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Forestry Education in America and Maryland
Steven W. Koehn, MD State Forester
Jonathan Kays, Natural Resource Extension Specialist

Old photo of a western Maryland forest In the Beginning…

When Gifford Pinchot, the father of American forestry, entered Yale in 1885 and decided to make forestry his profession, he did not have a single American role model. There was no profession of forestry in this country. “I had no more conception of what it meant to be a forester than the man in the moon,” he wrote. “But at least a forester worked in the woods and with the woods - and I loved the woods and everything about them.” Today, more than a century later, the profession has expanded in ways even Pinchot could not have imagined, but its practitioners are still bonded by the same love of the forest.

Pinchot - architect of the U.S. Forest Service and its first chief - was intent on making a profession of what until that time was little more than a rough and dangerous extractive enterprise with no objective other than clearing forests to make room for agriculture and meeting a growing nation’s need for wood. The science of forestry was unknown in America at the time and was not being taught at Yale or any other American university.

Following his graduation, a year of study in France exposed Pinchot to the European model of forestry, where management of forest resources had been practiced for centuries, and not just for producing wood. “In very early times,” Pinchot wrote, “the forest was preserved for the game it contained. Forestry then meant the art of hunting, and had very little to do with the care of trees.” He studied at L’Ecole Nationale Forestiere in France and toured many European forests. The French school’s curriculum was heavily focused on silviculture - the care and cultivation of forest trees. There Pinchot observed his first planned forests under human management. He learned the theories of rotation and regeneration that ensured sustainable wood resources and a constant supply of trees to be harvested.

These concepts were unknown in America, where forests seemed limitless and no direct efforts were made to reforest harvested areas. Writing later about America’s forest resources, Pinchot said, “Before so large a part of them was destroyed they were, perhaps, the richest on the earth, and with proper care they are capable of being so again. Their power of reproduction is exceedingly good.”

Old photo of people tapping trees for sap Pinchot recognized that it would not be possible to bring the ordered forest landscapes of Europe to an America that had millions more acres of forestland and also was engaged in a mammoth industrial revolution fueled in large part by wood. But he knew that harvest and sustainability were compatible goals and that success would not be possible without a group of educated forestry professionals who could bring scientific principles to bear on the management and sustainability of the nation’s forests.

Until 1898, any American wishing to study forestry had to go abroad, but in that year forestry schools opened at Cornell University in New York and at Biltmore in North Carolina. Two years later - thanks to a generous gift from the Pinchot family - a school of forestry was established at Yale and the profession of forestry in America was born. In that same year, 1900, Pinchot was instrumental in establishing the Society of American Foresters (SAF) - the nation’s first organization for forestry professionals - which held its first meeting in his Washington, D.C., living room.

The Birth of Extension Forestry in Maryland at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Old photo of a stand of White pine trees

The Cooperative Extension Service system was created by the U.S. Congress because of concern for the education of the average citizen. In 1862 Congress passed the Morrill Act, which provided for a university in each state to provide education to citizens in agricultural and mechanical fields. These colleges are known today as "Land-Grant Universities." Maryland has two land grant universities; University of Maryland College Park and University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Congress soon realized that to be effective, the educational function of land-grant universities needed to be supplemented with research capabilities. The Hatch Act was passed in 1887 to provide for the establishment of research farms where universities could conduct research into agricultural, mechanical, and related problems faced by rural citizens. Congress passed the Smith Lever Act in 1914. This act provided for the establishment of the Cooperative Extension Service. As a result of the Smith Lever Act, there are now Extension offices in every county in Maryland, including Baltimore City that serve to "extend" information which has been developed on campus and research stations across the state. Your local Extension center is a branch office of University of Maryland and extension agents are considered university faculty, since their role is educational.

Extension Forestry Starts in 1962

The mission of the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension is to educate people to help themselves. Since 1962 MCE has had an extension forester to educate forest landowners and cooperate with forest industry, agencies, and nonprofits to fulfill that mission.

In 1962, Harry Dengler was hired as the first extension forester for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in College Park. He was hired by John Cotton, the Acting Chair of the newly organized Agriculture Economics Department, now known as the Agriculture and Resource Economics Department. Harry worked with the summer 4-H youth program at the Western Maryland 4-H Center, was an advisor to the Maryland Christmas Tree Growers Association until 1967, and also worked with the Maryland Holly Society. He retired in 1967.

Frank Gouin joined the College faculty in 1965 as the Extension Specialist for Ornamental Horticulture. Frank worked closely with the Maryland Christmas Tree Growers Association from 1967 until his retirement in 1995. Frank was heavily involved with the Maryland Christmas Tree Growers Association in 1969 when the Association sued the major power plants and paper companies in the western Maryland area due to the impact of air pollution on Christmas trees. Frank developed assay tests and other research that demonstrated the impact of the emissions from Mount Storm and Monongahela power plants, and the Westvaco Pulp & Paper Company, on Christmas trees. As a result of a successful lawsuit won in 1971, the companies were required to reduce emissions and use low sulfur coal. Frank also was a major player when the nutrient management legislation was being developed in 1998-99. Regulations were being developed that would have required forestry companies and Christmas tree growers to file nutrient management plans. Frank argued successfully that since there was no fertilization taking place in forestry or Christmas tree culture, there was no justification for a nutrient management plan.

John Kundt served from 1974 to 1988 as the state extension forester and he was located in the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. His position allowed one-third of this time to be spent on extension work. Peter Beckjord was hired in the department in the early 1980’s and did some work in forestry although he did not have work for cooperative extension. He was in the department for about 3 years and focused his efforts primarily on research of Pawlonia trees.

John Kundt was engaged in a major effort to improve cooperation between cooperative extension and the forest industry, the Maryland Forest Service, and other organizations. He met once a month with the Head of Forest Management with the Maryland Forest Service to improve the cooperation on programs so as not to duplicate efforts. John developed numerous publications, press releases, and public service announcements for newspapers, radio, TV, etc on a range of topics including: firewood, home heating with wood burning related, Christmas trees, forest taxes, poison ivy, gypsy moth, etc. He implemented a number of demonstration plots at the Wye Research & Education center.

He was responsible for initiating two forest seminars that were held for decades. He organized the Mid-Atlantic Forest Stewardship seminar in Frederick, MD with county agent Terry Poole in the fall of 1982, a program for forest landowners in western Maryland that continued until 2002. The Delmarva Forestry Seminar was started in spring 1978 in cooperation with Delaware to serve forest landowners on the eastern shore. This program became an annual affair each spring. There were a number of other workshops organized in cooperation with the DNR and county agents. This included evening workshops, field demonstrations and tours over the years.

He worked closely with the state Tree Farm committee and the MD/DE Society of American Foresters and served in a leadership capacity with these groups. He also serviced on the MD Board of Licensing for Professional Foresters for two years. He helped to increase the number of tree farmers in the state. Many 4-H county agents were trained in forestry due to his efforts. John led several tours to for local journalists and legislatures to educate them about forest management.

Improving Capacity for Extension Forestry in 1988

To strengthen its commitment to natural resource extension programs, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources created two new extension specialist positions in 1988 to serve the needs of forest landowners, forest industry, forest and wildlife professionals, and other citizens and organizations. Jonathan Kays was hired to serve the western portions of the state and he was stationed at the Western Maryland Research & Education Center in Keedysville, MD, near Hagerstown. Bob Tjaden was hired to focus on the eastern portion of the state and he was stationed at the Wye Research & Education Center in Queenstown, MD. Jonathan Kays still serves in his capacity as a natural resource extension specialist in Keedysville, but Bob Tjaden left his position in 2002 to become the state Program Leader for Agriculture and Natural Resources. He position was lost due to budget reductions in the College.

Since 1988, a number of new and innovative programs and resources have been developed to serve the diverse audiences in our urbanizing state in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Tree Farm, Maryland Forests Association, and other non-profit organizations. Key to this effort was the use of federal funds to cooperative extension under the Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). The extension specialists have worked individually and cooperatively as needed to leverage limited resources through the use o grants, volunteers, collaborations and partnerships. An overview of all of these efforts can be found on the Extension Natural Resources webpage at www.naturalresources.umd.edu .

Forestry Education in Maryland Comes of Age

Forester cutting down a white pine tree In 1969, forestry education arrived in Maryland with the establishment of a two-year associates program at Allegany Community College in Cumberland, later to become Allegany College of Maryland. The first class of 21 students was admitted to Allegany Community College's new Forest Technician and Pre-professional forestry program under the direction of Dr. Glenn O Workman. In the fall of 1970, Dr. William L. Cones became the first professionally trained forester to direct the program and worked to establish it as one of 23 technician programs in the United States that is recognized by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). The first rigorous review of the program by the SAF based upon adherence to newly established Recognition Standards occurred in 1988. The school is quickly approaching the graduation of its 500th forest technician. Many of these technician graduates have gone to work in both the public and private sectors of forest management and wood utilization agencies and companies within Maryland.

In 2001, the University of Maryland launched a program in Urban Forestry that is in direct response to the demand for trained tree care professionals and the biological, economic, political and social components of urban forest management. This program, in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences and Landscape Architecture and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources addresses the needs of an increasingly urban state. Students in the Urban Forestry concentration take courses leading to a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in urban forestry.

This program applied for candidacy status for accreditation with the Society of American Foresters in 2005 and if accredited will be the first such accreditation to be awarded by SAF solely for urban forestry. Such a designation confirms that over time, forestry has come to embrace many natural resource disciplines as our values related to our forest land have expanded. This is particularly true as our recognition of the role and importance of urban forest ecosystems has grown. Over time, forestry has come to embrace many natural resource disciplines as our values related to our forest land have expanded. In fact, as instructors at Allegany College of Maryland and the University of Maryland at College Park witness, the increasing employer demand for a wider range of forestry disciplines indicates that there are not enough graduates to fill positions in some fields.

Today, more than 100 programs of study at 48 universities nationwide offer specialized forestry education to their students. In addition, there are 26 two-year associate’s degree programs at 25 institutions nationwide. This greater diversification in forestry-related career options is a sign of growing interest in our forest heritage and an expanding range of employer needs.

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