Biography of Gifford Pinchot

The First American Federal Forester Employee

Gifford Pinchot
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Gifford Pinchot was one of America's leading advocates of environmental conservation. Born into turn-of-the-century wealth, Pinchot was able to garner a forestry education in Europe, bring it back to North America and become it's first professional forester. He founded the United States Forest Service and organized the creation of the Society of American Foresters. Pinchot was the first forester to promote multiple-use forest management and made it mandatory on U.S. Forest Service lands.

Full Name: Gifford Pinchot

Date of Birth: August 11, 1865

Place of Birth: At his family's summer home in Milford, Connecticut


After graduating from Yale University in 1889, Gifford went abroad to study at L’Ecole Nationale Forestiere in Nancy, France. There were no forestry courses of study in the United States until he established the Biltmore Forestry School under professor Carl Schenk and called the Cradle of Forestry located in the Pisgah National Forest.

Career Outline

Pinchot served as Chief Forester for President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt's U.S. Forest Service, served as a two-term governor of Pennsylvania in the 1920s and 30s, and served as the president of the National Coast Anti-Pollution League.

Greatest Achievements

Under Pinchot, representing the Forest Service and the Teddy Roosevelt administration, millions of acres were added to the national forests where the federal government controlled their use and regulated their harvest.

Political Prowess

Ever the politician, Pinchot was elected twice as the Republican governor of Pennsylvania and ran for the Senate. He fought for wiser use of natural resources and for fuller justice for the average citizen to have more input in the process of determining how the federal forests are managed.

Because of his political beliefs, Pinchot was never far away from controversy.


Pinchot’s conservation ethic had detractors. Preservationists on the left (including John Muir) opposed Pinchot’s commercialization of the land. On the right, Congress, responding to private pressures became increasingly hostile even to Pinchot's Wise Use causes.

In 1907, Congress forbade the President to purchase forest reserves in Western states. Finally, Pinchot’s authority was substantially undermined by the election of President Taft in 1908. Taft later fired Pinchot.

Praise From Theodore Roosevelt

"He has done more than any man in this country for the preservation of forests...​His is gifted with the utmost energy and the zeal that only comes to one who is wrapped up in his work; and in addition to these qualities, he has...excellent judgment and sound common sense."

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Nix, Steve. "Biography of Gifford Pinchot." ThoughtCo, Feb. 14, 2017, Nix, Steve. (2017, February 14). Biography of Gifford Pinchot. Retrieved from Nix, Steve. "Biography of Gifford Pinchot." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 25, 2017).