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Maryland Names Forest In Honor Of Fred W. Besley

Besley was Maryland’s first State Forester

Fred W. Besley - Maryland's first State ForesterAnnapolis, Md. (February 22, 2012) - The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Board of Public Works today officially renamed 1,040 acres of Chesapeake Forest Land in Dorchester County in honor of Fred W. Besley, the father of Maryland forestry. Besley became Maryland’s first State Forester in 1906, and has influenced forestry conservation practices ever since.

“As we reflect on the many contributions of Fred Besley to Maryland and our nation, we are inspired by his vision for forestry conservation that was ahead of his time,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Fred’s legacy lives on in the commitment of Marylanders to create a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future for our children and theirs.”

The Fred W. Besley Demonstration Forest consists of five parcels, totaling 1,040 acres, located in Dorchester County - lands originally owned and worked by Besley. In 2010 the State purchased the area from Besley & Rodgers, Inc., through Program Open Space. These tracts now serve as living examples of Maryland’s first conservation efforts lead by Besley himself.

The first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, handpicked Besley to become the State’s first forester and President Theodore Roosevelt’s advisor on conservation issues. Maryland was only the third state in the union to create such a position, and its forestry program soon became a model for other states.

Changes caused by more than 250 years of settlement, agricultural expansion and industrialization left Maryland’s forests in deplorable condition at the time of Besley’s appointment. He worked tirelessly for nearly four decades to stem the tide of forest destruction by educating the public, especially private woodlot owners, on the merits of forestry and forest conservation.

Besley’s greatest legacy is perhaps the system of multi-purpose forest reserves he left behind. During his tenure, Maryland’s public lands grew from 2,000 acres in 1906 to more than 100,000 acres in 1942, forming the backbone of today’s network of parks, forests and other natural areas.

Fred W. Besley retired in 1942, after 36 years of distinguished service as Maryland’s first State Forester. A central goal of his retirement was to own and manage forest land using the techniques he had encouraged others to use for so many years. To that end, Besley partnered with his son-in-law S. Procter Rogers (an industrial engineer from Baltimore) to form the family corporation, Besley & Rodgers, Inc., which still exists today.

“Besley truly knew what it meant to be a steward of the earth,” said State Forester and Maryland Service Forest Director Steven Koehn. “Following his lead, we as Marylanders can work together to expand tree canopy cover, conserve and improve wildlife habitat and reduce polluted runoff to the Chesapeake Bay.”

Governor Martin O’Malley has made reforestation a priority of his administration, demonstrating extraordinary leadership to engage private citizens, local governments, organizations, inmates and regional partners in tree planting efforts. Under Governor O’Malley’s Marylanders Plant Trees program, citizens have planted more than 70,000 trees in 3 years, and Maryland inmates have planted more than one million trees on public lands. All Maryland State forests have also received dual certification, recognizing the State’s commitment to sustainable forestry practices and the green jobs the forest industry supports.

   February 22, 2012

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at