President Kennedy Dedicated Pinchot Institute (1963)

Ask just about anyone to name a historical figure in forestry, and the name Gifford Pinchot is sure to pop up.  Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946) is commonly called the father of American forestry—the first trained forester working in the U.S., the originator and first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and the conservation mentor of Teddy Roosevelt. 

Grey Towers is now a National Historical Landmark (photo by Beyond My Ken)

            Pinchot came from a wealthy family.  His father was a successful wallpaper merchant in New York City who built a summer home in 1886 on the banks of the Delaware River in Milford, Pennsylvania.  He called the estate Grey Towers, and for several decades the family spent their summers roaming the 102 acres of the estate.  Summers at Grey Towers taught Gifford Pinchot to love forests and to care deeply about the need for their conservation.

            Gifford wasn’t the only Pinchot interested in conservation—family members before and after him were also conservation leaders.  So, it came as no surprise that Pinchot’s son, Gifford Bryce Pinchot, donated Grey Towers and its accompanying lands to the U.S. Forest Service in 1963 to become a conservation center.

            The new center was called the Pinchot Center for  Conservation Studies (now shortened to just the Pinchot Center for Conservation).  The idea then, as now, was simple and direct, as reflected in the current mission statement:

“The mission of the Pinchot Institute is to strengthen forest conservation thought, policy, and action by developing innovative, practical, and broadly-supported solutions to conservation challenges and opportunities. We accomplish this through nonpartisan research, education, and technical assistance on key issues influencing the future of conservation and sustainable natural resource management.”

Gifford Pinchot visiting Yale forestry students who used Grey Towers for field studies in the early 1900s (photo by Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Image Database)

            The dedication ceremony occurred on September 24, 1963.  What should have been a sleepy little event attended by a few local politicians and conservation professionals became a national event when President John F. Kennedy agreed to deliver a commemoration address.  This was the first stop on an 11-state tour to promote conservation. At Grey Towers, an adoring crowd of more than 12,000 was on hand as Kennedy’s helicopter landed in a field a few hundred yards from the dedication site.  The president took the dais and began extolling the virtues of both Gifford Pinchot and conservation in general.

“Above all, [Pinchot] was a gifted, driving administrator, transforming a minor Federal bureau into a dynamic, purposeful agent of national policy…. In the space of a few short years, he made conservation an accepted virtue in the nation’s conscience.”

“But Pinchot’s contribution will be lost if we honor him only in memory….For our industrial economy and urbanization are pressing against the limits of our most fundaments needs:  pure water to drink, fresh air to breathe, open space to enjoy, and abundant access of energy to release man from menial toil.”

“The dispute is no longer one of principles or goals—it is now merely a question of pace and means.  And no one maintains that the obligation to use our resources efficiently and thoughtfully depends solely on the Federal Government….Conservation is the job of us all.”

            Kennedy wasn’t there long—70 minutes—and he lived only another two months.  But the Pinchot Institute has continued to prosper.  In collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, the institute provides a prominent voice for rational, science-based management of the nation’s natural resources. 


Dwyer, Dan.  1963.  The Day JFK Was Here.  Port Jervis Union-Gazette, September 24, 1963.  Available at:  Accessed June 25, 2019.

Kennedy, John F.  1963.  Remarks of the President at Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies, Milford, Pennsylvania, September 24, 1963.  Available at:  Accessed June 25, 2019.

Pinchot Institute for Conservation.  History.  Available at:  Accessed June 25, 2019.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
Spencer Fullerton Baird, First U.S. Fish Commissioner, Born (1823)
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 16
Alvaro Ugalde, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 17
Sombath Somphone, Laotian Environmentalist, Born (1952)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
World Pangolin Day
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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