West Virginia’s First Forester’s Influence Still Felt Today

view of trees in west virginia from ground looking up

Upshur County native penned “West Virginia Trees” guidebook

Does the name A.B. Brooks sound familiar to you?

Perhaps you’ve hiked the A.B. Brooks Discovery Trails at Oglebay Resort. Or visited Brooks Hall at West Virginia University’s main campus. Or maybe even attended a meeting of the Brooks Bird Club, a national organization headquartered in Wheeling.

A.B. Brooks

All those bear the name of Alonzo Beecher Brooks. Born in 1873 in French Creek, Brooks was a conservationist and nature educator who would one day gain fame as West Virginia’s first forester.

A nature lover with a thirst for knowledge, Brooks taught himself plane surveying and developed a map of every road and dwelling in Upshur County, then used the profits to fund his education at WVU. He became one of the first students to study forestry at WVU, graduating in 1912 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture.

After his graduation, Brooks served as a forester for the West Virginia Geological Survey, where he prepared a county-by-county survey of the state’s forest resources. His other contributions to state forestry include two reference books, “West Virginia Trees” and “Forestry and Wood Industries.”

A.B. Brooks leads one of his popular nature walks at Ogelbay Park.

He is perhaps best remembered for his work as a naturalist at Oglebay Institute, where he founded the Nature Leaders Training School.

In 1921 Brooks became chief game protector for the state’s first Conservation Commission. During his tenure as game warden, Seneca State Forest and Watoga State Park were established. (Brooks Memorial Arboretum at Watoga is named after his brother Fred, also a well-known naturalist.)

Brooks’ guide, “West Virginia Trees” is available as a free ebook. With detailed descriptions and sketches of native tree species, it’s a handy book to have as reference the next time you’re strolling through the woods of Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

Want to learn more about West Virginia’s forests or forestry in general? Follow @wvforestry on Facebook and Twitter.

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The West Virginia Division of Forestry is committed to protecting, nurturing, sustaining, and promoting the wise utilization of our state’s forest resources.


Established in 1909, as a declaration of the state government for the need of forest protection and research, the West Virginia Division of Forestry protects and conserves the state’s forest resources.