Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced Seth Cassell has been appointed to serve as Pennsylvania’s State Forester and will lead the agency’s Bureau of Forestry.

Seth Cassell, who has worked for 23 years in various positions in DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, began the position in September.

Cassell, 47, took over leadership of Pennsylvania’s state forest system – one of the largest in the nation, which recently received two successful independent audits touting proactive management and requiring no corrective actions.

“Seth is a proven leader with a heart for public service and we are proud to have him as Pennsylvania’s new state forester and director of our Bureau of Forestry,” Dunn said. “This role is critical in DCNR’s operations and leadership, as well as on the national level related to forest management issues.

“Seth is well respected among colleagues and works in a collaborative way. We believe he is a great fit for this position because of his vision for the bureau and department, along with his strong background in communication and forest science,” said Dunn.

“When you think about the challenges that Pennsylvania has, the nation has, forests are the answer to a lot of those challenges. Whether it’s flooding, water quality problems, climate change, need for more outdoor recreation, forests provide the answer,” said Dunn. “[Cassell is an]  articulate leader that we could send around the state and around the country to help garner resources for the good work we do is really important.”

Dunn noted the storied history of the State Forester position by noting as State Forester of Pennsylvania, the individual sits at the Gifford Pinchot desk. (Pinchot served as Governor of Pennsylvania and the first Chief of the US Forest Service from 1905 to 1910.)

The DCNR Bureau of Forestry manages 2.2 million acres of state forestland, conserves native wild plants, and promotes stewardship of the Commonwealth’s forest resources for values including sustained yields of timber; clean water; plant and wildlife biodiversity and habitat; and wild character.

Some of the opportunities and challenges facing Pennsylvania’s forests and the bureau include:

  • Addressing the impacts of invasive species and diseases;
  • Stewardship of private forest lands;
  • Expanding recreational opportunities;
  • Enhancing tree planting efforts in urban areas and along streams;
  • Implementing plans to mitigate climate change and improve forest carbon storage;
  • Helping ensure a healthy and vibrant wood products economy; and,
  • Elevating the values of forests and trees.

Cassell is the 18th person to hold the position of state forester and bureau director since its creation, replacing Ellen Shultzabarger, the first woman to hold both positions in Pennsylvania history.

“I am honored to lead our Bureau of Forestry team as we work to conserve our trees, forests and native wild plants and connect with all the people we serve,” Cassell said. “As state forester, I see my role to help lead our organization in a changing, dynamic environment while supporting and investing in Bureau of Forestry staff and their unmatched dedication to our mission and public service. That hard work and dedication helps us accomplish our mission, while also building strong and effective partnerships with other state agencies and stakeholders in conservation.”

Cassell has worked in the bureau in a variety of positions, with the most recent as the chief of staff for the bureau.

During his tenure with DCNR, Cassell has:

  • Helped establish the agency’s shale gas drilling monitoring program on State Forest land;
  • Helped build the state’s urban and community forestry program;
  • Enhanced bureau communications;
  • Assisted in efforts to acquire more than 65,000 acres of state forestland;
  • Led the expansion of wild and natural areas by 50,000 acres; and,
  • Was integral in development of the bureau’s strategic plan, among many other accomplishments.

As a part of his service to the Commonwealth and country, Cassell also serves in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. He is currently a lieutenant colonel and commands the 193rd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. A York County native, Cassell Graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree of journalism and a master’s degree of forest resources. He has also completed graduate-level programs from the Air War College and Air Command and Staff College. Cassell lives in Halifax with his wife, Amy, and their children, Zane and Ayla. He enjoys woodworking, hunting, fly fishing, hiking, canoeing, vegetable gardening, and playing guitar and banjo.

This post was adapted from DCNR releases as well as a piece on PA Environmental Digest.