by Ryan Reed
Seth Cassell was recently appointed Pennsylvania State Forester and Director of the PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry. This development is a culmination of a lifetime of passion for our forests, public service, leadership, and experience.
As a youth, State Forester Cassell’s love of the forest began in the woodlots in Etters (York County) where he often played and explored. Trips to the family hunting cabin in the Pine Creek Valley fostered a deep connection to the larger wildernesses found in Tiadaghton and Tioga State forests, where his grandfather had been visiting since the 1930s. He knew very early in life that he wanted to channel the passion he felt for our forest resources into a career.
Seth’s earliest forestry mentor was the late Dr. James C. Finley, who oversaw his graduate studies. A valuable lesson learned from Dr. Finley, which drives much of Seth’s philosophy today, is that forests and people are intertwined, and understanding people and human values is necessary in managing forests.
Director Cassell brings a considerable array of leadership experience to the post. He has been a Pennsylvania Air National Guardsman for 30 years in the 193rd Special Operations Wing, serving in emergency response and overseas combat operations, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A former EC-130 pilot, Seth is currently a Lt. Colonel and squadron commander in the 193rd Special Operations Wing based in Middletown, PA.
In addition to his military experience, Seth’s 23 years serving the DCNR Bureau of Forestry include titles of Service Forester (Gallitzin Forest District), Urban Forestry Coordinator, Communications Section Chief, Chief of Forest Resource Planning and Information Division, and Chief of Staff. State Forester Cassell has led significant organizational advancements during this time, spanning enhanced communications, publications, and interpretive work, assisting with development of the shale gas monitoring program, and development of the State Forest Resource Management Plan (2016). His efforts to acquire more than 65,000 acres of state forest land includes the 17,500-acre Clermont Tract in Elk State Forest, the largest state forest land acquisition in the last 70 years. He also led the expansion of state forest Wild and Natural Areas by adding 50,000 acres, including the establishment of the Penns Creek Wild Area.
Beyond all the formalities of Seth’s professional life, you could say he “walks the walk” in his personal time. His small northern Dauphin County farm, consisting of mixed forest, warm season grasses, and wildflowers, is enrolled in the Forest Stewardship Program and serves as a perfect site for the family to enjoy planting trees, making maple syrup, hunting, gardening, and woodworking. He also loves canoeing and flyfishing when time permits.
On becoming the state’s 18th state forester, he said, “I’m 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. The bureau’s 700 employees have unmatched dedication to our mission and public service. As state forester, I see my role to help lead our organization in a changing, dynamic environment while supporting and investing in our people as they do the hard work required to accomplish our mission.
We can’t do our work alone, and it will require strong and effective alliances with other state agencies and partner organizations to be successful.”
We are excited to embark in a new era of bureau leadership and look forward to great things! Welcome, and congratulations, Seth!
Forest Fridays are published weekly by the Bureau of Forestry, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).