SNYDER: Happy 150th birthday to Pennsylvania's conservation hero, Gifford Pinchot


Earlier this week we celebrated the birth of a hero of conservation.

Deservedly, he got a big gift.

Gifford Pinchot was born 150 years ago, and to help celebrate what he gave us, the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) renamed the Lackawanna State Forest District in his honor.

"It is so fitting that Lackawanna State Forest District now bears the name of a man who introduced so many innovative forestry practices to a nation when it desperately needed sound conservation guidance," DCNR secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. "Distinguished forest management is synonymous with Pennsylvania, and Gifford Pinchot laid the groundwork for what we now have."

When most folks from York County hear the name Gifford Pinchot, they think of the popular state park in the county's northern half. But there's a man behind that name, a man who deserves timeless respect.

Pinchot was born in 1865 to a very wealthy family. It made its money hacking away at Pennsylvania's forests. At the time, there was no such thing as conservation. The nation's earliest generations merely saw forests as a vast money-making resource.

But as Pinchot grew into his teens, he started to see the error in his family's ways. He realized it was unsustainable. He decided to create a new profession. By most accounts, he was America's first forester. He wanted to build healthy forests instead of chopping them down. Pinchot was a pioneering conservationist.

As lucky as Pinchot was to be born into a wealthy family (which afforded him the luxury of studying at Yale and in France), he was just as fortunate to have a few powerful connections. One of them, of course, was Teddy Roosevelt.

Roosevelt and Pinchot were great friends. They thought alike and dreamed alike.

One of their dreams was to preserve huge swaths of America's landscape. Together, they worked to create a vast network of national parks. When Roosevelt appointed Pinchot the head of the country's new Forest Service, the Pennsylvanian's role as a leading hero of conservation was cemented.

Eventually, Pinchot would bring more than 200 million acres of national forest under professional land management — keeping the railroad and industrial pioneers from clear cutting what is now a national treasure.

After a heroic career with the Forest Service, Pinchot came home and served two terms as Pennsylvania's governor. He continued his conservation efforts while in office and the effects of his hard work remain visible today.

Pinchot died of leukemia in 1946. His death proved that no hero lasts forever, but if their work is good and honest, their legacy lives on.

Very few people have had the huge impact that Gifford Pinchot had on this state and our country. We should be proud to call him our hero.

Happy birthday to a hero of conservation.

Enjoy his gift.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at