Gifford Pinchot marveled at the immensity of the Cascades’ old growth trees when he visited the Pacific Northwest in the early 1890s. As first chief of the United States Forest Service (USFS), he valued forests as a “social good,” but his view did not last. After WWII the USFS and the timber industry became unlikely allies, and with policies often shaped by economic interests, maximum timber production became the primary objective.
Mid-century scientific forestry championed intensive management and replacing ancient forests with younger, faster-growing trees. Logging unsustainable levels of timber was common practice from the 1950s through the 1980s. As a result of public concerns, in June 1960, President Eisenhower signed into law the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act, which made national forests’ multiple purposes—timber, water, range, recreation, wildlife, and fish—equally important. Still, accelerated production continued unabated into the 1980s. By 1990 less than thirteen percent of the Pacific Northwest’s original old growth remained, and projected USFS plans were to log almost all unprotected old growth by 2023.
Judicial action and the Northwest Forest Plan finally brought this unsustainable logging to a close. Restoring the damage will require more than a century.
Environmental activist Rand Schenck examines 100 years of Pacific Northwest forestry, through the lens of forestry practices on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This volume offers his visceral perspective on the decades of stewardship, the period of relentless harvest, and the move toward the rebirth of old growth.
As a boy, Rand Schenck hiked and backpacked in the same mountains and woods where Gifford Pinchot first worked as a forester and developed a lifelong love of the outdoors. He holds a BA in History from the University of Colorado, as well as an MA in Recreation Administration and a Masters of Social Work, both from the University of North Carolina. Now retired, he spends much of his time in the outdoors, hiking and camping in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.
“Pinchot’s most famous idea, that our nation’s forests should be managed for ‘the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time’ is brought to life in Schenck’s insightful book.”—Sean Stevens, Executive Director, Oregon Wild
“Through Schenck’s personal relationship and infinite passion for the heart of the cascades, he explores the history, science and controversy that surrounds the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. As someone familiar with the landscape, I found myself developing an even deeper appreciation and connection as each chapter unfolded.”—Molly Whitney, Executive Director, The Cascade Forest Conservancy, formerly the Gifford Pinchot Task Force