Gifford Pinchot (1856–1946) shaped the 20th-century conservation movement by creating the profession of forestry in the United States, advancing the fledgling discipline of “scientific forestry,” developing the U.S. Forest Service into a potent federal agency, defining conservation itself in utilitarian terms, and by dint of his tireless advocacy, making conservation central to the agenda of progressive politics from the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt through the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt.

Historians have identified Pinchot with “utilitarian conservation,” an approach emphasizing government regulation, rational planning, and scientific methods applied by “experts” to ensure the efficient and sustainable use of natural resources. Pinchot's views are typically contrasted with the “preservationist conservation” of John Muir (1838–1914), which deified nature and sought to withdraw wilderness areas of unique beauty and ...

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