Caption: "The condition of the Nebraska Sand Hill Country as we found it in 1901. Over grazing the range was a concern at that time. Charles A. Scott." (Photo in the narrative of Charles A. Scott, courtesy Gifford Pinchot Collection, Library of Congress.)

Who would have guessed that one of the largest, most innovative tree planting projects ever undertaken in the United States began in the year 1902 by young forest professionals employed by the US Government ? Not many, I imagine. Buried in the Old Timers Collection, we find the who, what, where. when, how and why such a massive reforestation effort was envisioned! 

One of the First Foresters featured in "Gifford Pinchot and the First Foresters: The Untold Story of the Men and Women Who Launched the American Conservation Movement," is Charles A. Scott, (1875-1961), a native of Westmoreland, Kansas who recounts this effort in a series of documents written in 1951 (housed in the Nebraska State Historical Society, His and his colleagues' efforts are also described in detail in the narrative he sent to then-retired Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot housed in the Pinchot Collection at the Library of Congress.

In the summer and fall of 1901, Scott worked as a cook on the Nebraska Sandhills Reconnaissance Survey as part of the Bureau of Forestry, U.S. Department of Agriculture. During the following summer of 1902, he assisted in a survey of the Dismal River Forest Reserve after which he helped plan Nebraska's Halsey Nursery, also known as the Bessey Nursery after University of Nebraska Botany Professor Charles A. Bessey. Following his work in designing and implementing plans for the first government nursery in the United States, Scott set off for the Yale School of Forestry where he earned his degree. As a newly minted Forest Assistant, he then returned to Nebraska to oversee the nursery he had helped plan. He also administered three Nebraska forest reservations.

There is no underestimating the amount of innovation and stamina such a project required. In his account, Scott writes: "This was the first project of its kind ever attempted in the United States. No one in the Bureau of Forestry could advise us and the Commercial Nurserymen of the country had no experience with this type of work and we were told we would have to use our own judgement and do the best we could."

In 1940, referring to Scott's work on behalf of the American people, Gifford Pinchot wrote Scott:

Dear Scott:

I have just finished reading your very interesting account of your early work in establishing the first Government forest nursery in America and making the planting on the Nebraska National Forests a success. The detail is particularly valuable, and I am very much in your debt. Hearty thanks to you.

Yours as always, GP