Gifford Pinchot 1865–1946

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864–1952)
Platinum print, c. 1901

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

The first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot was a significant voice at the turn of the twentieth century in debates about federal land management policy. Steering between the stances of preservationists who wanted lands set aside and business leaders who wanted unfettered access to extract timber and minerals, Pinchot believed that the guiding hand of government was required to efficiently manage the nation’s public lands. President Theodore Roosevelt shared his ideas about conservation, and the two men worked together to empower the newly created Forest Service and to expand the number of national forest reserves.

Although Pinchot upset preservationists by supporting the damming of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley, he was instrumental in implementing policies that greatly reduced the wholesale exploitation of the nation’s natural resources. An advocate of planned use and renewal, Pinchot was one of the founders of the modern conservation movement.