From the birthplace of American conservation…

…to the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum in Portland, Oregon

Post by: Courtney Long, Interpretation Specialist at the Cradle of Forestry in America

Trip Outline:

North Carolina to Oregon, I accompanied a USFS employee on his move across the country. We traveled through small towns, state parks, farm country, national forests and grasslands, national monuments, and a national park. You can view photos and thoughts during the trip on our @Cradle_of_Forestry Instagram account. 

The story:

Every place has its story. As interpreters and educators we can be creatively fun in deciding the ways we share those stories. I wondered continually how to tell the story of our trip from east coast, to the grand lakes of the north, then to west coast. I had plenty of hours to mull over themes and telling points. But the landscapes kept pulling my thoughts to the present moments. 


This was my longest road trip to date and once we passed through Illinois every state was new for me. For the first time I saw mule deer, pheasants, bison, pronghorns, herds of elk, and perhaps a glance at a moose. 

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” -President Lyndon B. Johnson

And LBJ was right. It wasn’t until South Dakota that we saw our first bison but my imagination went as wild as the great plains once were during the miles and miles of rolling lands on the way there. What would it have been like to travel this route 200 years ago when millions of bison roamed freely? To have seen natural America with more than a glimpse of what is once was. 

Sustainable forestry is part of leaving that glimpse for us. Our national forests and national grasslands protect natural resources, yes, but they also provide wild places for us to grow, learn and play. Worldwide we live cooped up in offices, tucked in windowless cubbies, or secured in front of our televisions. Have you ever seen the YouTube videos of rescued animals (cows, pigs, dogs, a circus lion) who experience grass for their first time in months or lifetime? That’s how I imagine millions of people every weekend who take advantage of the outdoors after 5 days of tiresome work.  Millions of people revitalizing their spirits in the clean, wispy air of the deep woods or mountainous ridges. 

Should it be this way? No, I don’t think it should. 

“Conservation means development as much as it does protection.” -President Teddy Roosevelt. 

This quote summarizes one of the most misunderstood concepts about forestry since its birth in western North Carolina in the 1890’s thru today. To cut down all of the trees until none are left is folly. To never cut down any is also folly (I’m speaking in exaggerated tones. Of course it’s important to have places set aside such as the National Parks for preservation). In sustainable forestry, there is a healthy balance. These are the lessons Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck perhaps shared with his forestry students as they restored eroded hillsides and surveyed forested landscapes of the Biltmore Forest.


National forests and grasslands nurture different capacities of our natural resources. This links all of us in America, from east to west coast. Redwoods store more carbon than any other tree in the world, making them vital carbon sinks. Eastern forests are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, protecting forest resiliency. They’re all different, and must all be managed differently to preserve those glimpses of wild places for generations to come. 


Opposite of his boisterous personality which gave him the “Bull Moose” nickname, Teddy Roosevelt is tucked in the mountainside and barely visible in this photo.

The Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center in Portland, OR enhances our connections even further to a global scale. We all (around the world) struggle in forestry with cultural boundaries and political priorities. I am proud of our historically great leaders who have pushed for conservation and preservation throughout America so that we can always have places to play, hunt, fish, recreate and road trip. We rely on our forests just as much as our predecessors did. Technology has not replaced our necessity for clean water, healthy soils and clean air. 

So go play. It’s all yours. 


States Covered:

North Carolina (Pisgah NF) >Tennessee >Kentucky >Ohio >Michigan >Illinois >Wisconsin >Minnesota >South Dakota (Sioux City Falls Park, Black Hills NF, Mount Rushmore National Monument, Custer State Park) >Wyoming (Bridger-Teton NF, Grand Tetons NP)> Idaho> Oregon (Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, World Forestry Center Discovery Museum)

Supporters of this road trip: 

Coffee, Snickers bars, our jobs, a patient traveling companion, and the NOAA app used for dodging impending ice and snow storms.