February 01, 2011
Today in 1905, the United States Forest Service officially came into existence under the Department of Agriculture. Gifford Pinchot, head of the forestry division of the DoA, had been advocating for more control over the federal forests and grasslands and was supported heartily by Theodore Roosevelt. With the establishment of the Forest Service, Pinchot finally had the control needed to start implementing many of the forestry policies for which he advocated including scientific management of forests, controlled logging in national forests and controlled grazing rights for farmers and ranchers. Pinchot and Roosevelt often were at odds with staunch conservationists such as John Muir who wanted to ban logging and commercial use of national lands entirely.
Pinchot and the Forest Service instead developed relationships with timber companies, ranchers and farmers to plan the sustainability of the forest reserves while still providing a growing nation with the raw materials it needed to expand. The Forest Service of today still maintains those principles as it works “to manage national forests for additional multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation.” Today’s national forests include more than 190 million acres of land, an area roughly the size of Texas, clearly a legacy of which both Roosevelt and Pinchot would be proud.
Letter from Gifford Pinchot to Theodore Roosevelt, July 15, 1904. Pinchot was preparing for a convention in Denver in August where landowners and politicians would discuss federal control of lands. It was a convention that left a positive enough relationship to create the USFS the following year. From Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
Transcription of letter:
July 15, 1904.
Oyster Bay, N.Y.
Dear Mr. President:
Secretary Wilson is to meet Senator Kittredge either at the meeting in Denver early in August, or immediately afterwards, and to discuss with him in the Black Hills the question of the transfer of the forest reserves to the Department of Agriculture, and its effect on mining. As you know, Senator Kittredge is, in his own person, practically the whole opposition to the transfer. He has agreed, if Secretary Wilson succeeds in convincing his of the desirability of the transfer, to help the passage of the bill rather than to hinder it next winter. It has come to me from many different sources that Seth Bullock opposed the transfer strongly last winter, and that his Opposition was largely responsible for that of the Senator. Whether this is true or not I do not personally know, but it is not impossible. Whether it would be wise for you to drop a line to Bullock or not you will know better than I, but I thought I would lay the situation before you.
I feel like telling you again what a capital time I had at Oyster Bay. Washington is rather lonely without Garfield, but there is work enough to keep a man from repining.
Very sincerely yours,