Original Document
Original Document
Gifford Pinchot, On why "the care of forests is the duty of the nation," 1891.

Perhaps the closest analogy to our own conditions in the magnitude of the area to be treated, the difficulties presented by the character of the country and the prevalence of fire, and the nature of the opposition which it encountered, is to be found in the forest-administration of India, and that in spite of the tropical climate with which it has to deal. The history of the movement is comparatively fresh, and the fact that many problems remain as yet unsolved will scarcely detract from the interest and sympathy with which we may be led to regard it.
Systematic forest-management was begun in India about thirty-five years ago, under difficulties not unlike those which confront us now. An insufficient or a wrong conception of the interests involved, the personal bias of lumbermen, the alternating support and opposition of the men in power, were the chief obstacles with which it had to contend; and against them were pitted the splendid perseverance and magnificent administrative powers of one man. The victory was brilliant, conclusive and lasting, and India has to thank Sir Dietrich Brandis for benefits whose value will go on increasing from age to age.
"History has proved," says Dr. Schlich, " that the preservation of an appropriate percentage of the area as forests can not be left to private enterprise in India, so that forest-conservancy in that country has for some time past been regarded as a duty of the state. Of the total area of Government forests, which may perhaps amount to some 70,000,000 of acres, 55,000,000 have been brought under the control of the Forest Department…
These forests have been gradually brought under simple, but systematic, methods of management, which aim at effective protection, an efficient system of regeneration and cheap transportation, the whole under well considered and methodical working plans….
The results of this enlightened policy are conspicuous, not only in the great fact that the forests yield, and will permanently yield, the supply of timber and forest-produce which the population requires, but also in the beginning which has been made toward regulating the water-supply in the mountains, and in the increasing capital value and annual net revenue of the state forests. This last has reached the verge of half a million sterling, and it is believed by the men best fitted to judge, that the forest-revenue will increase at least four times during the next quarter of a century.
There are two other facts resulting from the forest-policy of India which are of special significance to us as citizens of a country where any interference by the Government with private rights would be so vigorously resented, and where private enterprise must consequently play so conspicuous a part: First, a body of efficient and experienced officers of all grades has gradually been formed in the state forests whose services are available for the management of private forests, and of communal forests when the time shall come to form them; secondly, the example set by the well-managed state forests and the steadily increasing revenue which they yield have induced native and other forest-proprietors to imitate the state. The trained foresters, without whom so laudable a purpose must fail, are at hand, and the whole situation argues most favorably for the future prosperity of the country….
Dr. Schlich's statement of the destructive tendencies of private forest-ownership in India might with equal truth have been made as a general proposition. It is the salient fact which the history of the forests of the earth seems to teach; but nowhere have the proofs of its truth taken such gigantic proportions as in the United States to-day.
Even in Germany, where the state has done its utmost to surround them with every possible safeguard, the wood-lands of private proprietors are steadily decreasing both in area and in quality. A second great fact, which is of equal and immediate significance to us in America, is that the countries which have been successful in forest-preservation have been so along the lines of forest management. The first and most evident function of the forest is to produce wood, and no scheme which leaves out of account the imperative and legitimate demand for forest-produce is likely to meet with the support of a people as practical as our own. The forests which are most profitably used are the forests which are best preserved. These truths have never had the currency with us which their importance has deserved, and as a result we have been hastening along a road whose end is painfully apparent. We are surrounded by the calamitous results of the course that we are now pursuing. In fact, it seems as though there were almost no civilized or semi-civilized country in either hemisphere which cannot stand to its as an example or a warning. To this great truth they bear witness with united voice: The care of the forests is the duty of the nation.
New York.
Gifford Pinchot.

Credit: Gifford Pinchot, “The Forest. Forest-policy Abroad.—III,” Garden and Forest. Volume 4, Issue 152 (January 24, 1891); 34-35.
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