Documentary ‘Mr Besley’s Forest’ centers on conservation pioneer

· November 27, 2020

Conservation filmmaker Cheryle Franceschi had been part of her local curriculum council for many years. Yet during meetings, she didn’t see things related to natural resource conservation. Forestry was rarely brought up for discussion. This led to the creation of a documentary about Maryland’s first state forester, “Mr. Besley’s Forest,” in which viewers are introduced to the third state forester in the nation, Fred W. Besley.

Besley created the Big Tree Program that is in every state and brought scientific forest management to Maryland. He was a protégé of the first U.S. Forest Chief, Gifford Pinchot.
The film made its broadcast premiere on Nov. 7 and is now streaming on

“Mr. Besley served for 36 years,” PBS says on its site. “Today, Marylanders are learning his lessons of forest conservation, and listening to the music of the trees.”

Franceschi fully funded the film and has five curriculum sets available for free to help with at-home learning. Three are STEM and Humanities, and two are Next Generation Science Standards. To get copies, email her at There are two things she would like to see happen from the distribution of the film: one is to have Mr. Besley recognized nationally as the founder of the Big Tree Program, and the second is to help increase students’ knowledge in that forestry is a part of the agricultural industry.

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