An early Earth Day present: Students plant 200 trees in Rothrock State Forest

Positive Energy, a student organization that focuses on volunteering and community betterment, celebrated Earth Day early by planting 200 trees at Rothrock State Forest on April 9. From left to right are: Matt Watson, Shawn Lord, Jacob Cumpston, Troy Hess, Tyler Farnan, Ryan Pannebaker, Chuxi Liu, Adam Larson and Zach Hedrick, a forester technician with Rothrock Land Management.  Credit: Adam LarsonAll Rights Reserved.

Adam Larson and Tyler Farnan pile on the last scoops of soil around the new ash trees they just planted in Rothrock State Forest, their footprints still fresh in the dirt. While their footprints will eventually disappear, the local footprint they and their student organization, Positive Energy, have made will endure far into the future.

Larson, Farnan and six students from Positive Energy planted 200 trees on April 9. The group partnered with Rothrock Land Management, which provided the seedlings and necessary tools.

Comprised primarily of students from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences but welcome to students of any major, the group completed a similar project in 2015, when it planted 201 trees in Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania.

“Last year, we celebrated Earth Day in Roaring Branch, and this year we’re celebrating a little bit early with this reclamation project at Rothrock,” said Larson, a sophomore studying petroleum and natural gas engineering (PNGE).

This year, the group planted trees along the Musser Gap Trail, a hotspot for recreational activities, such as hiking and horseback riding. The trail serves as a corridor between the State College region and Rothrock State Forest.

“Our organization is interested in land reclamation from activities related to the energy industry, so it was important for us to plant at Rothrock because the forest is home to a pipeline that runs underground,” said Farnan, a senior PNGE student.

Farnan said approximately one third of the trees they plant will survive to be fully grown adults, which can take nearly 100 years.

In addition to the positive environmental impact, Larson and Farnan highlighted the other benefits that come with a project like this.

“This is a great opportunity to get students interested in the environment and its resources to volunteer and make an impact. And by doing this, we’re all giving back to the environment,” said Larson.

Farnan hopes that future projects could stem from the group’s partnership with Rothrock.

“This is another step toward developing friendships with all of the great state parks in central Pennsylvania, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue these types of projects in upcoming years,” he said.

Penn State celebrates Earth Day through a week of activities on campus. For more information on Earth Week 2016 at Penn State, visit

Last Updated April 15, 2016