Forestry emerged as a special political concern within resource management in the late-nineteenth century. In 1891, during the administration of Benjamin Harrison, the United States Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act, appropriating lands from the public domain and converting them into forest preserves. To enforce the act, congress later passed the Forest Service Organic Administration Act of 1897, a piece of legislation commonly referred to as the Organic Act.
During this time, American forestry increasingly fell under the purview of newly-created professional organizations. Educational institutions formed schools and commissions dedicated to the study of forests. Private conservationists like Teddy Roosevelt created groups like The Boone and Crockett Club. And the United States Federal Government created the Division of Forestry, later renamed the United States Forest Service. It was this last organization that hired a young but accomplished forester named Gifford Pinchot in 1898. And in 1900 it was Pinchot who, in conjunction with a cohort of like-minded professionals, founded the Society of American Foresters.
Now a thriving community of over 11,000 members, the Society of American Foresters continues to combine scientific advancements, a diverse set of social perspectives, and an evolving set of best practices in an attempt to ensure a long future for American Forests.
2016 SAF National Convention Oral History Project
At the 2016 Society of American Foresters Convention in Madison, WI, the planners organized conference sessions devoted to diversity and inclusion in the forestry profession. Along with panel discussions, research papers, and talks, the planning committee collected oral histories from foresters about their own experiences pertaining to diversity and inclusion.
The following oral histories were collected at the 2016 SAF convention and are here presented in partnership with University of Wisconsin-Madison Oral History Program. The US Forest Service also participated in the planning and implementation of the project. While the interviewers encouraged all conference attendees to participate in the process, a special emphasis was made on collecting the stories of women and ethnic- or racial-minority groups. The SAF Oral History Project sought to inquire after the experience of conference attendees in three areas related to the conference themes:
- Changes in the forestry profession over their careers
- Their experiences with diversity and inclusion
- The future of forestry as a profession