• The following passage was written for the 3rd Edition of Famous Trees of Texas, published in 1984. For current information on the mission and organization of the Texas A&M Forest Service, go to http://txforestservice.tamu.edu/. For a more detailed look at the history of forestry in Texas, go to the Handbook of Texas Online or locate a copy of Sawdust Empire by Robert S. Maxwell, (© 1983, Texas A&M University Press) at your local library.

    The settlement of Texas moved in waves from east to west so it was quite logical for the East Texas pineywoods to serve as a reservoir of raw material for the development of the state.

    Commercial exploitation of the Pineywoods commenced in earnest with the construction of the first sawmill in the state. It was horse-powered and built at San Augustine in 1825. Texas' first steam sawmill was built at Harrisburg (now Houston) in 1830. Pine logs, floated down Buffalo Bayou to the Harrisburg mill, were sawed into boards that sold for $40 per thousand board feet. Mexicans burned the mill in 1836. David G. Burnett constructed a mill on the east bank of the San Jacinto River, opposite the mouth of Buffalo Bayou a few years later. Still, when the first capitol of Texas was constructed at Houston, in 1837, the lumber was imported from Maine.

    Stephen F. Austin and the early Texas settlers benefited from the forests of the "Lost Pine" area, situated just southeast of what is now the city of Austin. The first capitol building at Austin was partially built from pine logs and lumber harvested near Bastrop in the "Lost Pines."

    As rail transportation expanded, new markets became available to the remote sections of the Pineywoods, and the Texas lumber industry flourished. At this time, little thought was given to the conservation or perpetuation of the state's forest resources. Sawmills were built throughout the 100-mile-wide virgin forest area, which stretched from the Red River to the Gulf of Mexico. By 1907, Texas lumber production reached its peak with 2.2 billion board feet.

    Texas forestry began to unfold in 1898, when W. Goodrich Jones, a Temple banker and sponsor of the Arbor Day movement in Texas, made the first survey of the East Texas virgin pine forest. His survey was made on horseback in 1898 at the request of Dr. Bernard Fernow, chief, Division of Forestry, United States Department of Agriculture, now the USDA Forest Service. Jones was so impressed by the timber resources of East Texas that he recommended the establishment of a state department of forestry.

    Under Jones' leadership, the Texas Forestry Association was organized in 1914, to obtain popular support for forestry. The Association was formed as a voluntary organization dedicated to increasing the supply of timber resources in Texas. Led by Jones as president, the Association was influential in getting a bill submitted that would create a state board of forestry.

    The idea of creating any new board or commission met with stiff opposition in the legislature, so Jones contacted President W. B. Bizzell and Dean E. J. Kyle of the School of Agriculture of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. They decided to delete the creation of a state board of forestry and to place the office of the state forester under the Board of Directors of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas.

    The bill passed and was signed into law by Governor James E. Ferguson on March 31, 1915.

    State forestry organizations are essentially educational agencies that came into existence throughout the nation because there was a need for educating the public in the wise use of this renewable natural resource. The state forester of Texas is still headquartered on the campus of Texas A&M University at College Station. The organization is almost unique in that it is one of four state forestry organizations in the nation directly associated with a land grant college system. Because of this close association, Texas' state foresters have been permitted to operate the agency so that the interests of the public, the forest landowners, and the wood-using industries are best served.

    The current role of the Texas Forest Service is: to create and maintain the forest and tree resources of Texas for the perpetual production and use of all of the desired goods, services, benefits and effects; to protect the forests and related resources from harmful natural agents and misuse by mankind; to promote, develop and facilitate the total economic and social benefits which occur from the effective use of Texas' forest resources; and to continuously inform Texans of the contribution that forests make to their lives and to the welfare of the state.