Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Michaux Lectures

Joseph Rothrock

History

In the year 1785 a French nobleman and botanist F. Andre Michaux and his father, also named Andre, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to North America. For 20 years they traveled far and wide with special emphasis on classifying forest trees and plants. Then in 1817 the son returned to North America and was alarmed at the extensive destruction of trees and forests caused by logging and uncontrolled fires. In 1855, desperate to help stop the devastation, F. Andre Michaux left a legacy of $12,000 to be used to promote the science-based or "silvicultural" management of Pennsylvania forests. In the year 1877 a noted medical doctor and botany professor, Dr. Joseph T. Rothrock, was chosen as the Michaux Lecturer. The purpose of the lectures was to establish an understanding of forestry, especially in Pennsylvania.

From 1877-1894, on nearly every Sunday afternoon in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Dr. Rothrock eloquently and persistently promoted a new vision for forestry by drawing attention to the grave ecological effects of present practices. On a buckboard wagon pulled by two horses and carrying a camera and lantern slide projector, he traveled far and wide from lecture to lecture. Slides illuminated by an oil-burning lantern showed the flames and smoke of the fires consuming vast acreages of Pennsylvania forests and trees. Other slides showed the devastation caused by harvesting trees without further care for the site, also known as cut out and get out practices. The Michaux Lectures became very popular and led to a grass roots effort to promote sustainable forestry practices on a statewide basis. The Pennsylvania Forestry Association, the only forestry organization in the nation, was established from this populist base of concern in 1886. Rothrock was elected as the Association's first president. One of its goals was to establish a state agency to deal with the widespread forest devastation.

During the 119 years since the beginning of the Michaux Lectures in 1877, the Rothrock supporters have become uncountable. These supporters from 1877 to the present have rehabilitated, conserved, and preserved the forests of Pennsylvania while still putting them to good use and protecting the environment. The Jewel of Pennsylvania book is an accurate, detailed record of the Pennsylvania state forest system.

Today, the rehabilitated and protected forests of Pennsylvania are vital to everyone for pure air, pure water, wholesome recreation, and an adequate supply of wood products.

11 comments:

clownbike said...

Will there be a quiz at the next club ride?

Anonymous said...

Oh, how woefully far the system has apparently fallen.

camps said...

Yea, if this is "rehabilitated"......, I wonder what it looked like when fire was the big threat?

Anonymous said...

Now it's simply tax-free cropland for private enterprise. "Cut out and get out" is pretty alive and well, it seems.

Travis said...

Very cool read. I knew Michaux was somewhat of the original Lewis and Clark but wasn't aware of the history of Pennsylvania forestry. Thanks.

Slowride said...

If you want a good idea of what this forest was covered with once walk the Whispering Pine Nature Trail in Caledonia. There are only a few large pine trees left in that area and one is over four feet in diameter and over a hundred feet tall. By comparison the rest of the forest is made up of short trees less than 12 inches in diameter because of consistent timber sales.
I have a book which shows Pine Grove in the 1800's as basically a dirt parking lot as far as you can see. So, I won't bash on reclaim efforts. Things are better than they were and they are still here for us to enjoy.
This is good info here. What is the motivation behind the post?

brett said...

Late 1800s to Early 1900s, the mountain ridges were essentially grasslands, depending on when they had been cut to feed the iron furnaces. The trees we cut to build the house were around 100 years old. Oaks grow slow up here.

Anonymous said...

Best post ever...?...

rob said...

Enjoyed the post thanks.

Josh aka Maverick Mohawk said...

Cool bit of history, thanks for the info!

Mark Henderson said...

Interesting post, thanks.
Hello gang, my name is Mark from Ship and I stumbled across this board again as I'm daydreaming of riding in Michaux again. (It's going to be a long winter I'm afraid) Anyway, I'd like to join you for some group rides once the weather turns 'nice' as the majority of my Michaux riding has been north of Route 30 and I'm tired of getting my butt kicked at Teaberry every year. Not that I'm planning on winning, I just want to learn where the softer rocks are for landing.
I hope to ride with you in the spring.
Mark