• When you have questions, Ask a Forester!  

    Our "Ask a Forester" series answers questions about forest health, timber harvesting and land management to ensure that forested lands in Texas are as healthy and productive as possible.

    Jason Ellis, our Jacksonville District Forester, leads the series and shares his forestry knowledge to help established, new and prospective landowners and curious learners find answers to commonly-asked forestry questions.

    "Ask a Forester" is both a video series on our social media channels and a regular newspaper column in publications throughout East Texas. 


    Watch our latest video!


    "Ask a Forester" columns appear in:

    • Cherokeean Herald
    • Houston County Courier
    • Marshall News Messenger
    • New Waverly Community News and Events
    • Panola Watchman
    • Polk County Enterprise
    • Polk County Today


    About Jason
    Jason Ellis is a District Forester for the Texas A&M Forest Service in Jacksonville, Texas. His district assists forest landowners with implementation of forest management practices on their properties including reforestation, timber harvesting and thinning, wildlife habitat management, and forest management plan formation. In addition to serving forest landowners, Jason manages the forestry operations on the I.D. Fairchild State Forest near Rusk, Texas. He lives with his wife, Tiffany, and their daughter, Jesse, in Arp, Texas.

    New Topics

    If you'd like to suggest questions for upcoming "Ask a Forester" installments or if you'd like to see "Ask a Forester" columns in your local newspaper, email communications@tfs.tamu.edu.


    Use #AskaForester on social media!


    Our growing list of topics include:  

     + What is a blowdown?

    For many landowners, land and timber represent their livelihood. When damaging storms or hurricanes reach timber stands, trees can be knocked down, blown over, snapped at the tops and generally devastated. This event is called blowdown, also known as a wind snap. Disaster sometimes strikes landowners on a large scale, like in 2005 when Hurricane Rita decimated pine and hardwood timber across East Texas and beyond. Much of the damaged land was owned by private, nonindustrial landowners who relied on their timber for income and other nest eggs, like retirement or college funds. Needless to say, such losses can be devastating and very personal. If a blowdown happens on your land, it’s important to take immediate action to salvage your timber for sale. To learn how to salvage your timber after a blowdown or ask any other forestry-related questions, contact your local Texas A&M Forest Service District Office.

    Click here to watch the video.

     + What is a prescribed burn?

    A prescribed burn is a strategic, planned land management tool that uses fire to achieve established certain goals. When forested land is left unmanaged, forest fuel loading, the buildup of twigs, grasses, pine straw and leaf litter, builds up and become a wildfire hazard. Prescribed burns reduce fuel loading, encourage the growth of native species and create open forest conditions that allow wildlife to travel and forage more easily. After a prescribed burn, landowners enjoy the improved aesthetic view and ease of access for recreational opportunities, planting, and harvesting operations.

    Landowners should research service providers and ensure that the Certified Prescription Burn Manager they select is trained and certified when considering a prescribed burn. Burn managers help landowners put together a prescribed burn plan and utilize a “Go or No Go” checklist for the day of the burn that allows them to determine whether the conditions are safe for a burn.

    Landowners should notify Texas A&M Forest Service before conducting a burn and fill out the Texas Prescribed Burn Reporting System survey after each burn to help Texas A&M Forest Service and the agency’s partners better understanding the scale of prescribed fire efforts in Texas and promote safe and effective prescribed fire in the future. Find and contact your local Texas A&M Forest Service forester at https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/ContactUs/ to learn more about prescribed burns and visit My Land Management Connector at www.MyLandManagementConnector.com to search for qualified service providers near you. 

    Click here to watch the video.

     + What is a shelterwood harvest?

    Whenever landowners harvest timber, they have different options when it comes to regenerating a stand. Landowners can choose between natural and artificial regeneration. Both have their own pros and cons, and landowners should make their choice based on their property goals. Artificial regeneration means that a stand is prepared for planting via mechanical and/or chemical means followed by hand or machine planting. This is typically done after a timber harvest or clearcut. With this method, landowners can decide how many pine seedlings to plant on a tract, which are typically set out in neat rows. 

    The other option is natural regeneration, or shelterwood harvest. When landowners choose to do a shelterwood harvest, mature pine trees with good form and healthy crowns are left evenly spaced throughout the tract. These trees drop pine cones loaded with seed, and new seedlings sprout naturally. This method offers a more aesthetically-pleasing appearance and a more suitable wildlife habitat, which can be beneficial to those who enjoy hunting and other forms of outdoor recreation on their property. However, since the shelterwood harvest takes longer to regenerate a stand, landowners who are managing their forest timberland solely for timber income will likely want to choose artificial regeneration, hand planting or machine planting, since this is the most profitable method. If you’d like to learn more about regenerating pine on your property or if you have any other forestry-related questions, please contact your local Texas A&M Forest Service District Office. 

    Click here to watch the video.

     + What is a streamside management zone?

    Streamside management zones (SMZs) protect water resources from debris caused by forest management operations. Landowners should create and manage SMZs on their land to maintain cool water temperatures and reduce the amount of sediment that enters streams during timber harvesting and land management operations. Wildlife species benefit from the habitat diversity, travel corridors, nesting sites, and food sources that SMZs provide. 

    SMZs should be at least 50 feet wide on each side and above the head of perennial and intermittent streams. Ephemeral streams may also need protection in some areas. Depending on site conditions such as soil type, topography, or stream use and function, SMZs may need to be widened. Roads, skid trails, and fire lanes should be located outside of the SMZ if possible. Trees should not be felled across streams. If unavoidable, felled trees should be topped before removing. All debris such as tops or limbs in the stream channel as a result of logging should be removed immediately. If you’d like to learn more about creating streamside management zones on your property or if you have any other forestry-related questions, please contact your local Texas A&M Forest Service District Office. 

    Click here to watch the video.

     + What is thinning in forestry?
    Thinning, the selective harvesting of some, but not all, trees on your property is a pivotal management practice that is often underutilized on private lands.

    Thinning offers more than just a return on your investment. The process improves the health of your forest and can even reduce the likelihood of loss to wildfires.

    Watch this video to learn when and why you should thin timber stands and find advice on how you can use this management practice to leave your property better than you found it. Texas A&M Forest Service District Forester Kelby Wolf guest stars to bring you more information.