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Seeking the Greatest Good

The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot

by Char Miller

Publication Year: 2013

The Pinchot Institute for Conservation was dedicated in 1963 to further the legacy of conservationist Gifford Pinchot (1865–1946). A pioneer in his field, Pinchot was widely regarded as the father of American forest conservation and an adamant steward of natural resources for future generations. Char Miller highlights many of the important contributions of the Pinchot Institute through its first fifty years of operation. Miller details individual programs led by the Pinchot Institute, such as Common Waters, a project to protect the local Delaware River Basin as a drinking water source for millions of residents, and the Forest Health-Human Health Initiative which exchanges health care credits to rural American landowners who maintain their carbon-capturing forestlands. As this engaging study shows, the Pinchot Institute has continued the work of its namesake in protecting ecosystems for future generations.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

Sitting at a well-used desk in one of the offices located on the third floor of Grey Towers National Historical Site and overhearing visitors as they strolled around the flower-filled grounds, commented on the lovingly restored bluestone mansion, or pointed out landmarks set within the site’s commanding views east across the Delaware River valley, ...

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pp. 1-8

On a warm Friday morning in late June 2012, a party of volunteers— mostly board members of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and staffers from Grey Towers National Historic Site—put blade to ground on the Jorritsma family’s century-old dairy farm in Sussex County, New Jersey. Within minutes, they had dug a series of deep, round holes ...

A Living Memorial

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1. This Old House

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pp. 11-20

They came on a pilgrimage. In September 1961 the Gifford Pinchot Chapter of the Society of American Foresters held its annual meeting in Milford, Pennsylvania. It was the hometown of the group’s namesake, who had established the national society to which they belonged, had been the founding chief of the U.S. Forest Service, ...

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2. September 24, 1963

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pp. 21-24

JFK dropped out of the sky. Ferried from the Stewart Air Force Base in Newburgh, New York, on Marine One, the presidential helicopter, he put down at a makeshift landing pad at Grey Towers. The president’s stay was brief; one reporter timed his visit from touchdown to take off at exactly seventy minutes. ...

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3. Home Grounds

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pp. 25-34

Gazing out over the boisterous crowd of family, friends, and luminaries, Gifford Bryce Pinchot was reminded of similar gatherings that had occurred whenever one of his parents hit the campaign trail, which was often: “This seems to me to be a continuation of the wonderful days when my father and mother lived here, ...

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4. The Inseparable World

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pp. 35-43

Samuel H. Ordway Jr. was in a philosophical mood. As president of the Conservation Foundation, and thus a partner with the U.S. Forest Service in what he and his collaborators considered a “unique cooperative educational venture,” Ordway used his speech at the 1963 dedication ceremonies of the Pinchot Institute ...

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5. Under Fire

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pp. 44-51

Orville L. Freeman, the secretary of agriculture, flew on Air Force One with President John F. Kennedy, heading north from Andrews Air Force Base to Stewart Air Force Base in New York, from which they would then take a chopper to Milford. Despite the significance of the forthcoming celebration at Grey Towers, the secretary wasn’t nervous ...

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6. Greening the Presidency

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pp. 52-60

President Kennedy came to Milford to make a bit of mischief. That was Benjamin Bradlee’s later memory of the presidential trip to Grey Towers. Then a Newsweek correspondent covering the White House, as well as a presidential confidant—the Kennedys and Bradlees had lived next door to one another in Georgetown ...

Institutional Change

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7. Conservation Education

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pp. 63-77

The four-fold blessings bestowed on Grey Towers by the Pinchot family, the Conservation Foundation, the Forest Service, and the Executive Office of the President were complicated by the fact that each institution sought to shape the celebratory moment and contribute to a projected future in which the nation benefitted from the Pinchot Institute’s success. ...

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8. Branching Out

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pp. 78-94

A funny thing happened when Jack Ward Thomas and Ronald A. Dixon decided to eat lunch in a graveyard. The two scientists were working in the U.S. Forest Service’s research unit at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and, in hopes of stretching their legs one noon hour, they strolled over to West Cemetery in the town’s center: ...


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pp. 95-109

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9. Turning a White Elephant Gold

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pp. 110-136

You can almost hear the fatigue in his voice. As Gifford Bryce Pinchot read through the 1982 master plan for Grey Towers, an environmental and cultural assessment that the National Environmental Policy Act (1970) required in advance of any sustained alteration to the national landmark, he was unimpressed and saddened. ...

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10. Neutral Force

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pp. 137-153

When the Grey Towers staff sat down to map out the relationship of the national historic landmark to the Pinchot Institute, they captured it with a Venn diagram. Named for John Venn, who in 1880 had refined the concept of an overlapping set of circles to represent the connections between two or more seemingly distinct sets of ideas, ...

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11. Common Cause

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pp. 154-170

It comes down to the land, its health and viability, its capacity to regenerate and sustain its ecological relations and their integrity. If salubrious and energetic, then the communities—biotic and human—depending on them will flourish. If not, then the consequences could be destabilizing. ...

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12. Looking Forward

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pp. 171-176

The past, we are told, is prologue. But that does not mean its prescriptions are always translatable by the present or in the future. When Gifford Pinchot helped galvanize the nation to conserve and sustainably manage its forests or be confronted with a “timber famine,” the world population was well under two billion. ...


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pp. 177-208


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pp. 209-220

Back Cover

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pp. 234-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780822979210
E-ISBN-10: 0822979217
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962670
Print-ISBN-10: 0822962675

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 28 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867740619
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Seeking the Greatest Good

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Pinchot Institute for Conservation -- History.
  • Pinchot Institute for Conservation -- Influence.
  • Environmental policy -- United States -- History.
  • Nature conservation -- United States -- History.
  • Forest conservation -- United States -- History.
  • Environmental education -- United States -- History.
  • Pinchot, Gifford, 1865-1946 -- Influence.
  • Pinchot, Gifford, 1865-1946 -- Family.
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