The Beginning of Forestry in North America:
Before 1900, wildfire consumed 20 million acres annually, the volume of timber cut vastly exceeded that of forest growth, there were no reforestation programs, only the best part of the tree was used and large volumes of wood were left in the woods and massive clearing of timberland continued to gain land for agriculture. A campaign to protect and manage the remaining forests of North America ensued and trained foresters were hired by private and government forest owners to manage their vast tracts of timber.
German born teacher and forester, Carl Alwen Schenck was recruited to introduce, practice and teach his thorough grasp of scientific silviculture in the United States. American forester and political figure Gifford Pinchot along with world renowned European forester Sir Dietrich Brandis selected Schenck to fill the role of chief forester for industrialist George Washington Vanderbilt II and to work on his Biltmore Estate property near Asheville, North Carolina. This appointment led to the founding of the first American school of forestry. It later moved to Yale University.
Enter Gifford Pinchot! Gifford Pinchot, an early American student of German forestry and practicing forester, was appointed chief of the Division of Forestry, Department of Agriculture and, in 1898, began a crusade to convert and change public and forest industry perceptions to support scientific forest management. Pinchot goes on to establish the leading national forestry agency later known as the U.S. Forest Service.
Enter Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt:
Along with the help of his newly appointed forestry department chief, Gifford Pinchot, Roosevelt started a federal forestry agency and began acquiring forest lands for the purpose of having reserves of forests for wood in case of "timber famine" (through the United States Forest Service). Roosevelt also had an open ear to creating parks and monuments for environmental preservation of precious wilderness (through the National Park Service).
That same year John Muir publishes Our National Parks , a beautifully-written portrait of some of the nation's great scenic wildernesses by their greatest defender; the book goes through a dozen printings and establishes Muir's reputation in the public mind.
Muir, a former shepherd, sawmill operator and free thinker was a preservationist and staunch advocate of preserving America's forest treasures. Muir's written body of work ultimately resulted in developing the National Park System. Gifford Pinchot, a wealthy, European educated forester was an advocate of "wise" or "best" use of American forests which resulted in developing the National Forest System. Through proper management, argued Pinchot, both timber production and non-timber forest use could and should coexist.
Aldo Leopold's Conservation Ethic:
Possibly no other forester influenced the mid-20th century conservationist more than Aldo Leopold. Leopold was educated at the new Yale School of Forestry, went on to work as a U.S. Forest Service forest ranger and forester, a naturalist and wildlife biology professor at the University of Wisconsin.
Aldo Leopold was the most significant conservationist to appear since the Muir-Pinchot-Roosevelt conservation revival. Leopold developed s philosophical conservation platform called "The Land Ethic" which is practiced today by most resource conservationists and foresters. Aldo Leopold continued to influence resource professionals until the time of his tragic death fighting a wildfire in 1948. Aldo Leopold spent his entire career on the cutting edge of conservation and environmental thought and wrote one of the most respected books on environmental ethics called A Sand County Almanac.