May 15, 2019

    Western Gulf Forest Tree Improvement Program Commemorates 50 Years

    This year marks 50 years since the Western Gulf Forest Tree Improvement Program (WGFTIP) was established in 1969. The program formalized the collaborative tree improvement efforts led by Texas A&M Forest Service.

    Tree improvement supports research in forest genetics, selection, breeding and testing, and technology transfer for the long-range regeneration of our forests. Over the past 50 years, WGFTIP has contributed research to the forest industry and has positively impacted forest health and the economy.

    The milestone is being commemorated at a representatives meeting on May 15 and 16 in Bryan, Texas.

    Dr. Tom Byram, who served as the director for over 40 years, recalled the program’s history and said, “From the very beginning, we’ve led a collaborative effort.”

    The objective of the Western Gulf Forest Tree Improvement Program is to provide sustained and coordinated leadership and technical assistance in the selection, propagation and genetic testing of desirable clonal lines of southern pine and hardwood species.

    “The cooperation starting in 1969 was the formalization of a program that started in 1951 with Texas A&M Forest Service,” Byram said. “It was collaborative among regions and built with strong organizational support for the programs.”

    Texas State Forester Tom Boggus discussed the history of the Texas A&M Forest Service and the ways the agency has supported the development of the WGFTIP since its inception.

    “Our role as an agency has always been to build the capacity of others,” Boggus said. “The Western Gulf Forest Tree Improvement Program was created in a phenomenal collaborative effort.”

    The program’s cooperative model allows for members within a local region to share workloads, thus speeding up the improvement process, and access the same improved genetics.

    Early program emphasis was placed on establishing the breeding populations of loblolly and slash pines with membership expanded to include forest industries and state organizations in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi.

    Members of the pine cooperative with an interest in bottomland hardwoods joined efforts with the Texas A&M Forest Service to expand the genetic base for several species and preserve selected genetic material for future use. The cooperative is preserving and improving populations of four southern pine species and several hardwood species.

    Western Gulf Forest Tree Improvement Program members include ArborGen (TX), Arkansas Forestry Commission (AR), Hancock Forest Management, Inc. (TX), International Forest Company (LA), Oklahoma Forestry Services (OK), Rayonier Forest Resources (TX), Texas A&M Forest Service (TX) and Weyerhaeuser Company (AR, LA, MS).

    The program’s accomplishments include adding a marginal present value of $75 to $150 million to the regional wood supply resource annually, the maintenance of nearly 1600 aces of improved seed orchards and a region-wide seedling growth improvement of 30% compared to unimproved sources.

    “When you ask, have we made a difference,” Byram said, “the answer is, yes, absolutely.”

    To learn more about the program, visit


    Fred Raley, Tree Improvement Coordinator, Texas A&M Forest Service, (979) 236-5845,

    Texas A&M Forest Service Communications Office, 979-458-6606,