Module Five

If Trees Could Talk Modules

A New Profession Takes Seed



A New Profession Takes Seed has students examine the birth of American professional forestry and learn what foresters do. Forestry began in the United States during the Progressive Era, when the federal government began applying scientific management principles to environmental issues, college forestry programs were established, and a foresters formed a professional organization to foster the exchange information and ensure a proper code of conduct. Foresters in the first half of the 20th century emphasized timber production over other uses of the forest. Today's foresters engage in a broad range of activities to manage ecosystems with numerous objectives in mind, including the extraction of raw material, outdoor recreation, water quality, conservation, and aesthetics.

Image Caption: Typical early forest ranger in the Southwest, Jim H. Sizer (seen here in 1910), who served as ranger and assistant supervisor from 1909 to 1943 on the Apache and Tonto national forests. 
Forest History Society photo.


  • The student will understand how the Progressive Movement addressed the impact of industrial capitalism on trees and forests.
    (Standard 1: Era 7, The Emergence of Modern America)
  • Social Studies
    • Describe the role of institutions in furthering both continuity and change.
      (Standard 5: Individual, Groups, and Institutions)
    • The student will analyze and explain ideas and governmental mechanisms to meet needs and wants of citizens, regulate territory, manage conflict, and establish order and security.
      (Standard 6: Power, Authority, and Governance)



    Teacher Preparation:
    Download and print Module 5 Teacher and Student PDFs using Adobe Acrobat and make copies of the student pages, one per student.

Class Extensions

Using the information below as a guide, invite a forester to the class for a visit. Ask students to generate questions for the visitor so as to learn more about the profession of forestry.

Where to Find a Forester
Use the categories listed below to identify a forester near you.

  • Environmental Consulting Firms
  • Forest Products and Paper Companies
  • State Departments of Natural Resources/ Environment/ Conservation
  • Local Parks and Recreation Departments
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • Universities and colleges with forestry programs

Use the following web pages to locate a forester.

During the course of the week students will be reading excerpts from the oral histories of 3 pioneers in the field of forestry. Using a book such as Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide [Donald A. Ritchie, Oxford University Press, 2003] as a starting point, have students conduct an oral history project of their own. Possibilities could include interviewing a retired forester or someone currently working in the field.

Team Teaching Possibilities

Technology: Instead of having students complete Worksheet 5 on the sheet provided, have them create and complete their own timeline that outlines the events involved in the evolution of the forestry profession.

English: One of the extension suggestions for this activity asks students to conduct their own oral histories of a local forester. In addition to asking students to read aloud to the class excerpts of their interviews, have students locate and read a transcribed oral history of a forester or person employed in an environmental profession.

Math: Have students examine how math is used in the modern profession of forestry. Ask students to present their findings to the class.

Science: Ask students to research the scientific and technological advancements made during the Progressive Era. Have students include a section on the changes in forest science during the period.


Argow, Keith A. “Professionalism and Ethics, A History Within SAF.” Forest History (August 1975): 460-463.

Block, Nadine E. “Credentialing and Accreditation Programs.” Journal of Forestry (April 2000): 18-22.

Clepper, Henry. Professional Forestry in the United States. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, for Resources for the Future, 1971.

Fedkiw, John. “National Forests and the Performance of the Organic Act of 1897.” Forest History (1998): 12-17. [PDF]

Hays, Samuel P. Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1999. Reprint of 1959 original.

Jolley, Harley E. “The Cradle of Forestry.” Forest History (1998): 18-20.

MacCleery, Douglas. American Forests: A History of Resiliency and Recovery. Durham, NC: Forest History Society, 2011. [Order]

Pinchot, Gifford. Breaking New Ground. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1947. Reprinted in 1972, 1987, and 1998.

Pinkett, Harold T., “Consulting Forestry.” In Encyclopedia of American Forest and Conservation History, edited by Richard C. Davis. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1983.

West, Terry L. Centennial Mini-Histories of the Forest Service. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1992.

Williams, Gerald W. The USDA Forest Service: The First Century. Washington, DC: U.S. Forest Service, 2005.


Forest History Society Bibliographic resources on forestry, conservation, and environmental history. See The Greatest Good Film.

Fire Science Online provides “Forestry Careers & Degrees: A Guide for Students.”

Society of American Foresters Helpful information about the profession of forestry, including career advice and links to resources in the field.

USDA Forest Service Official website of the Forest Service that includes photos, employment information, and current information regarding the activities of this government agency.