It is historic that April 2014 marks 150 years of management of Indian forests. On such an occasion, it is quite natural that the ‘Father of Indian Forestry’, Dietrich Brandis will be remembered. This article retraces the zero milestone of management of Indian forests and how our present day management of forests is largely shaped by the vision of Brandis.

Dr Dietrich Brandis, ( March 31, 1824 – May 29, 1907 ) was born in Bonn, Germany. His father Dr. Christian Brandis was a Professor of Philosophy in the University of Bonn. After graduating in botany, he took up the job of a lecturer in botany in the University of Bonn in 1849. Hence the popular belief that he was a trained forester, is ill founded. His interest in botany was from a forestry perspective.

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Dietrich Brandis, the Father of Indian Forestry
In 1854, he married Rachel, a sister of the wife of General Havelock, a friend of Lord Dalhousie, then the British Governor-General in India. This connection earned him the appointment of Superintendent of Pegu Forests in Burma in 1856.

Brandis introduced the Taungya system in the Karen Tribal resistance areas in Pegu (Burma), which greatly reduced their resistance to State take-over of forests. His initial interest in botany shifted to forestry once his herbarium and library capsized while on way to Rangoon from Calcutta. While in Burma, he pioneered work on teak silviculture and protection plans against pests and fire.He also introduced teak purchase rules, clearing rules and establishment of managed teak areas called conservancies, to be managed by Conservators.

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Illustrations of Teak in the book Indian Trees
Foundations of  ‘scientific forestry’ in India were surely and firmly laid with his appointment as the First Inspector General of Forests (IGF), Government of India on 1st April, 1864.

His major concern was to prevent further degradation of forests in the country, for which, he formulated the Forest Act, 1865, which was later amended in 1878 and 1927. He served as IGF for 20 years, during which time he successfully laid foundations for putting the country’s forest resources under scientific management under an independent forest administration. Appreciating the need for forestry research and training, he took positive actions by setting up research and training facilities at Dehra Dun. He was officially recognised as Companion of the Indian Empire in 1878.

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Budher Forest Rest House in Uttarakhand, constructed by Brandis
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Brandis Walking Trail in Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun
He documented the Sacred Groves of Rajputana, Mysore, Salem district in Madras Presidency besides Garo & Khasi Hills.

He formally linked forest protection with the local people, a fact, which is so difficult for the foresters to digest even today. He continued to work on Indian forestry even after retirement and at the age of 75, he started his principal botanical work — Indian Trees — dealing with 4400 species. Indian Trees continues to be the bible in the understanding  trees of India.

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The Bible for all Forest enthusiasts, Indian Trees, which has immortalized Brandis
He was also involved in Forestry Education in England at Cooper Hills. He also influenced and mentored eminent foresters like Berthold Ribbentrop, Sir P. D. Schlich and Carl A. Schenck.

He mentored Grifford Pinchot and Henry S. Graves, who were the first and second chiefs of USDA Forest Service, thereby influencing the forestry movement in the United States.

He also helped establish the U.S. National Forest System. In fact, Pinchot depended heavily on him for introducing professional Forest Management in the U.S. and structuring the Forest Service there. He wrote a detailed letter to Pinchot in February, 1897, on organisation of Forest Service in the U.S.

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Brandis and Pinchot in Germany
In recognition of his service, President Roosevelt even sent him a photograph in 1896 with the inscription “To Sir Dietrich Brandis, in high recognition of his services to forestry in the United States. From Theodore Roosevelt”.

Brandis died at Bonn on 29 May 1907, and was buried in the family grave in the old cemetery.