I was fortunate to visit the “Birthplace of Forestry” in the United States. Just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, George W. Vanderbuilt built his country home in the 1880s. This home, The Biltmore, known as “America’s Largest Home” was modeled after a French chateaux, has 4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The basement has a swimming pool, gymnasium, bowling alley, servants quarters, kitchens and more.
Vanderbuilt hired landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted to design and care for his several thousand acres which he owned. His work of the flower gardens of this place are absolutely amazing. The surrounding land of the home had previously been been cleared for farming and timber, and Vanderbuilt and Olmsted wanted to improve this land. Olmsted suggested that a wise investment would be in timberland.
This was the first lumber enterprise in the US to take into account long term conservation. In 1891 hundreds of white pine were planted. Everything was carefully documented in “Project of Operations for Improving Forest of Biltmore”. However Olmeste realized he needed a trained forester.
Gifford Pinchot managed the Biltmore from 1892 – 1895. He was trained in France per his father’s suggestion. Pinchot was later the chief Federal Government division of Forestry. He’s known as the “Father of American Conservation”.
In order to improve existing patches of woodland on the Biltmore estate they would remove poorly formed and damaged trees allowing the best trees room to grow. Pinchot showed unique management technics for the time, identifying tree species, growth conditions, and volumes of timber per acre, and improving tree growth with selective thinning.
This plan of improving the forest while returning profits to the land owner was the first of its kind and served as a national model. In 1895 German Dr. Carl Schenck was hired to manage the 100,000 acre estate and the added 120,000 of forest that is now Pisgah National Forest.
During this time the school – Cradle of Forestry.
The first site of US educational program in forestry was built under Schenck to help educate American foresters. The Biltmore School ran for 15 years (1898-1913) and educated over 300 students became the 1st generation of American Foresters.
Today this land is managed under the same principles of Olmsted, Pinchot, and Schenck. Healthy productive forest for the future, protecting soil and water resources, wildlife habitat, aesthetic views and recreational use.