Cradle of Conservation: Hike to explore Mont Alto's forest academy roots

Forest Academy Students on horses in 1904

All first-year students of the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy, now Penn State Mont Alto, were required to bring a horse with them to the Academy until the late 1920s. The horses were used to fight forest fires in the Michaux State Forest. Here are Forest Academy students on their horses in front of Wiestling Hall during the autumn of 1904.  

Credit: Photo courtesy of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

MONT ALTO, Pa. —  The South Mountain Partnership Speaker Series, co-sponsored by the Penn State Mont Alto Forestry Club, will present “The Cradle of Conservation: Hike at the Historic Pennsylvania Forest Academy” from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 29 at the Mont Alto campus. 

The community is invited to meet Craig Houghton, assistant teaching professor of forestry, and members of the Forestry Club at the Emmanuel Chapel for an easy hike through the Mont Alto campus, formerly named the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy.

“One of the first schools in the nation to train foresters and fire wardens, the Mont Alto campus has a rich tradition of conservation and environmental awareness,” said Houghton.

Mont Alto’s historic conservation roots will be discussed on the hike through the Penn State Mont Alto Arboretum, which encompasses the 106-acre campus. An outdoor classroom for students, the arboretum serves as a living, historic collection to promote the aesthetic, educational and research values of woody plants for present and future generations.

The Pennsylvania State Forest Academy was founded in 1903 on land purchased from the Mont Alto Iron Works Company. After widespread logging for charcoal production, repeated wild fires, and subsequent erosion, the state-funded academy trained foresters to help regenerate and manage Pennsylvania’s denuded forests.

The academy was founded by Joseph T. Rothrock, the father of forestry in Pennsylvania, who also established the nearby South Mountain Tuberculosis Sanitorium two years earlier. Perhaps the most historic of the University's campuses, Mont Alto has been a leader of the sustainability movement by educating the nation’s first foresters.

“Today, the Penn State Mont Alto two-year associate degree Forest Technology Program continues its mission to educate and train students in forestry and related fields of study,” said Houghton. “We build on their passions for exploring the outdoors and their excitement about learning and making a difference.”

The South Mountain Partnership works to engage the public on contemporary conservation topics and challenges to create a society that values and supports the preservation of the rich natural, cultural, agricultural and recreational resources of the South Mountain region.

This event is held in collaboration with Penn State Mont Alto and the Forestry Club. For more information about this event and the South Mountain Speaker Series, visit