Feature

Serving a legacy of conservation

Larry Moore
Office of Communication, USDA Forest Service
March 1st, 2019 at 1:00PM


An early photo taken of Arthur Carhart in his youth about the time he served in World War I. (Carhart Family Photos)

Arthur Carhart was just 11 years old when he penned his first essay on the Downey Woodpecker for the once popular magazine Women’s Home Companion.

Over the next several years, Carhart would achieve a series of firsts.

He was the first to graduate Iowa State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Design and City Planning. After putting his education to use as a public health officer in World War I, he was hired on as the USDA Forest Service’s first landscape architect and recreation professional.

When Carhart was hired, March 1, 1919, the Forest Service was not yet 15 years old. The young agency tasked Carhart with planning, designing, and managing new found interest in recreation on national forests.

“In essence, Carhart began what we now know as sustainable recreation,” said Matt Arnn, Chief Landscape Architect at the USDA Forest Service. “Recreating on national forests can be an incredible experience, but the more heavily used a resource is, the more carefully managed it has to be so that it stays viable in the long-term—that’s where we come in.”


Taken in the early 1920s this is one of the only known photographs of Arthur Carhart while he was employed with the USDA Forest Service. (Forest Service Photo)

Today, the Forest Service manages 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands for multiple uses. From timber and mineral resources to recreation and environmental conservation, the agency’s portfolio is diverse, and recreation tops the list as the single largest use of national forests and grasslands. Managing that portfolio requires a lot of work and a lot of people to do it. Arnn says that Resource Assistants are one way the agency gets people motivated and passionate to help manage resources on national forests and grasslands.

The Resource Assistants Program is a paid internship program with the Forest Service that provides the tools for participants to launch careers in natural and cultural resource management. Resource Assistance work under close supervision with Forest Service experts and gain real-world experience and exposure to their resource of interest. 

Because 2019 marks 100 years since Arthur Carhart began his landmark work on national forests, Arnn and his colleagues are laying the foundation for the Get Outdoors Carhart Centennial Corps, a cadre of landscape architecture Resource Assistants focused on sustainable recreation work on national forests and grasslands.

“Arthur Carhart was a trailblazer for a whole field of resource management and wrote dozens of books, and hundreds of articles on conservation,” Arnn said. “I think setting up the Carhart Centennial Corps in his honor is a great way to put the resources he valued so much into the hands of the next generation of stewards.”

To learn more or apply, contact Ashley Newson at 816-489-1531 or anewson@fs.fed.us.