The Cradle of Forestry
Pisgah National Forest
The Birthplace of American Forestry
Guest: District Ranger Art Rowe
Thursday, November 18, 1999
In 1891, George Vanderbilt of the famed Biltmore Estate, hired Gifford Pinchot, who had gone to France to study this new thing called "forestry." Pinchot was asked to manage the cut over and eroded lands of the estate. He started a tree planting program, worked to stop the erosion, and developed a management plan for the Biltmore Forest. Later he went on to become the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
Pinchot was succeeded at Biltmore in 1895 by Dr. Carl A. Schenck from Germany. While managing close to 120 thousand acres of land for Vanderbilt, Dr. Schenck developed a following of apprentices who wanted to learn more about forestry. There were no forestry schools in America, so in 1898, Dr. Schenck started the Biltmore Forest School, America's first forestry school. This school lasted until 1913 and graduated over 300 students. Today the number of forestry schools has grown to 70 schools accredited by the Society of American Foresters.
Towards the end of the 19th century, people of vision recognized that America's forests were being logged with no concern for the future. Congress gave the President the power to set aside public domain land as National Forests to ensure that there was a continuous supply of timber for use by citizens. The first National Forests were established in the western United States because there were no public domain lands in the East. Another law was passed so that the Forest Service could buy private land to become National Forests. In 1914, the Forest Service bought 86,700 acres from George Vanderbilt's widow at $5.00 per acre. This became the Pisgah National Forest, the first purchased National Forest.
The Pisgah was created to ensure a future supply of timber and to protect the headwaters of navigable streams. More land has been purchased over the years so that there are now over 240 square miles on the Pisgah District. Its use has expanded and now includes camping, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, swimming, rock climbing, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, wilderness, threatened and endangered species, historical preservation, research, berry picking, conservation education, and many other uses. On the Pisgah is located the Cradle of Forestry, Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah Wildlife Education Center, Pisgah Fish Hatchery, The North Carolina Arboretum, Sliding Rock, Looking Glass Waterfalls, and Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wildernesses. Several million visitors come to the Pisgah each year.
The Town Meeting will focus on those early days of the first forester, the forestry school and its students, the beginning of the Pisgah National Forest, the many uses of the National Forests today, and the importance of forests to our society.
Questions for Students
Art Rowe is the Chief Ranger for the Pisgah District of the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. He has worked in Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia, and North Carolina with the U.S. Forest Service. He has been the chief ranger on the Pisgah for 14 years. He graduated from Virginia Tech and the University of Michigan with degrees in forest management. He has been involved with the Forest Discovery Center at the Cradle of Forestry since its inception. Besides his work with the Cradle of Forestry, he is responsible for all management activities on the 155,000 acre Pisgah District. He has an interest in conservation education and is working with the Cradle of Forestry In America Interpretive Association and Brevard College to develop an accredited continuing education program in environmental studies for teachers.
- History of First Forestry School in America