Climate Champion–Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt’s Midnight Forests, CCSF winner–“Belief Formation & Adaptation to Climate Change.”

by | Aug 5, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

OG Climate Champion–Gifford Pinchot, plus Teddy Roosevelt & the Midnight Forests. Harvard CCSF winner, “Belief Formation & Adaptation to Climate Change.”




Some people think it’s not cool to celebrate the OG’s of the climate/environmental/conservation movement. And by OG’s I mean folks from the Teddy Roosevelt era of the early 20th Century. They oppose them because, let’s face it, their visions for protecting national parks, outdoor spaces and other aspects of nature for society didn’t include any diversity, equity or inclusion. I get it. But remember, if it weren’t for people like Teddy R., we might have been in a much worse pickle decades earlier.

That’s why I believe we can recognize folks for their contributions without having to accept their philosophies, politics or predilections. People like Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the United States Forest Service. In 1905, the United States Forest Service, an agency charged with overseeing the country’s forest reserves, was established. Pinchot became its first head.

Pinchot tried to use the rhetoric of the market economy to disarm critics of efforts to expand the role of government: i.e. scientific management of forests and natural resources was profitable, he wound up being universally disliked. Timber companies didn’t like his conservation ethic. It’s a phrase he coined. Conservation ethic is a moral philosophy and conservation movement focused on protecting species from extinction, maintaining and restoring habitats, enhancing ecosystem services, and protecting biological diversity

Forest preservationists like John Muir, who were deeply opposed to commercializing nature and him. Pinchot’s policies also aroused opposition from ranchers, who opposed regulation of livestock grazing in public lands. 

Why does Gifford Pinchot matter to us? Conservation ethic. Plus, his famous Midnight Forests crusade. See, the Roosevelt administration’s efforts to regulate public land led to blowback in and Congress passed an act in 1907, prohibiting the president from creating more forest reserves.

So, just minutes before the law went into effect, and Roosevelt lost the power to create new federal forest reserves Gifford Pinchot helped President Roosevelt create 16 million acres (65,000 km²) of new National Forests, the Midnight Forests! That may just one reason he’s been called “the father of American conservation.”

DEEPER DIVE; Gifford Pinchot, Pinchot National Forest, Midnight Forests, Forest History



Midnight forests was a nickname given to the forests created by President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt near the end of his term as president. In early 1891, Congress was reconsidering provisions in the nation’s land laws. An amendment (Section 24) attached to the legislation would allow the President of the United States to set aside forest reserves from the land in the public domain. The act, signed on March 3, 1891, was later referred to as the Creative Act, or the Forest Reserve Act.

In 1905, Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot convinced Congress to establish the United States Forest Service, an agency charged with overseeing the country’s forest reserves. As the first head of the Forest Service, Pinchot implemented a decentralized structure that empowered local civil servants to make decisions about conservation and forestry.

During his administration, President Roosevelt set aside 150 national forests, the first 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks, the first 18 national monuments, the first four national game preserves and the first 24 reclamation, or federal irrigation, projects; the national forests alone consisted of 150,000,000 acres (610,000 km2) of land by the end of his term in 1909.

Due to complaints from many special interest groups, ranging from cattlemen to loggers to sheepmen and homesteaders, over the myriad regulations required for operations in forest reserve lands, they, together with their political allies, managed to get enough support in Congress by 1907 to change the 1891 law.

An amendment (called the Fulton Amendment) was attached to the Agriculture Appropriations Act of 1907, which stated, “Hereafter no forest reserve shall be created,..”The amendment also changed the name of the forest reserves to national forests, in order to make it clear that the forests were to be used, not preserved. The bill passed on February 25, 1907, and was sent to the President for his signature.

Roosevelt had been politically leveraged into having to sign it into law by noon on March 4, 1907.

But before he did, he and Gifford Pinchot schemed to designate massive forest tracts as national forest reserves. With an army of bureaucrats working non-stop between March 1–2, 1907, Roosevelt proclaimed twenty-one new forest preserves and enlarged eleven existing ones, totaling an additional 16,000,000 acres (65,000 km2). Effectively nullifying the Fulton Amendment.

Because of the nature of the timing of the proclamations, and from President Roosevelt`s own comment, these forest preserves/national forests created in March of 1907 are sometimes referred to as the “midnight forests”.

DEEPER DIVE: G. Pinchot, T. Roosevelt, Midnight Forests



Ten research teams will share $1.3 million in the eighth round of the Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund (CCSF) awards. Aiming for impact at both the local and global level, these projects will seek to reduce the risks of climate change, hasten the transition to renewable energy, diminish the impact of existing fossil fuels on the climate, understand and prepare for the effects of climate change, and propel innovations needed to accelerate progress toward a healthier, more sustainable future.

 Dev Patel, Graduate Student in Economics, FAS. His project states that climate change poses an existential threat for hundreds of millions of people across developing countries. In the absence of severe mitigation measures by the rest of the world, these households must take steps themselves to address the dramatic shifts already occurring in their local environments. 

The project asks how households learn about and adapt to climate change. This research dives into the underlying mental models guiding farmers’ decisions in agricultural production to understand how the relatively slow, incremental environmental changes characteristic of climate change can often fail to prompt appropriate reactions. The focus is then on the critical issue of rising soil salinity in rural Bangladesh, which drastically reduces rice yields under status quo production.

Combining new satellite-based measures of flooding with experimental variation in information and technology access, the research team estimates how households react to the changes in salinity brought on by flooding events and how these beliefs shape climate change adaptation.