On this day in 1935, the Society of American Foresters presented its first-ever award, the Sir William Schlich Memorial Award Medal, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt was recognized for his “interest and effective work for forest conservation,” with specific acclamation given for his establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The award was named for Sir William Schlich, a 19th-century German-born forester, who worked extensively in India for the British government developing forest management and education programs. Schlich served as a member of the Royal Indian Forest Service from 1867 to 1885, moved to England and became a British citizen in 1886, and in 1905 founded the School of Forestry at Oxford. Following Schlich’s death in 1925, a fund was raised by Oxford to establish an award in his name. Schlich awards were given in Australia, New Zealand, and India, before the trustees of the award elected the U.S. to be the next country of recipient. At this time the Society of American Foresters adopted the award as a permanent fixture within their organization.
The award has been presented by SAF to a total of 33 individuals since 1935. Many of the winners over the past 70 years represent a who’s who of major figures from the world of forestry — from early winners such as Gifford Pinchot (1940), Henry S. Graves (1944), and William B. Greeley (1946) to more recent recipients such as USFS researcher Robert E. Buckman (1994) and our own Harold K. (Pete) Steen (2000), Executive Director of the Forest History Society from 1978-1997.
The FHS Archives houses numerous materials relating to the award and its past winners, including items from the Society of American Foresters Records documenting the award selection process through the years. The archives also feature several collections with newly published online finding aids representing winners such as Tom Gill (1954), William E. Towell (1978), and Harold K. Steen (2000).
For more on the history of the Sir William Schlich Memorial Award, see “The First American Forestry Award” by Harold K. Steen, from Forest History Today, Spring 2000.