Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Training of a Forester

Book:  The Training of a Forester
Author: Gifford Pinchot
Edition: online from Gutenberg
Read: June 17, 2015
 70 pages
Genre:  Manual, Historical
Rated: 3 out of 5

Pinchot was the founder of the U.S. Forest Service. While not written during his time as the Head Forester, it incorporates his thoughts on what would make a good person in the USFS. It covers  the various roles of a forester, education, background, and attitude.


The idea of using the forest first for the greatest good of the present generation, and then for the greatest good of succeeding generations through the long future of the nation and the race—that is the Forester's point of view. (Chp: The Forester's Point of View).  This is also very much Pinchot's view of what conservation is: preserving enough now so that future generations will remain prosperous.

National degradation and decay have uniformly followed the excessive destruction of forests by other nations, and will inevitably become our portion if we continue to destroy our forests three times faster than they are produced, as we are doing now. (Chp: The Forester's Point of View).  See his book, or my review, of The Fight For Conservation. Pinchot elaborates on this theme.

What is more, in the teeth of the bitterest opposition of private special interests, the right of the public to first consideration in the protection and development of the forest and of all the resources it contains had to be asserted and established. (Chp: The Establishment of Forestry).  This is also an argument made in The Fight For Conservation. The public is to be involved in the decisions surrounding public lands, their lands. It is not the robber barons, but the people.

That comes before all else. For that purpose, the Ranger patrols his District during the seasons when fires are dangerous, or watches for signs of fire from certain high points, called fire-lookouts, or both.  (Chp: The Forest Service). Things have changed some. The lookouts are being disbanded, but some are still staffed. No longer is the Ranger out on patrol the only defense against fire. We have whole platoons with support system aff operating in unison. Still, fires get out of control as we have not mastered them. People try to understand the science of fire and its role in preserving the forest.

It is far better to prevent a forest fire from starting than to have to put it out after it has started;   (Chp: The Forest Service). The science  and art of firefighting has gone a long ways. There is the understanding that not all fires are bad or should be put out. Managing fires takes into account the hazards to humans and properties, the ability to spread and the conditions surrounding the fire. Given the knowledge and politics of the time, the intention of all fire suppression was not bad. But needed to be altered.

Forestry differs from most professions in this, that it requires as much vigor of body as it does vigor of mind. (Chp: Personal Equipment)

No man can be a good Forester without that quality of observation...  (Chp: Personal Equipment). So important for all thinking professions. While one might not think of a Ranger that why, but if you think in terms of a naturalist, you can understand Pinchot's desire for someone who recognizes the world he lives in. This is a well rounded individual which is Pinchot's idea of a Ranger.

...the practising Forester must handle men as well as trees.   (Chp: Personal Equipment). When you read The Big Burn, you understand this statement.

Most things said to be impossible are so only in the mind of the man whose timidity or inertness keeps him from making the attempt.   (Chp: Personal Equipment). Words to think about when we are confronted with a hard task. I do not think he is right in the absolute sense. But he is right in that a measure of a person is the ingenuity and perseverance he brings to a task.

The four statements above this is a Central in Pinchot's mind about working as a a Forester.
The man for whom every employer of men is searching, everywhere and always, is the man who will accept the responsibility for the work he has to do—who will not lean at every point upon his superior for additional instructions, advice, or encouragement.   (Chp: As A Subordinate Officer). So true. As a supervisor it was a joy to have a person who knew when to talk with me and when to attack a problem on their own.

Let a good man alone. Give him his head. Nothing will hold him so rigidly to his work as the feeling that he is trusted.   (Chp: As A Superior Officer). Wise words.

In connection with the establishment of a professional forest service service, he points to the summer of 1910 in the Northwest as the reason why this is needed. This is the subject of the book, The Big Burn by Timothy Egan (review being written).  He cites the heroism of Edward C Pulaski who at great personal costs saved 30+ men from being burnt in this fire. Not only are men like this needed, but men trained in the profession so they do not perish in fires.

What was the study of Forestry like before Pinchot's time?

The Training of a Forester is exactly what the title implies, it Pinchot 's thoughts on what he wanted forest personnel to look like-smart, outdoorsy, and well-educated. It also gives an idea.of what Pinchot philosophies towards the forest was. 

If you are reading it for excitement, find another book. But read this book for insight into what the early forest service principles were.

New Words:

  • Dendrological, dendrogoly (41): the scientific study of trees.
  • Silviculture, silvical (43): of or pertaining to forests or forestry

Good Quotes:

  • First Line: First, What is forestry?
  • Last Line: Study abroad is not indispensable for the American Forester, but it can do him nothing but good to see in practical operation the methods of forestry which have resulted from the long experience of other lands, and especially to become familiar with the effect of sound forestry on the forest.
  •  Most things said to be impossible are so only in the mind of the man whose timidity or inertness keeps him from making the attempt.   (Chp: Personal Equipment).
  •  Let a good man alone. Give him his head. Nothing will hold him so rigidly to his work as the feeling that he is trusted.   (Chp: As A Superior Officer). 
Table of Contents:
What is a Forest? 13
The Forester's Knowledge 18
The Forest and the Nation 19
The Forester's Point of View 23
The Establishment of Forestry 27
The Work of a Forester 30
The Forest Service 30
The Forest Supervisor 46
The Trained Forester 50
Personal Equipment 63
State Forest Work 84
The Forest Service in Washington 89
Private Forestry 106
Forest Schools 114
The Opportunity 116
Training 123