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What’s so great about trees? What do forests have to do with drinking water? why is wildlife habitat so important? Find the answer to these questions and more below.

The Conservation Ethic

“Where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the question will always be decided from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.”
– Gifford Pinchot, Chief Forester, 1905-1910

Gifford Pinchot was an American forester at the turn of the 20th century. He studied at Yale University and the French National School of Forestry. When he returned home from his studies of European forests, Pinchot became intent on shaping a national forest policy for America. Pinchot served as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service from 1905 to 1910.

Pinchot is known for reforming the management and development of forests in the United States and for advocating the conservation of the nation’s reserves by planned use and renewal. He called it, “the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man.” Pinchot coined the term conservation ethic as applied to natural resources.

Gifford Pinchot, Chief Forester, 1905-1910

For generations, the work of Forest Rangers has attracted youth into the fields of biology, chemistry, ecology, engineering, fire fighting and aviation, forestry, geology, hydrology, outdoor recreation planning and more.

The future workforce of the Forest Service is largely dependent upon the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills of our citizens, especially our children. Together, these fields of study are referred to as STEM education.

In 2008, the nation’s universities awarded 225,000 degrees in these areas – far from the projected 400,000 degrees that were needed by 2015. It’s time to think about our future.

Careers in Conservation

For generations, the work of Forest Rangers has attracted youth into the fields of biology, chemistry, ecology, engineering, fire fighting and aviation, forestry, geology, hydrology, outdoor recreation planning and more.

The future workforce of the Forest Service is largely dependent upon the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills of our citizens, especially our children. Together, these fields of study are referred to as STEM education.

The Museum works with a wide range of partners to support a best-in-class STEM education program that encourages students to pursue college degrees and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The Museum’s education program connects youth to the conservation legacy defined by more than 100 years of practice, research and innovation led by the Forest Service and its cooperators in industry.

Why is Wildlife Habitat So Important?

The National Forests and Grasslands provide a significant portion of wildlife habitat. Some 425 threatened and endangered species and 3,250 designated sensitive species use and depend upon our National Forest System for their recovery and conservation. For many of these species, the quality of these land habitats will determine their future. Wildlife biologists use their knowledge to help provide the best quality habitat possible. In some cases, this means making certain land off limits to public use. In others it means changing what happens on the land to better accommodate people and wildlife.

As the land management agency responsible for managing most of the occupied elk habitat in the continental United States, the Forest Service plays a definite role in establishing a future for wild, free-ranging elk on public lands. For more than 10,000 years, elk occupied North American lands. With a range that extended nearly coast to coast, elk were the most widespread members of the deer family when Europeans first arrived. But by the turn of the century, only about 100,000 or 1% of the total estimated population survived, primarily in the remote Yellowstone National Park area.

Conservation efforts based on Ecosystem and Landscape Conservation have increased elk numbers dramatically. This style of land management seeks to create healthy forests for wildlife and people, considering all elements of the natural resources present. Nearly 80 percent of today’s elk population resides year-round or seasonally on 72 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands. This total land area is roughly the size of Colorado, and supports nearly 550,000 elk in three subspecies: the Tule elk of California; the Roosevelt elk of the Pacific coast; and the Rocky Mountain elk of the interior west.

What Do Forests Have to Do With Drinking Water?

Water is one of the most important natural resources flowing from forests. One American uses about 100 gallons of water per day and approximately 400 billion gallons of water are used in the United States per day.

Forests that border stream banks play an important role in water quality. Trees prevent erosion and run off, filter out impurities, and provide shade for aquatic life. Forests will be increasingly relied upon to provide clean and dependable water to support aquatic ecosystems and satisfy the demands of a rapidly growing human population.

Ranger Avery Berry stands on the bank of Olive Lake in 1950.

The Forest Service manages the largest single source of water in U.S. – 193 million acres of land in the National Forest System. A network of water and watershed resource specialists supports stewardship efforts to promote healthy, sustainable watersheds that are fundamental to ecosystems and people.

Across the country, National Forests contain over 300,000 miles of streams that supply 173 trillion gallons of water to municipal watersheds each year. 66 million people rely on a National Forest as their primary water source, and over 70 percent of the water supply in the western United States originates in the National Forests.

What Are Ecologists Doing to Prevent Climate Change?

An ecologist can interpret years of data to tell us what happened in the past. They can suggest management practices for our public lands that will work together with the effects of climate change.

Since 1908, the Forest Service has been creating a system of experimental forests and ranges. There are now 80 sites ranging from 47 to 22, 500 hectares, and many of them are more than 50 years old. The experimental forests and ranges provide a wealth of records and knowledge of environmental change in natural and managed forest and range land ecosystems across the United States.

With the increasing rate of changes to our climate, scientists know that hurricanes, storms, floods and landslides, heat waves, and drought occur more often and with greater or lesser strength. Ecologists are working to understand how forest and range land ecosystems will adapt and survive.

At the Rocky Mountain Research Station, ecologists are studying the impact of bark beetle infestations in the forests, lynx migration patterns and river habitats on Western ecosystems.

What’s So Great About Trees?

Trees are vitally important for wildlife, people and the planet.

In the early 1900s, trees throughout the East were cut down without paying close attention to the consequences. The cost was a loss of forests and wildlife habitat in many places, including what is today Allegheny National Forest. As part of a high-school forestry course, students in Sheffield, PA partnered with the National Forest Foundation and the Allegheny National Forest to help with hands-on restoration, including: tree thinning and planting, taking out invasive species, constructing vernal ponds construction and installation of nesting and roosting structures. Additionally, ten stream crossings will be improved with new culverts and bridges, reducing sediment in nearby streams and improving fisheries. Young forests like those in Pennsylvania offer diverse vegetation – seedlings, saplings, wildflowers and berries – that provide abundant food and cover so that deer, grouse, songbirds and other wildlife can flourish in a place that was once barren.

People use wood from trees every day – to build homes, to make paper and packaging products, it’s even used in sports equipment and musical instruments. As a globally traded commodity, wood is part of our economy – there are some 460,000 jobs associated with manufacturing wood products. A century ago, people didn’t manage forests as well as they do today. But now there are 20 percent more trees in the United States than there were on the first Earth Day celebration more than 40 years ago. Each year the forest products industry plants more than 600 million trees – about 1.56 million trees per day, creating more forests in the U.S. today than there were 50 years ago.

For our planet, trees are a important part of the ecosystem. Trees produce oxygen while removing carbon dioxide from the air. Not only that, they clean the air by absorbing pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Trees provide shade and cool their surrounding environment – studies show that urban areas without trees can be as much as 12 degrees hotter. Trees filter water and help control storm runoff, hold together the soil, and act as windbreaks. We’re all better off because of trees.

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