Saratoga Springs

State tree nursery in Saratoga Springs renamed for forest fire protection pioneer

DEC makes change to salute ‘father’ of forest rangers
Bill O’Donovan, Jerry Helm and Tom Williams of DEC hang the new sign for the renamed tree nursery on Friday.
Bill O’Donovan, Jerry Helm and Tom Williams of DEC hang the new sign for the renamed tree nursery on Friday.

Categories: News, Saratoga County

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The man who made New York the first state to put forest fire protection under public authority will now have a tree nursery named in his honor.

Colonel William F. Fox, often referred to as the “father” of forest rangers, was honored as the new name of Saratoga Springs’ State Tree Nursery, the oldest state nursery in the country. On Friday, the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation renamed the nursery to the “Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery,” according to an announcement from DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. The nursery held an event to commemorate the renaming.

The state tree nursery, in its nearly 100 years of operation, has been nursing trees to provide low cost, quality stock that is readily available to the public.

Fox, born on January 11, 1840, in Ballston Spa, studied engineering at Union College for three years. He went on to join the Army of the Potomac in 1862 as a captain and fought at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in U.S. history.

He also served in the Battle of Resaca, where he was a Lieutenant Colonel before he was discharged from the U.S. Army on July 8, 1864.

In 1885, Fox became assistant secretary of New York state’s Forest Commission, which oversaw the recently created New York state Forest Preserve. He spent his time there purchasing land for the preserve and,when he died in 1909, it included more than 1.6 million acres of “Forever Wild” lands.

Fox, who served as the state’s assistant forest warden from 1888 to 1891, also oversaw the fire wardens – now forest rangers. He later became the superintendent of forests and asked for “forest rangers” to replace the wardens.

In 1902, four years after Fox proposed that the state replant burned-over lands, it created one of the country’s first reforestation programs. The system has since produced more than 1.6 billion seedlings.

“Colonel William F. Fox is arguably one of the most important people in the long-storied history of New York State forest lands and forest management,” Seggos said. “Today, DEC is recognizing Colonel Fox and celebrating his illustrious legacy by renaming the State Tree Nursery in his honor.”

Correction, 7:27 a.m. 6/17: An earlier version of this post contained incorrect info on Fox’s college education. He attended Union College in Schenectady.

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