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 letters were labeled simply “The Old Timers.” The letters, 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, 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, loggers, and the challenges of turning confrontations into cooperation and gratitude. It wasn’t an easy life by any means, but to these men and women, a 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.
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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.
reading. Gifford Pinchot left many gifts for future generations.
Among those gifts were his philosophy of conservation, our country’s national
forests and the forestry profession itself. These letters from The Old
Timers are also a remarkable gift. They are a window to the past that help
us appreciate where we are today. Hopefully, they will give us courage to
do what’s right for future generations.
Gifford Pinchot, Chief Forester of the U.S. Forest Service from
1905–1909, and all his fellow forestry pioneers. Not only is it fascinating
history but also inspiration for our current desperate efforts to save
the planet’s remaining precious, carbon-absorbing trees and the rest of
beleaguered nature—without which we and countless other species cannot
survive for much longer. Pinchot’s idea says it all: Conservation is the
basis of permanent peace. As we honor our environmental ancestors, they
provide us with the courage and inspiration to do what must be done.