Cornelia Pinchot at the Dedication of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Photo Courtesy of the Gerald Williams Collection, Oregon State University. scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/coll/williamsg/index.html.
In a stirring speech delivered on October 15, 1949 at the naming of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington State, Cornelia Pinchot, the wife of Gifford Pinchot, recalled and hailed the "Old Timers," the first class of forest professionals Gifford Pinchot had trained between the years 1905-1909.
"I want to digress here a minute," she said, "to take the opportunity of bearing witness of how deeply Gifford Pinchot felt always about the debt he owed to the men of the Forest Service. Over and over again he said that to them, to the old timers, belonged the real credit for what had been accomplished. Never before or since, he said, had such high morale, such devotion to the public good, such creative ability been demonstrated in any government body. It was a three-way cooperation enterprise—the foresters at one end, the American people at the other, Gifford Pinchot in the middle."
Cornelia summed up her husband's devotion to conservation when she read to the assembled audience:
"Conservation to Gifford Pinchot was never a vague, fuzzy aspiration. It was concrete, exact, dynamic. The application of science and technology to our material economy for the purpose of enhancing and elevating the life of the individual. The very stuff of which democracy is made.
The conservation he preached dealt not only with trees—it dealt with the sheep herders and the homesteaders whose means of livelihood in the forest depended upon the kind of protection that was given them. It dealt not only with erosion and flood control, but with the wise use of the land, with the development of the great river valleys in terms of irrigation and power, such as you are so magnificently working out with your Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams.
It dealt with research, with programs of improvement of country life, with electrification of farms, with rural education. It dealt with equality of opportunity, with control of monopoly. The list is a long one.
Most important, it dealt with conservation of natural resources as an international problem affecting issues of permanent peace.
To Pinchot, you see, man himself is a natural resource. The basic resource for whose material, moral and spiritual welfare the Conservation doctrine is invoked. Man, without whose energy, the energy of coal and oil of electricity, yes of atomic science itself, is inert and meaningless."
For more on Cornelia Pinchot's remarkable speech containing insights into her husband's lifelong dedication to forestry, conservation and the men and women of the early Forest Service, please read "Gifford Pinchot and the First Foresters: the Untold Story of the Brave Men and Women Who Launched America's Conservation Movement."
Long live the First Foresters!