brawn and muscle to clear the land. On the other hand those who went to the plains region wished there were trees there with which to build log houses instead of making them with sod, but they had scant or no means of communicating with their people back East and telling them that they had come to know the values of forests. So time went on until it was discovered that our priceless inheritance was being destroyed to such an extent as to alarm certain public-spirited people, and a movement began which resulted in the passage by Congress of the Act of March 3, 1891 authorizing the creation of the “Forest Reserves.” Previously, however, under an act dated September 1, 1890, the first reserve was created in California, which covered some of the area now within the Sierra National Forest.

"Promptly after March 3, 1891 President Harrison established a forest reserve covering lands lying to the east of the Yellowstone
National Park. An addition to that reserve was made on September 10, 1891. Thereafter, President Harrison proclaimed several reserves
as follows:


The White River in Colorado, on October 16, 1891;
The Pecos River in New Mexico, on January 11, 1892;
The Pike’s Peak in Colorado, on February 11, 1892;
The Bull Run in Oregon, on June 17, 1892;
The Plum Creek in Colorado, on June 23, 1892;
The South Platte in Colorado, on December 9, 1892;
The San Gabriel in California, on December 20, 1892;
The Sierra in California, on February 14, 1893;
The Pacific, in Washington, on February 20, 1893;
The Grand Canyon in Arizona, on February 20, 1893."

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Our Country's Natural Beauty


Our Country's Natural Beauty


We owe our country’s natural beauty to the First Foresters

In 2005, six tattered blue boxes were unearthed in the Library of Congress’s Pinchot Collection in Washington, D.C. Inside were 5,000 pages of letters describing the work of early resource conservation professionals. The boxes were labeled simply “The Old Timers.”  Penned between the years 1937–1941 by the first class of American Forest Rangers to serve under President Theodore Roosevelt and first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Gifford Pinchot, the letters offered a mirror to the America we once were, and an optimistic guidebook for the road ahead.

These narratives tell of extreme hardship, fearless struggle, confrontations with cattlemen, miners, and loggers, and the challenge of turning these confrontations into cooperation and gratitude. It wasn’t an easy life by any means, but to these men and women, their life of service was the best life they could imagine. To a one, they were grateful for the chance to live a meaningful life in a time of struggle.

Annual meeting of The Society of American Foresters, Oct 18, 1915. Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco. By P. Cardinell-Vincent Co. Official Photographers. Courtesy of Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Gifford Pinchot Collection.

Annual meeting of The Society of American Foresters, Oct 18, 1915. Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco.
By P. Cardinell-Vincent Co. Official Photographers. Courtesy of Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Gifford Pinchot Collection.