By Joe Arsenault
It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of Dr. David Fairbrothers. Dr. Fairbrothers, a life long Rutger University botany professor and resident of NJ, died in his new Vermont home October 29, 2012. He was 87 years old. The Flora of New Jersey Project (FNJP) was named by Dr. Fairbrothers. He was one of the founding members of this small, active group of botanist describing New Jersey’s Flora. David was a teacher and mentor to many, specifically to most of the members involved in the FNJP. He provided funding and encouragement to all involved, but especially to me as the chairperson.
I have known Dr. Fairbrothers since 1979 when I was instructed by my college advisor to drive from Camden to New Brunswick to take his systematics course. He drove us from Sussex to Cape May counties, teaching about the flora while giving history and geography lesson as well. From that moment I knew, watched and admired Dr. Fairbrothers, working on rare flora, arguing for the preservation of the Pine Barrens and working tirelessly at Island Beach State Park, a favorite haunt during his retirement years. David once told me he grew up in Absecon, Atlantic County. He knew all of my favorite spots around town as well as those north and south in the historic Route 9 corridor. He described Absecon Bay, a favorite spot of mine to this day. It was a pleasure to have shared with David common delights in New Jersey’s finest natural areas.
Ted Gordon, our resident Pine Barrens expert and world renowned botanist, has provided the following article in memory of our departed friend and colleague, David E. Fairbrothers. It is Ted’s introduction speech of David at the latter’s induction into the Pinelands Preservation Alliance’s 5th Annual Pine Barrens Hall of Fame, held at an awards banquet on November 8, 2008, at Braddock’s Tavern, Medford, New Jersey. David Fairbrothers, we cherished his good will, humor and presence. Let’s remember him as one of our best and brightest, and a New Jersey botanist.
REMEMBERING DAVID E. FAIRBROTHERS
by Ted Gordon
When Carleton Montgomery asked me to introduce Dr. David E. Fairbrothers, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Botany and later the Department of Biological Sciences of Rutgers University, I accepted with delight, deeming it a privilege to honor my long time friend and associate in the exploration of the flora of New Jersey.
After graduating from Syracuse University and then earning his master and doctorate degrees at Cornell University, Dr. Fairbrothers spent all but four months of his 34-year academic career at Rutgers University. Dr. Fairbrothers has invested enormous efforts and time as a conservator of rare plants and their habitats and as a champion for Pinelands preservation and protection. As curator and director of the Chrysler Herbarium at Rutgers, David has built the vascular plant collection from 37,000 specimens in 1954 to over 120,000 by his retirement in 1988. This outstanding collection became a primary source for providing accurate information pertaining to New Jersey’s rare plants. It was the basis for a booklet that David co-authored with Mary Hough in November 1973 titled “Rare or Endangered Vascular Plants of New Jersey,” the first publication of this type by any state. This effort encouraged other states to conduct similar surveys and influenced Congress by 1975 to modify the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide for the protection of plants, not just animals.
In 1976 the National Park Service engaged a team of scholars of the Rutgers Center of Coastal and Environmental Studies and federal representatives to conduct a mandated study to evaluate the Pinelands as a nationally significant area with potential for inclusion in the National Park System. Dr. Fairbrothers provided vital input of not only botanical relevance but also pertaining to management strategies involving federal, state, and local interests—elements that would ultimately become cornerstones of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (the CMP). After two arduous years involving several trips to Washington by Dr. Fairbrothers, the study titled “A Plan for a Pinelands National Preserve” was completed in July 1978. On August 4, the unenviable task of presenting this study of innovative and controversial management strategies to the Parks and Recreation Sub-Committee of the US Senate fell to Dr. Fairbrothers. The late Dr. Ralph Good (who was also involved in the study) later told me that it was David’s persuasive, eloquent efforts before Congress that helped to expedite the establishment, on November 10, 1978, of the Pinelands National Reserve that called for the preparation of the CMP. This, I firmly believe, was one of Dr. Fairbrothers’ most significant contributions to the Pinelands preservation effort!
With the establishment of the Pinelands Commission on February 8, 1979, the services of Dr. Fairbrothers were once again requested. A January 1980 report prepared for the Pinelands Commission by Nicolas Caiazza and Fairbrothers titled “Threatened and Endangered Vascular Plant Species of the New Jersey Pinelands and their Habitats” and a chapter by Fairbrothers titled “Endangered, Threatened, and Rare Vascular Plants of the Pinelands and their Biogeography” in an outstanding 1979 book, Pine Barrens: Ecosystem and Landscape, edited by Dr. Richard Forman, became the basis for determining the initial 54 species that were protected by the CMP.
In retirement, David continues to give unselfishly of his time and knowledge to plant science and conservation efforts. For Rutgers, he is promoting the recently formed David E. Fairbrothers Plant Resources Center, an umbrella organization or collection of programs that encompasses a wide spectrum of technical plant research and a K-12 educators outreach program. At Island Beach State Park, David continues to assist with refining and expanding the Emily De Camp Herbarium, accessible to park visitors. And lastly, David continues to meet at the Chrysler Herbarium with a group of fellow, dedicated, field botanists of the Flora of New Jersey Project, whose goal it is to produce a complete manual of the Flora of New Jersey.
David, thank you for what you have done for all who admire plants and cherish the New Jersey Pine Barrens.