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DNR Dedicates Fred W. Besley Demonstration Forest

Fred Besley, Maryland’s First State Forester

To honor Maryland’s first State forester, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officially dedicated the Fred W. Besley Demonstration Forest in Dorchester County on April 20. The ceremony, held in Linkwood, recognized Besley for his influence on the future of forestry conservation.

“As Maryland’s first State Forester, Fred Besley built a legacy of conservation and sustainable forestry management, which the Maryland Forest Service still follows to this day,” said State Forester and Director Steven Koehn.

Earlier this year, the Maryland Board of Public Works officially renamed 1,040 acres of Chesapeake Forest Land in Dorchester County to the Fred W. Besley Demonstration Forest to honor the father of Maryland forestry. The newly dedicated area consists of five parcels of land 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.

Besley became Maryland’s first State Forester in 1906, after being hand-picked for the position by Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Maryland was only the third state to create such as position, and its forestry program soon became a national model.

Changes caused by more than 250 years of settlement, agricultural expansion and industrialization had 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 destruction by educating the public, especially private woodlot owners, on the merits of forestry and 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.

“When Fred Besley stepped down as Maryland State Forester in 1942, he set about practicing what he preached, purchasing forestland and managing it in accordance with the techniques he had encouraged so many others to adopt,” said Kirk Rodgers, a grandson of Fred W. Besley and president of Besley & Rodgers Inc. “The forest area that we dedicate today… symbolizes those efforts.”

An information kiosk on the life of Fred Besley and the Besley & Rodgers family corporation can be viewed at the entrance to the forest off of Andrews Road in southern Dorchester County. More information on this and other forest lands is available at 410-632-3732

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. He was recently honored with the National Arbor Day Foundation’s first ever Vision Award, recognizing him for his leadership in increasing the State’s tree canopy, obtaining dual “green” certification of the State’s forests, development of greenhouse gas reduction strategies, participation in the Baltimore-Washington Partners for Forest Stewardship and establishment of the Sustainable Forestry Act and no net loss of forest policy goals.

Under Governor O’Malley’s Marylanders Plant Trees program, citizens have planted more than 75,000 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.