Gifford Pinchot

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Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946) was America's most prominent forester and conservationist in the Progressive Era in the early 20th century, as well as a Pennsylvania politician. He was, with Theodore Roosevelt, the leading conservationist of his era, strongly promoting the optimal efficient use of natural resources, without waste. He opposed the extreme from of nature worship typified by John Muir and the Sierra Club. Pinchot favored and Muir opposed commercial development of natural resources, such as rivers and forests.

Pinchot's bitter dispute with Interior Secretary Richard Ballinger disrupted the Taft Administration. When Taft finally supported Ballinger, Pinchot resigned as head of the Forest Service, and started organizing insurgents on behalf of Robert LaFollette. When Theodore Roosevelt entered the fray in 1912, Pinchot immediately switched to him, and became a leader of the radical wing of the Bull Moose movement, along with his brother Amos Pinchot. The Pinchot brothers opposed the conservative wing led by George W. Perkins because it was too favorable to trusts and big business. Pinchot returned to the Republican party, and was elected governor of Pennsylvania in 1922, and 1930. He was successful in modernizing the state’s financial system, but failed in his efforts to promote prohibition and regulate utilities.

Bibliography

  • McGeary, Martin Nelson. Gifford Pinchot: Forester-Politician (1960).
  • Mowry, George E. Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement. (1946) focus on 1912
  • Strong, Douglas H. Dreamers & Defenders: American Conservationists 1988 online edition

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