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Joseph Trimbel Rothrock (April 9, 1839 - June 2, 1922) was an Americanmarker environmentalist, recognized as the "Father of Forestry" in Pennsylvania. In 1895, Rothrock was appointed the first forestry commissioner to lead the newly-formed Division of Forestry in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Two of his major accomplishments as commissioner were his land acquisition program and the creation of a forest academy to train foresters for state service.


Eary life

Joseph Rothrock was born in McVeytownmarker in Mifflin Countymarker, Pennsylvaniamarker in the United Statesmarker. He was often ill as a child and spent many hours hiking the woods of Mifflin County for exercise to combat his illnesses. It was while on these walks that Rothrock developed a love for the outdoors. He went on to become a pioneering environmentalist in Pennsylvania, helping preserve and re-establish the forests that he so loved.


Joseph Rothrock studied under Asa Gray, a renowned botanist at Harvard Universitymarker. Rothrock received a bachelor of science in botany from Harvard in 1862. He enlisted in the Union Army the following year, saw action during the American Civil War and was seriously wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburgmarker. Rothrock was discharged from the Army on June 6, 1864, having reached the rank of captain in the 20th Pennsylvania Cavalry. He furthered his education at the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, receiving a doctor of medicine degree in 1867. Dr. Rothrock served as a surgeon and botanist for two exploratory expeditions to British Columbiamarker in 1865 and 1873. He also was one of the founders of Wilkes-Barremarker Hospital. Rothrock served on the faculty of Penn State Universitymarker from 1867 to 1869, where he taught botany, human anatomy and physiology. He studied botany in Alsacemarker at the University of Strassburg in 1880. It was while Rothrock was in Europe that he began to study forest management, which led him to be a pioneer in forest management in Pennsylvania and the United States.


Dr. Joseph Rothrock served as the first president of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association (PFA) in 1886. The PFA was formed to promote conservation and to support the creation of state parks and state forests in Pennsylvania. Rothrock was a member of the PFA for most of the rest of his life. He used it as a pulpit to "incite the interest of people throughout the state on forestry -- to preserve, protect and propagate the forest." Rothrock was appointed commissioner of forestry in Pennsylvania in 1895. He led the drive to purchase land from lumber companies to create many of the state forests that are spread throughout Pennsylvania. Rothrock used his medical expertise to open a sanatorium at what is now Mont Alto State Parkmarker. The sanatorium treated those afflicted with tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses. He also opened the Pennsylvania School of Forestrymarker at Mont Altomarker in 1903 under the authorization of Pennsylvania Governor, Samuel W. Pennypacker. Rothrock resigned as commissioner of forestry in 1904, but continued to serve on the commission until 1914.


Joseph Trimble Rothrock died in 1922 at West Chestermarker, Pennsylvania, leaving behind a legacy of environmental restoration and conservation. In his position as Pennsylvania commissioner of forestry he was able to begin the process of acquiring land for the creation of the many state forests and parks that now dot Pennsylvania's landscape. As a voice for environmental protection, he inspired succeeding generations to conserve and manage the use of Pennsylvania's extensive forests. Rothrock pioneered the treatment of tuberculosis in sanatoriums, established a hospital in Wilkes-Barre and helped explore the Canadian frontier.

In a speech given in 1915, Rothrock recalled the forests of his youth: "Sixty years ago I walked from Clearfieldmarker to St. Marysmarker; thence to Smethportmarker -- 60 miles; most of the way through glorious white pine and hemlock forests. Now these forests are gone." In describing the forest conditions of 1915 he said, "6,400 square miles; more than 4 million acres [16,000 kmĀ²] of the state are desolated, cut and unprotected from fire." He compared Pennsylvania's forests to similar forest destruction in Chinamarker. He worried that, "unless we reforest, Pennsylvania's highlands will wash into the oceans." Thanks to men like Joseph Rothrock, Jacob Nolde, Maurice Goddard and Gifford Pinchot, Pennsylvania has thriving second growth forests that have recovered from the ravages of the lumber era that swept across its hills and valleys in the late 19th century.


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