At the turn of the twentieth century, Michigan forests were on the decline due to lumber harvesting, but one man helped bring them back.
Marcus Schaaf was hired in 1910 as the first forester of the Michigan Public Domain Commission (the forerunner to the current Department of Natural Resources). His job? To preserve, protect, and defend Michigan’s forests.
Over 40 years, Schaaf created the nation’s largest state forest program through the development and management of the state’s reforestation program.
In November 2014, the Michigan Historical Museum accepted artifacts from Schaaf’s time as the first state forester. The donation was made by Schaaf’s granddaughter, Suzan Schaaf.
“The Michigan Historical Museum and Department of Natural Resources are grateful to Suzan Schaaf for sharing this lasting legacy of her grandfather’s influential career in Michigan forestry with the people of Michigan by donating them to the Michigan Historical Museum,” said Linda Endersby, museum director.
The artifacts were presented at a special ceremony held in association with the annual meeting of the Michigan Forest Association at Hartwick Pines State Park.
The collection includes a dial compass in its original leather case, a compass in wooden case for a surveyor, and a Saginaw-manufactured wooden reel and 66-foot metal surveyor’s tape. All were used by Schaaf during the time when his administration consolidated and expanded the boundaries of Michigan’s State Forest System.
Schaaf graduated from the Biltmore School of Forestry in 1904 and went to work for the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico. He used the skills he learned and developed to survey, expand, and develop Michigan’s State Forest System.