The Cradle is a tribute to the place where it all began for professional foresters within the US.
In the middle of Pisgah National Forest near Brevard in Brevard, the Cradle for Forestry in America.
The unique site of heritage significance commemorates the beginning of professional forestry within the United States. As we will discover, the events that took place throughout Western North Carolina at the beginning of the 19th century have a major part in the current management of private and public forests across our nation.
Forestry is the occupation that involves the science and art of managing our forests for all the products and services they produce for human beings over time. It is deep rooted in the fundamental sciences of chemistry, biology and maths and is based on applications in silviculture, ecology, as well as forest management.
It requires a lot of knowledge (a university degree as the minimum) as well as expertise and judgement to be able to execute it and maintain a dedication to ongoing education in order to stay up to date with new advancements in this field.
Forestry was brought to Europe into Western North Carolina when George W. Vanderbilt, on the advice of his landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead, enlisted the first American forester. Gifford Pinchot, a native of Pennsylvania with wealthy parents, was a forester in France.
Desiring to begin his career in America, U.S., Pinchot readily agreed to Vanderbilt’s offer to work. After arriving in Asheville in February. 3 in 1892, he drafted the first scientific forest management plan to be executed in this country.
Pinchot quit after just three years. He became his first Chief of the United States Forest Service and was elected to two terms in the governor’s office of Pennsylvania. He is widely regarded as one of the “fathers of American forestry” and was among the founding members of the Society of American Foresters – the professional association that is the voice of foresters as well as other natural managers, even today.
When he left, Vanderbilt reached out to the most renowned forester around the globe at the moment – Dietrich Brandis – for a recommendation for a replacement. Brandis recommended a German forester named Carl A. Schenck, Ph.D who accepted the invitation to join the company.
After arriving at Vanderbilt’s sprawling estate, Schenck increased the scope of programs initiated by Pinchot. He was in charge of the construction of more than 80 miles of forest roads to make it easier to manage the estate as well as stepped up to improve watersheds and set up the first tree nursery.
Forestry was introduced to WNC when George W. Vanderbilt, at the suggestion of Fredrick Law Olmstead, hired the first trained American forester. https://t.co/gKf2SRH4pW
— The Citizen Times (@asheville) December 31, 2022
He worked on numerous projects to improve the game and fish populations on Vanderbilt’s land. In the years that his reputation as a skilled forester developed, Schenck was approached by many people who wanted to become apprentices in order they could learn about this revolutionary idea.
Being aware of the need for a forestry education that was professional He opened the first school of forestry in the country in September. 1st, 1898 located that was just 100 yards or approximately from the current Cradle of Forestry located in the America’s Discovery Center.
Schenck was the director of this school on Vanderbilt’s land until 1909, when a disagreement regarding a hunting lease led to his demotion. The next 5 years Schenck was able to continue without having the advantage of having a campus that took his students on trips through different types of forest throughout Germany, France, and across Europe and the United States.
When he concluded the school in the fall of 1913, Schenck had conferred degrees in forestry to 365 males. These men became the most prestigious group of foresters who had been professionally trained and held important positions across the country.
What is also significant to us today is the widely divergent opinions on the way our forests in America are best managed. Although they were not different in their views, Schenck, broadly speaking, was strongly committed to educating and working with farmers, landowners and the general public to promote the effective implementation for forest management.
Schenck’s view was of an uncentralized and cooperative approach to management and specifically focused on the financial benefits of a good forest. He often said, “The best forestry is the forestry that pays the best.”
This concept is expressed within the Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry Section which is the reason each state-based forestry agency in America employs foresters as service foresters to help small landowners with the incentives that they receive for managing their woods.
This was reflected through the creation of the Cooperative Extension Service which has an outreach component in forestry, and in the practice of forestry in a wide range by large landowners owned by corporations. Therefore, 90% of the timber harvested in the United States is private land and the growth rate is higher than harvest every year, and the majority are taken care of in a sustainable way.
Pinchot however was a firm believer in the power of government and its regulation. He was no longer confident in the private sector’s ability to effectively manage forests and believed in the importance of the government’s ownership and control.
It was a valid argument in the moment for his viewpoint because the tax code at the time was in place, as were the low prices for timber and the absence of effective wildfire management caused it to be difficult to fund the necessary investments over the long term to ensure the proper management of forests.
The forestry industry is now regulated through a myriad of state laws, as well as the federal Clean Water Act of 1972 as well as the Endangered species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and many other laws that regulate safeguarding America’s forest land. However, 42% of all forests across America are owned and managed by the federal or state, tribal, or local authorities.
Their forward-thinking and strong convictions are fantastic legacies of both men and both views are essential for the protection and maintenance of the nation’s forests in the present – and that began from the very beginning within Western North Carolina!