“Celebrating Our Past, Creating Our Future.”

Our History, Our Roots . . . at the Turning Point?

Address by Steven W. Koehn, Maryland State Forester
for the Maryland Forests Association 2005 Annual Meeting
Rocky Gap Lodge & Resort, November 2005

In the time I have before you this morning, I want to talk to you about the people, events and influences that have brought us and the forest we love to this moment. I want to talk some about what the future may bring and the role the Maryland Forest Service and state and private forestlands may have in that future.

The Way it Was

I’m going to use the proverbial goose and golden egg analogy to illustrate the changes in forest resource management philosophy over the last 100 years; the goose represents the forest, and the golden egg represents forest values derived from forest management (timber, recreation, water, wildlife).

The history of Maryland forestry and resource management over the last century can be divided into five periods:

  • The Age of Exploitation
  • The Custodial Period 1900-1940
  • The Sustained Yield Management Period 1940-1970
  • The Multiple Use Management Period 1970-1990
  • The Sustainable and Forest Health Period 1990-present

Logging Destruction

The “Age of Exploitation” preceded the Maryland Conservation Law of 1906. In the 1800’s, the volume of cutting greatly exceeded growth. By the 1900’s, only 20% mature forest cover existed east of the Mississippi River. The public feared a timber shortage. Large, uncontrolled forest fires followed after the cutting. By the early 1900’s, the forests of Maryland consisted primarily of stumps, seedling and saplings. The goose was sick; during this period, forest health was poor.

The “Custodial Period” followed the Age of Exploitation. During this time, the emphasis was on protecting Maryland’s forest. The forests were surveyed, inventoried and mapped for the first time. A State Tree Nursery was established and millions of trees were planted on Maryland’s abandoned agricultural fields. The State of Maryland actively acquired land, mostly cutover and abused land, for public use. The CCC constructed roads and culverts, erected fire towers, fought fires and planted trees. The health of the goose was slowly improving; the forest in Maryland was recovering from earlier exploitation.

The “Sustained Yield Management Period" occurred between the years 1940-1970. This was the era of World War II and the arrival of the baby boomers. Forest harvests equaled annual growth. A great demand for wood products occurred during this intense period of economic growth. The population of the United States was quickly growing; a rural society was quickly becoming urban. The forester made management decisions independently, without public participation. The goose’s health had returned; the trees were now merchantable and forest management focused its attention on one egg—timber.

The “Multiple Use Management Period" marked the beginning of an inter-disciplinary approach to forest management. A variety of natural resource disciplines began providing the forest manager with management suggestions. Social values as well as economic values were considered in forest management plans. The management focus evolved from one egg (timber) to a basket of several eggs (timber, air and water, wildlife and recreation).

The “Sustainable and Forest Health Period" began about 1990, and continues to the present time. Today, ecological processes, biodiversity, and forest health are examined more closely. Outputs like recreation and timber, for example, are a by-product of forest health and sustainable forest use. Annual growth of the forest now greatly exceeds harvests (on Maryland’s State Forests, growth is more than four times the harvest). At the same time, new generations of tools are being utilized to get the job done, including satellite imagery, computers, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The focus is now on the goose (forests) and its health. The eggs (forest products) are secondary to the health of the forest.

Over the last century, there have been many historical milestones and pieces of legislation, both at the state and federal level, that serve to remind us today of the rich and varied past that is forestry’s heritage here in Maryland. The state forestry agency had a relatively stable history prior to the creation of the Department of Natural Resources in 1969, but since then the Maryland Forest Service has existed in 10 different organizational structures lending credence to the phrase – “the only real constant is change”.

Donald E. MacLaughlinThe agency’s more recent history begins with Donald E. MacLauchlan, “Mac” to those who knew him, who became Maryland’s 5th State Forester in 1978. While there was not a lot of activity in the State legislature, there was plenty of action in Congress that year. Maryland passed the Pine Tree Reforestation Law, affectionately know as the “Seed Tree Law”, to address the erosion of the pine resource on the Shore due to heavy utilization. Congress passed the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, the Renewable Resources Extension Act and authorized the Forest Incentive Program – all three major pieces of forestry legislation. The US Forest Service and the Cooperative Extension Service now had the authority to work with state forestry agencies to help private forest landowners manage and protect their forests to reduced erosion, enhanced water quality and wildlife habitat as well as helping to assure a reliable supply of timber for the future.

Tunis LyonsTunis Lyons succeeded “Mac” in 1979 and soon after came face-to-face with a new critter in town – building populations of Gypsy moth. Thousands of acres forests were sprayed between 1981 and 1982 in a collaborative effort between Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Forest Pest Management Section and the Department of Natural Resources. Nineteen Eighty Two was a particularly busy year as it saw the transfer of the State Forests from the Forest Service to the Park Service due to the rapid increase of use of those lands for recreation, and in the same year the first state-wide adoption of forestry BMPs to address potential impacts to water quality from forest harvesting.

Jim RobertsJim Roberts took over the reins as State Forester from Tunis in 1983 and during his tenure oversaw one of the most dynamic periods for forestry activities since the inception of the agency. It was during Jim’s watch that elected officials seemed to finally understand the connection between sound forest management and improved water quality. “Forestry is the solution to non-point source pollution” became the catch phrase and this notion was fully recognized in such major pieces of legislation as the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Law, the Woodlands Incentive Program and the Green Shores Program. Urban and Community Forestry also hit it stride under Jim’s leadership as evidenced by the passage of the Urban & Community Forestry Law, the statewide Reforestation Law, and the Forest Conservation Act.

In 1989, Jim became the third Maryland State Forester to serve the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) as President while playing a leadership role in ensuring that the 1990 Farm Bill contained a Forestry Title for the very first time. In case you are wondering, Fred Besley was NASF President in 1926 and Joe Kaylor was NASF President in 1950.

John RileyJohn Riley followed Jim as State Forester in 1991 and immediately began to deal with shrinking fiscal and personnel resources brought on as the result of a national recession. The agency was reorganized to improve efficiency while providing improved opportunities for advancement. Still, in this era of tight budgets and uncertainty, John presided over the inauguration of the first Maryland Community Forest Council, the initiation of the Master Logger Program, and the beginnings of the Revitalizing Baltimore Project.

In 1995 Jim Mallow became State Forester and during his six years at the helm he skillfully guided the agency once again into a leadership role regarding the importance of trees and forests as they can contribute to the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. It was on Jim's watch that the Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative, the first CREP in the nation and the Potomac Watershed Partnership were established to restore streamside forests to filter out sediments and nutrients before getting into the waters of the Bay.

Jim Mallowim also presided over the 58,000 acres Chesapeake Forest land acquisition, making sure that the Maryland Forest Service would mange this property to balance and sustain both the environmental and economic with the goal of securing dual third party certification under both the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC ). Jim’s capstone achievement was working with the University of Maryland to initiate a four-year baccalaureate Urban Forestry degree program, which incidentally turned out its first graduate this year.

After Jim retired in 2001, I served briefly as Acting State Forester and was appointed as Maryland's 10th State Forester in September of that year. Like John Riley’s tenure, mine has been plagued by the business cycle which took the overall economy into a recessionary downturn. Again, the agency was reorganized to improve efficiency and to adjust to the reality of our fiscal and staffing situation. However, even in the face of adversity, the dedicated men and women of the Maryland Forest Service continue to restore, manage and protect our forest resources in a sustainable way. Along with Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), we battled the Emerald Ash borer that was shipped to Maryland despite MI’s best plant quarantine efforts. To date this is the only successful Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) eradication effort in the nation. After our bout with EAB and with other nasty critters poised to pay us an unwelcome visit, MDA, DNR and University of Maryland’s Center for Excellence in Service (CES) adopted by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) an Emergency Response Plan for Invasive Forest Pests.

The current administration is very supportive of the management of our forests. Two very positive Executive Orders directs the Department to seek dual third party certification for all our working state forestlands as well as established a Governor’s Commission to seek ways to conserve forests in the future. The State Forests have been transferred back to the Forest Service given our experience with the certification process and our desire to concentrate on resource management on these lands.

Nearly 120 years ago, Dr. Bernhard Fernow began laying the groundwork for the states to create their own forestry agencies. In his first report, he made a statement about European forestry that I was most impressed with.

“It is not the control of the Government over private property, it is not the exercise of eminent domain, it is not police regulations and restrictions that have produced desirable effect upon private forestry abroad, but simply the example of a systematic and successful management of its own forests, and the opportunity offered by the government to the private forest owner of availing himself of the advice and guidance of well-qualified forestry officials.” - Dr. Bernhard Fernow

In 1886, the head of the agency that would become the US Forest Service embraced the philosophy that forms the root of what our State forestry agencies do today. Simply put: “Lead by example - and educate.”

Gratefully, the state and private forests and their management have evolved and distanced themselves from the early blissful ignorance of the “Myth of Inexhaustibility” and its wasteful, abusive practices.

Steve KoehnToday, a sophisticated, ecologically responsive suite of services and programs that echo the twin paradigms of stewardship and sustainability serves the state and private forests of Maryland. The successes during the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries came about through a miraculous confluence of forceful, articulate and dedicated leaders, and the awakening of the American citizen to the place of the American forest in their lives.

Sounds like we’ve attained a state and private forestry brand of utopia, doesn’t it? Perhaps we can take a break and rest on our laurels for a while . . . pat ourselves on the back, so to speak. Well, not so fast.

After I, Steve Koehn, became Maryland’s 10th State Forester, in preparation for significant budget cuts that were in the offing, I was asked to prioritize the programs of the Forest Service. To do that, I had to soberly reflect upon where my Agency’s meager resources ought best be expended. In preparation for today’s talk, I went through a similarly reflective exercise. I feel that there are disquieting clouds gathering on the horizon. The hairs on the back of my neck are telling me that a crisis or two is brewing and that the future of state & private forests and their management hangs in the balance.

My conclusions can be distilled down to four basic priorities:

  1. Retain or Increase the Integrity of our Nation’s Forest Ecosystems
    I believe that, as leaders in the field of conservation and responsible stewardship, the first priority of each State Forester and of this organization must be to retain or increase the integrity of our nation’s forest ecosystems.

    During the last half of the 20th century, the amount of forest land in the United States remained essentially unchanged. Recently, however, an increasing amount of forested acres in many states has been lost to development or to a shift from traditional forest to more highly fragmented, more urban forest. This trend is the result of uncontrolled urban expansion, a lack of practicable land use policies, and limited economic incentives to own and manage forest land.

    Fragmentation, parcelization and urbanization are a cancer that is inexorably destroying the ecological integrity of the forests of Maryland. If our forests are to continue to provide the variety of amenities for life in our State, we must find a cure for this cancer.

    This cannot and will not be an easy task. The uniquely American lifestyle contributes to the fragmentation of forests. In their drive to own a piece of wilderness, more and more Marylanders are moving to rural areas and building big houses on large lots. The proposed Terrapin Run development near Green Ridge State Forest is but the most recent example of this trend.

    This human-caused forest fragmentation disrupts many ecological processes and threatens the health and sustainability of forests. It endangers wildlife habitats, plant diversity, and water quality. Fragmentation also compromises the economic value of a forest as a recreational or timber resource. When you think about it, fragmentation destroys the very thing that draws humans to live in the forest in the first place. It eats away at the unbroken forests’ inherent, natural beauty. People are loving the forests of Maryland to death.

    What can we do to address this problem? We are the experts. We are the trusted servants of the public – and yet we have not seriously tried to raise their awareness of this insidious problem. It is time to sound the alarm and educate, educate, educate! We must teach a nation in love with its forests to “Love it and Leave it!” People must learn to be content with recreating in the forest in as many sustainable pursuits as may be invented – and then leaving the forest to go home. The drive to own a chunk of our precious forested lands must end.

    The future of the forests lies in the quality of life in the cities. If we can make our cities a joy to live in, the demand to carve up the forests will abate. Ironically, if we as foresters are to protect the integrity of our nation’s forests, we must become the strongest of advocates for the renewal of our nation’s cities. We need to advocate for more than just our own parochial interest in urban forestry. We must be even stronger advocates for all urban quality of life issues – for better services, better public safety, better education, better public transportation, better local recreational facilities.

    On the supply side of the equation are those who now own the forest and are prone to subdivide it, carving it into chunks for sale. In general, we believe that a landowner should have the right to do anything on or to his land, provided his actions don’t infringe on others. We believe that a landowner should have the right to sell all or part of his land if he wants to. Yes, we’re all about property rights.- and that’s fine – in most cases.

    But we, who love the land and care for the forest, know – or we should know – that there is a difference between property rights and property responsibilities. While a landowner may have the legal right to use the forest he owns by cutting it up and selling it, piecemeal, every landowner has an ethical responsibility to honor the future. Every landowner has an obligation to be a steward of the land.

    Loblolly Pine Stand, Photo courtesy of David Stephens, www.forestryimages.org 

    We in the forestry community need to become the loud and insistent conscience of today’s forest landowner. In today’s world, where the seductive lure of profit has become a justification for any action, foresters need to shout a counter-cultural message: “Subdivision is wrong. Your responsibilities as a trustee for the future supersede your rights as a landowner.”

    Tree-lined streambed, photo courtesy of David Stephens, www.forestryimages.orgWe need to promote the economic health and welfare of rural communities and the working landscapes on which they depend, including the vitality of renewable natural resource based industries (remember: no markets - no management; just like the fire triangle, if the landowner/logger/forester triangle is broken, then the battle is effectively lost). We need to retool conservation easements to compensate forest landowners not just for the loss of their development rights but to reward them for the environmental services they provide to all of us – in many cases for free. Such easements should be made available to certain gray industries in the form of mitigation banks as there will never be enough public funding to ease the acreage necessary to assure sustainability.

    I know what you’re thinking – it’s useless . . . we’ll be tilting at windmills and doomed to failure. Maybe – or maybe not. But, it doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s the truth and we have to say it. We have to say it loud and clear. Because, if we don’t speak up for the integrity of the forest for the future, we are betraying that future and betraying our past – and we have no right to call ourselves leaders.

    Collectively, we all have tremendous potential to lead in protecting the viability of privately owned forests and strengthening the incentives for forest stewardship. This is truly our turf, and yet, in my 21 years as a member of Maryland Forest Service, we have not meaningfully studied the role that federal, state and local taxation plays in the involuntary liquidation and parcelization of family-owned farms, and forests. Private forest owners are an endangered species – upon which the well-being of all other endangered species clearly depend. It is time to call together the best minds for a comprehensive review of forest taxation policies and practices – and to recommend broad changes to insure the future of privately owned forests.

  2. Act to Protect our Nation’s Existing Forest Resources from Damaging Agents that Effect Broad Areas of Forested Land
    I believe our second priority must be to act to protect our nation’s existing forest resources from damaging agents that effect broad areas of forested land.

    We all know Smokey’s mantra by heart. We’re also familiar with the more recent messages pertaining to fire in the wildland/urban interface. And, yes, wildfire is a damaging agent for our forests. But, our concern for the safety of the forest must extend beyond the old saw of fire.

    We should recognize and act on what may be a greater imperative – that of protecting the forest from poor or abusive management practices. Slipshod pseudo-forestry and flat-out abusive practices have the potential to devastate the genetic characteristics of forest stands. The damage from misapplied forest practices can take generations to resolve – and, in some cases the ecological and economic potential of the forest could be ruined forever. We, as foresters are expected to act to be certain that our management of the public forests in our charge is technically appropriate and environmentally responsive. We must also act to insure that the practitioners of forestry and forest management on private lands do no less.

    When European settlers first arrived on this continent, globalization also arrived.

    Adult Emerald AshborerEuropeans brought new diseases and pests with them – and the New World was defenseless against them. Are things significantly different today? Only in that, thanks to advances in transportation, the spread of new diseases and pests can occur in the span of hours rather than months or years. For our forests, the threat of non-native invasive insects and plants – and exotic diseases – has never been more immediate and our forests are, essentially, defenseless. The Asian Long-horned Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, and Sudden Oak Death are all poster children for what’s wrong with the regulation of interstate commerce. The prospect of any such pest arriving in our state through infected shipments is not only bad for the forest, it is bad for commerce. It is bad for the nursery industry; it is bad for the timber industry. In the case of Sudden Oak Death, shipments with infected plants or plants exposed to infection were shipped throughout the East Coast - despite quarantine. That kind of quarantine is no quarantine.

    It is true that, under the Constitution, no individual state can regulate interstate commerce - but the United States Congress can. We ought to be demanding that Congress better regulate interstate commerce.

    Protecting our state and private forests must also include shielding them from extremes in policy or regulation. At one extreme, there are those who advocate for policies that would place unreasonable and non-sustainable demands on the state and private forests of Maryland. At the other extreme, there are those who would bar any use of the state and private forest, sustainable or otherwise, effectively putting our state’s greatest asset in the proverbial “lockbox” and throwing away the key. State Foresters are called to lead policymakers and the public, alike, to understand and endorse a balanced approach towards the use and care of the state’s forested lands.

    It is a daunting task – because forestry has a persistent image problem. As Don Smith, Connecticut State Forester, said in a recent speech, the thing about forestry is that we cannot hide the aspects of this business that are unpleasant to the uninitiated.

    Agriculture doesn’t have this problem. Cows grazing in the field look wonderfully pastoral – and steak looks great in the supermarket. But those who enjoy a sizzling steak, hot off the grill, never see what happens in the slaughterhouse.

    Trees also look great as they stand majestically in the woods – and lumber looks great at the lumberyard. But, for the most part, logging is a disruptive activity that, to the untrained eye looks aesthetically displeasing. There is no concealing it. The forestry version of the slaughterhouse is right out there in the open, for everyone to see. The unsightliness of logging has been, and probably always will be, a problem for forestry. There is an opportunity here for us, as leaders, to be frank and honest about that. Honesty in government can be refreshing, nowadays. We have an opportunity before us, the leaders of the profession of forestry, to take a stand for honesty and openness. We can show the public: this is where your lumber comes from, this is where your paper comes from, and this is how we do it.

    Like the inevitability of death and taxes, debates over appropriate uses of forests will continue to rage – and, in those debates, foresters cannot afford to be viewed as anti-environmentalist. The trick is to be a positive force in the discourse that will take place. We need to recognize that whether we are foresters, members of organized environmental groups, or simply citizens of our planet, each of us looks for many of the same things in life: clean air; clean water; good jobs; a safe, healthy environment; and healthy, diverse forests. These are reasonable expectations. We simply cannot afford to expend our energy battling with a small number of organized environmentalists over different ways of working toward the same goals. As leaders, we need to think seriously about how we can play a larger, more visible role in achieving these positive societal goals.

  3. Responsibly and Effectively Manage our Publicly-owned Forested Lands
    I believe that our third priority should be to responsibly and effectively manage our publicly owned forested lands.

    We have been entrusted with the management of forest lands for the public good. Over the past few generations, the citizens of our state made conscious decisions to fund the purchase of specific lands and to place those lands under the care of their State government. Good and trusting people with a vision to the future set aside these lands as their loving gift to descendants that they will never know. To honor those expectations, we are called upon to be stewards of these lands for the future. That is why Maryland is embracing the opportunity that dual third party certification offers us to demonstrate to the public that we are indeed trustworthy caretakers of our public forests.

  4. Motivate and Educate Forested Landowners to Embrace the Concept of Forest Stewardship
    Finally, I believe that our fourth priority must be to motivate and educate those who own forested lands and those who earn a living from them to embrace the concept of forest stewardship and to employ sound forest management practices on the land.

    I spoke earlier about the difference between property rights and property responsibilities as they pertain to forest fragmentation. The concept of rights versus responsibilities also applies to the care of the forest. All forest land owners need to exercise their property responsibilities as well as their property rights. This means approaching their forests not from the perspective of “What is the minimum we can get by with while yet complying with laws and regulations?” but from the perspective of “What do we need to do to honor our responsibilities to our neighbors, to those who depend on the forest for its economic contributions, and to future generations?” This is what forestry is all about. It is all about how to manage and sustainably use forests for human benefit.

    It is a sad statement, but true, that there are foresters and forest products harvesters who care nothing for the future. Each of us here could probably relate at least a few instances of abusive forest practices and the ne’er-do-wells that perpetrate them. As leaders in our respective local forestry communities, we should be encouraging foresters and harvesters to recognize that forestry is far broader than just timber sales and inventory. If a trail is to be established in the forest, that is the forester’s domain. If warbler habitat is the goal, if scenic vistas are the goal, those, too, are the work of the forester. If there is an endangered plant in the forest, it is the forester’s duty – and privilege – to care for that plant.

If the history of state and private forests in Maryland reveals anything, it is that land and people are intertwined throughout that history. It took 250 years for the "Myth of Inexhaustibility" to be seriously challenged. Another 100 years of selfless dedication by a series of charismatic and influential forest conservation leaders saw the return of the forest and the development of a suite of forestry programs and services targeting our nation’s state and private forestlands. In the past 30 years, user demands on State-owned forestland have dramatically increased as have the threats to the continued viability of privately-owned forested lands. This is a pivotal time in the history of the state and private forestlands. It is a moment that cries out for a new cadre of charismatic and influential forest conservation leaders.

Now is the time for all of us to step forward and become the catalyst . . . calling out the visionary, charismatic and influential from within our own ranks and from across the breadth of our state’s forestry community to lay the foundation for the next century of progress.

Those who came before expect it of us - and we owe it to those who are yet to come.


Address by Steven W. Koehn, Maryland State Forester for the Maryland Forests Association 2005 Annual Meeting, Rocky Gap Lodge & Resort, November 2005

Photographs (top to bottom):

  • Logging Destruction
  • Maryland State Foresters
    • Don MacLauchlan
    • Tunis Lyons
    • Jim Roberts
    • John Riley
    • Jim Mallow
    • Steve Koehn
  • Loblolly Pine stand, courtesy of David Stephens, (www.forestryimages.org)
  • Streambed, courtesy of David Stephens, (www.forestryimages.org)
  • Emerald Ash Borer