Jim Nelson, figure in PA conservation

James Nelson

October 21, 1930 – March 10, 2012

Jim Nelson is remembered for his dynamic, yet gentle style of leadership and effective mentoring style as the Pennsylvania state forester from 1989 to 1993. He was a graduate of Penn State University, receiving the alumni award from the School of Forestry. Jim was published for the subject of cooperative work on sustainability in forestry, a topic far ahead of its time. Jim was an active fellow of the Society of American Foresters for 50 years and served on its board of directors.

Throughout his career, he was our state’s first resource planner, developing a statewide log-grading program, and computerizing the timber-sale procedures. Jim was responsible for expanding the Forest Stewardship Program, encouraging volunteerism, as well as promoting good forestry practices on private lands. Jim fathered the Bureau’s Natural and Wild Area programs and wrote the first comprehensive State Forest Resource Management Plan. He encouraged ecological conservation by bringing the National Heritage Program to Pennsylvania.

Jim’s interest in forestry was cultivated early on, while growing up in Kane, PA, surrounded by the Allegheny National Forest. He is remembered as an unofficial state forest historian, and was a prolific lecturer on the subject. His high level of respect and admiration for Doc Goddard drove his pursuit of this historic information. Like Goddard, Jim was well known and highly respected for his strong environmental ethic and willingness to go against the grain when it was necessary to protect forest resources.

It is fitting that, in November of 2012, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources renamed a Tuscarora State Forest tract as the James C. Nelson Wild Area, as this was the first state forest he was assigned to as a young forester. He even had a cabin there.