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Chief Steward of Pennsylvania’s Forest Lands Stepping Down After Almost 40 Years of State Service

March 21, 2018 09:00 AM

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​On March 30, 2018, Dan Devlin will bid farewell to a labor of love, and turn his attention to the other things he loves doing, like casting a fly on trout streams protected by the state forest lands he oversaw.

He’ll likely invest more time in pre-season scouting to find the trophy whitetails he knows roam the many state forests he can describe so well; and spend more time with his beloved bird dogs in that perfect ruffed grouse covert that he knows only healthy, successional woodlands can provide.

He especially will enjoy spending time outdoors with his wife, Jean, and two children and grandchildren.

A Look into Devlin’s Exceptional Career with DCNR

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State Forester and Bureau of Forestry Director Daniel A. Devlin is retiring, ending a career of state service that spans almost four decades. He has overseen a staff of almost 600; 20 state forest districts; one nursery and woodworking unit; and more than 2.2 million acres of state forest lands stretching across the state.

“When we talk about our role as managers of state forest lands, we always mention balancing different values and uses, and to me I think providing balance is where Dan has shone during his long tenure in several positions with DCNR and the Bureau of Forestry,” said Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “He was instrumental in establishing an ecosystem management approach to protect biodiversity while incorporating human uses of our public lands. He is a true conservationist and public servant.

His eventual successor will oversee a bureau that has achieved national acclaim for its proactive stand on informing the public of the threats and dangers of the emerald ash borer and other invasive species.

DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry has garnered national respect and admiration for its highly skilled wildfire fighting force that annually is deployed to distant states.

It is a bureau that routinely receives independent, professional reviews, certification, and kudos for how it manages its forestland for the economic benefit and recreational enjoyment of so many.

“Forests provide us all kinds of benefits, in terms of water and air and carbon sequestration. Those are the kinds of things that people take for granted,” Devlin shared during a recent interview with outdoors writer Bob Frye. “So, I just see, as generations go on, that our forests are going to become more and more and more valuable.”

Value is something the Forest Resources Alumni Group saw when it presented Devlin with Pennsylvania State University’s 2017 Forest Resources Outstanding Alumni Award.

Devlin’s Journey to State Forester

The tenth Penn State alumnus to serve as State Forester, Devlin earned his bachelor’s degree in Forest Science in 1975 with a minor in wildlife biology. He completed a master’s degree in wildlife management in 1979.

Devlin’s first professional position was forest manager for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Indian Affairs in Minnesota. In 1981, he accepted a position with the former Pa. Department of Environmental Resources’ Bureau of Forestry as its only wildlife biologist. In 1990, Devlin moved into the bureau’s Resource Planning and became division chief in 2000.

He was promoted to bureau director and state forester in 2007. For a 15-month period, from November 2013 to January 2015, he served as Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry in DCNR. In the deputy secretary’s post, he was responsible for directing daily operations of the Bureau of Forestry as well as the bureaus of State Parks and Facility, Design and Construction.

His Career Highlights

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Devlin has had many career highlights, including that he:

  • Oversaw acquisition of more than 50,000 acres of new state forestlands
  • Oversaw the addition of 18 new Natural Areas and two new Wild Areas to the state forest system
  • Developed and published revegetation strategies for 12 major pipelines through the state forest system, which have been applied extensively in the eastern U.S.
  • Developed “reservation guidelines” for timber sale activities that incorporate future stand diversity and aesthetic considerations
  • Coordinated development of the Bureau of Forestry’s strategic plan, Penn’s Woods – Sustaining our Forests
  • Provided oversight of all Marcellus Gas Leasing and Monitoring activities on state forest lands
  • Provided oversight of the third Forest Stewardship Council certification of Pennsylvania’s state forests
  • Co-authored the Penn State extension publication, Wetlands and Wildlife

What does this long list of accomplishments mean to his coworkers, the men and women who saw him as a leader and a friend?

“Dan was a strong-willed advocate for the Bureau of Forestry, a skilled leader who always found time to talk with those of us who needed answers,” said Jeff Woleslagle, head of the bureau’s communication section. “He has been a great mentor to many in the bureau and his legacy will be lasting.”

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