“Gifford Pinchot is the man to whom the nation owes most of what has been accomplished as regards the preservation of the natural resources of our country…I believe it is but just to say that among the many, many public officials who under my administration rendered literally invaluable service to the people of the United States, he, on the whole, stood first.” ~ President Theodore Roosevelt

“Gifford Pinchot and the Old Timers Volume II” includes ten new narratives from the Old Timers Collection in the Gifford Pinchot Collection at the Library of Congress. In Volume II, we hear from Gifford Pinchot’s “first” professionally-trained forest rangers and allied professionals who describe the birthing of the nation’s first environmental agency, the US Forest Service, and the training of individuals with a virtuous vision of public service. The narratives contain tales of extreme hardship, on-the-ground problem solving, interactions with cattlemen, miners, and loggers as well as first-hand descriptions of challenges in which the Forest Ranger turned confrontation into cooperation, gratitude, and respect. The lives of the “first foresters” were not easy but a life of service to the American public and the natural world was the best life one could imagine. Each was grateful for the opportunity to find meaning in a time of struggle.

Reviews and Praise

“Bibi Gaston is at it again. Mining through long ignored archives and panning for nuggets. Nuggets may be more valuable than gold. The recollections of the men and women of the early Forest Service leave clues to the evolution of an organization’s culture—the spoken and unspoken rules about how to behave, how to understand, and what matters. In the Forest Service, the culture runs deep—both to its benefit and detriment. It is not much different than how our families develop their culture. People who had a career in the Forest Service, people like myself, live for these stories. That is not the only people this book benefits. It is of value to anyone working in ANY organization. To see how values are set, and how they can change. Thanks to Bibi, we are still learning about who we are.”
— Edgar Brannon, US Forest Service retired 38 years, Former Director Grey Towers National Historic Site, Senior Fellow Forest History Society
“Bibi Gaston has done a great service by bringing the correspondence between Gifford Pinchot and the ‘Old Timers’ to our attention. Written by individuals from practically every level of the organization, these letters provide fascinating insights into the early years of the Forest Service and why it was so successful under Pinchot’s leadership. At the same time, they are a great source of inspiration and guidance for dealing with many of our own, current-day challenges.”
— James A. Allen, Professor and Executive Director School of Forestry, College of the Environment, Forestry and Natural Sciences, Northern Arizona University
“The very foundations of the National Forest System are within these pages. Times have always been challenging in managing public lands. It is evident that many patterns repeat but never have we needed more to connect with the original vision for our National Forests than now. These pages are valuable additions to continuing the conservation movement. The knowledge they impart is critical to the future of our National Forests. I encourage Forest Service leaders, managers, and the public to engage this material and to take part in understanding what has been set before us. This foundation gives us strength to advocate for conservation, and to preserve precious landscapes in the public trust for generations to come.”
— Julie King, Wilderness Program Manager, US Forest Service 32 years
“These letters capture in such a wonderful way the history of the early days of the outfit as well as the spirit and dedication that were and still are the foundation of conservation in America. Times have changed but these stories and memories vividly remind us why our commitment to our public lands should never wane.”
— Tom L. Thompson, President, National Museum of Forest Service History. Former Deputy Chief, US Forest Service
“These stories carry the spirit of the agency needed to meet the challenges of the future…”
— Les Joslin
“American history was changed forever—and for better—by the generations 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 US 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.”
— James Strock, founding Secretary, California Environmental Protection Agency. Author, “Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership”
“Conservationists and lovers of our national forests will find this fascinating 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.”
— Dale Bosworth, Former Chief, USDA Forest Service
“Bibi Gaston’s “Gifford Pinchot and the Old Timers” is a critical documentation of the professionalization of natural resource management during a particularly fascinating time period in our country’s history. Those able to interact with Bibi will immediately be captured by her intense connection to these stories and her commitment to share them with readers and audiences.”
— Buddy Huffaker, Executive Director, Aldo Leopold Foundation
“Bibi Gaston’s treasure-trove of reflections from the early years of the US Forest Service brings to life how Gifford Pinchot’s vision of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run’ was made real through the hard work, integrity, and sacrifice of a small but dedicated group of ‘Old Timers.’ This book shows us that their values helped shape America in the early years of last century, and it reminds us of the importance of those same values for helping us find our way in the next.”
— Sir Peter Crane, FRS, President, Oak Spring Garden Foundation
“With Gifford Pinchot and the Old Timers, Bibi Gaston has given us a special gift. Historians were aware of a collection of letters that passed between Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt’s chief forester, and the Old Timers, the hard-working rangers of the early days of the US Forest Service. Those letters, however, remained inaccessible, buried deep in archival collections. Until now. In this volume Gaston brings forward these vivid voices of American conservation history—as reminders of their commitment to public service in their own time, and as welcome calls to democratic re-engagement in ours.”
— Curt Meine, Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation/Center for Humans and Nature. Author of “Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work”
“Gaston’s lively collection of letters from the first generation of Forest Service employees offers a window into the past. The letters vividly reveal the idealism and determination of those who accepted the challenge to participate in the grand American conservation experiment known as the National Forest System.”
— Lincoln Bramwell, PhD, Chief Historian, USDA Forest Service
“Reading the recollections gathered in these volumes is like being a guest at an intimate party with Bibi Gaston as host. I’ve studied the Forest Service for thirty years, so I enter the room knowing some of the guests well, some by name or reputation, and some not at all. No matter what position they held, no matter how mundane or challenging the work, it’s a delight to hear their stories. By the time the party ends, I have a room full of friends. Now it’s your turn. Pull up a chair and listen as men and women who loved their jobs, who gave much for a cause greater than themselves, and who humbly contributed in ways both large and small to good land stewardship that we still benefit from, share their stories.”
— James G. Lewis, Historian, Forest History Society, Author of “The Forest Service and The Greatest Good: A Centennial History”