Throwback Thursday: Utilization and Forest Health


This historic photo shows the log yard from the very early days of the Forest Product Laboratory. The Forest Products Laboratory A Decennial Record, reminds us of the reason why FPL exists: to find ways to utilize forest waste to keep forests healthy.

This book about the first 10 years at FPL tells of early pioneers in the United States who moved through our forests and harvested only the best of trees, leaving devastation and waste in their wake. Soon the need for forest conservation became evident as one of the most vital economic issues of the nation.

The Division of Forestry was established in 1881 and it recognized from the earliest days the national need for research in forest products. This need became increasingly evident as people moved further west and forests were exhausted. Studies of the mechanical properties of the more important woods were begun at the universities of Washington, Yale, Purdue, California, and Oregon. Most of the research work of the Forest Service had been carried out in cooperation with various universities and when the idea of a centralized facility for research and development in forest products arose, many universities stepped forward offering accommodations.

According to A Decennial Record, “Finally, the offer of the University of Wisconsin, which included the erection of a suitable building and the furnishing of heat, light, and power for it, was accepted. Construction started in the summer of 1909, and the installation of equipment was begun in the fall, shortly after the nucleus of the organization arrived from Washington and established temporary quarters.”

FPL has come a long way from those temporary quarters, but our researchers have continued to innovate and always keep in mind the reason behind the work we do for the American people.