National Geographic : 1908 May
AN AMERICAN FABLE* BY GIFFORD PINCHOT CHIEF OF THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE HE conservation of our natural resources is a subject which has had little attention in the past; but it is so simple, so elementary, that it might almost be told in words like those of the old fairy tales that we all loved when we were boys and girls. It might run in this way: Once upon a time there was a young man who had been given a great prop erty in a distant region, and left home to take possession of it. When he reached his property he first made himself ac quainted with it. As he explored it and studied its value he began to think how he would make his living out of it. The problem was not a hard one. He found that his property was won derfully rich, and supplied his needs at the cost of far less exertion than he would have had to make at home-a fair land, well watered, well timbered, and abounding in game and fruits, with broad meadows for cattle and horses and sheep, and with no small store of rare and curious minerals, and an outcrop of excellent coal. Life was easy, and he lived lavishly and joyously at first, after the initial hard work of moving in and building his house and raising his first crops was over. He had far more land than he could use, far more game; and what he lacked he was able to buy from home with furs, with timber, with min erals, and with the surplus of his crops. By and by he saw and liked a girl and finally married her. Together they pros pered on their property, which seemed too rich to make it necessary for them to trouble about the future. Game was still plentiful, though less so than at first; the timber, though growing less, was still abundant enough to last longer than they could hope to live; by breaking new land they could always count on mar- velous crops; the coal was a little harder to get at, but still close to the surface, and besides the man only dug out the easiest, and when the earth began to cave in started again at a new place. His stock, pastured on the meadows, had trampled out some grass, but there was still no lack. That some day strangers would possess their property when they had done with it, and find it somewhat run down, did not trouble these two good people at all. But children had come to them with the years, and by and by these children began to grow up. Then the point of view of the man and his wife changed. They wanted to see their sons and daughters provided for and settled on their home property, and they began to see that what was enough and to spare for them would not support all their chil dren in the same comfort unless they themselves used it with better foresight. Through thinking of their children they were led to live more in the future. They looked forward and said to themselves, "Not only must we meet our own needs from this property, but we must see to it that our children come in for their fair share of it, so that after a while the blessedness we have had here may be carried on to them." So the family established itself. The man be came respected and his children grew up around him; and when in the fulness of time he passed away and his children took the place in which he had stood, be cause of his foresight and care, they en joyed the same kind of prosperity he had enjoyed. It is a perfectly simple story; we all of us can name scores of men who have done this same thing. The men and the women who do it are not famous, are not regarded as remarkable in any way; * An address to the National Geographic Society, January 31, 1908.