Forest Service Founder Gifford Pinchot’s story

The life in which U.S. Forest Service founder Gifford Pinchot was born into wasn’t much different than what millions of Downton Abbey fans have come to know through that popular PBS period drama: huge homes, servants and vast expanses of lands were the accoutrements of many in Pinchot’s class.

On Aug. 11, 1865, the infant named Gifford, born at the Pinchot family’s ancestral home, Grey Towers, would seem to follow the normal trajectory of his highborn status. This he did. But not how many of his contemporaries did. Instead of taking over the family business, Gifford went after another passion and he changed the world.

His passion was conservation of forested lands. His family had profited on the desecration of large tracts of forests to provide the millions of tons of pulp needed to supply its massive national market for wall paper. Millions in the late 19th century wanted wallpaper and the Pinchots provided it.

However, the Pinchots realized the environmental cost theirs and other industrial-rich American families had wreaked on the natural environment and they wanted Gifford to do something about it.

Pinchot was able to convince President Teddy Roosevelt to create the U.S. Forest Service as the greatest land conservation agency set up by any government in the modern world.

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