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The Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) was created by law in 1915 to manage the state’s forests. In 1939, the state legislature established the TFS Forest Products Laboratory to research commercial uses of trees, develop wood products, and investigate environmental impacts on forests.
Notable lab accomplishments included helping to establish the first southern pine newsprint mill, developing southern pine plywood, creating weighing procedures for logging trucks, and discovering uses for materials previously burned as waste. Their longest study tested the durability and effectiveness of wood preservatives. Between 1940 and 1980, experimental preservatives were applied to fence posts in the Fairchild State Forest and observed to assess the treated wood’s resistance to nature’s elements. Many poles used in this study are still standing 80 years later.
Another important study used an air quality tester to test the air pollution produced by sawmills. Sawmills disposed of waste materials, such as sawdust and shavings, by burning them. They used large structures called tipi burners – because of their shape – which vented large amounts of smoke and ash directly into the air. East Texas sawmills were creating so much air pollution that it became a public health concern in surrounding communities. Air quality studies conducted by the Forest Products Lab in the mid-1900s led to the elimination of teepee burners.
The Forest Products Laboratory closed in 2000 due to state budget cuts. Today, TFS protects forests from wildfires, insects, and disease, helps landowners develop forest conservation practices, and educates the public about the environmental and economic importance of Texas forests.