A Brief History of Education in the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources: 1911-2008

By Paul Y. Burns, Director of the School 1955-1976.

Forestry education at LSU began in 1911, when a course was offered: “The Elements of Forestry,” taught by Horticulture Professor J.G. Lee, Sr., who initiated in 1923 the first two years of the four-year forestry curriculum in the Department of Horticulture and Forestry, College of Agriculture. The Department of Forestry was established in 1926 and the first Bachelor Science in Forestry (B.S.F.) was awarded. From the beginning through today, the B.S.F. program has emphasized both theory and practical instruction in the lecture-room and the field laboratory.

In 1927 the fledgling Department was donated 1,100 acres of forest near Bogalusa, which subsequently was used as a summer or spring camp. The Master of Forestry (M.F.) degree was offered in 1935. In 1936 formal research in forestry began when the Department became one of the units of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station. From that time forward, most of the faculty members who taught students were given joint teaching-research appointments. The forestry program was accredited in 1937 by the Society of American Foresters; this accreditation has been renewed periodically. By 1939 enrollment reached 99 undergraduates and one graduate student. During World War II, 1941-45, enrollment dropped drastically; since all the students were men, needed for service in the military.

Enrollment greatly increased following World War II, and 78 B.S.F. degrees were awarded in 1950. The Master of Science in Game Management (M.S.G.M.) degree was initiated in 1947, and the Department’s name was changed in 1948 to the School of Forestry, and its head became “Director.”

Needed space was provided in a new Forestry Building in 1956, and the first fisheries faculty member was hired in 1959. In 1961 Master of Science programs were authorized in fisheries, forestry, and forest products technology. The School’s name was changed in 1962 to the School of Forestry and Wildlife Management, and the Ph.D. in forestry was offered. Federal and state funds for forestry research were provided regularly, and the number of graduate assistantships was greatly increased.

The Louisiana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit was established at the School in 1962 and the Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit in 1963. The Units were later combined as the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The Unit’s professional employees have become “adjunct” professors in the School and serve as major professors and committee members for graduate students.

A B.S. curriculum in wood science, initiated in 1968, was terminated in 1977 because of lack of student interest in this program.

In 1969, the School graduated its first female students, one with a B.S.F. and one with an M.S. in fisheries.

The M.S.G.M. degree in 1973 became the M.S. in wildlife, and in 1981 the Ph.D. in wildlife and fisheries was offered, with concentration in either wildlife or fisheries. The School became the School of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries in 1984. The following year the M.F. and M.S. in forest products technology were dropped because of the lack of student interest.

In 1990 three steering committees, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Forestry, and Wildlife, composed of key supporters outside the School, were established to help the School develop and improve its teaching and research.

A new Aquaculture Research facility was constructed in 1991 at Ben Hur Farm near the campus. Seven years later the Aquaculture Research Station became a branch of the Agricultural Experiment Station. The aquaculture faculty retained teaching appointments in the School.

The Louisiana Forest Products Laboratory was created in 1992, with the major part housed in the School. Funds were provided by the state legislature for faculty salaries and graduate assistantships. In 2003 the laboratory became the Louisiana Forest Products Development Center.

In 1992, minors were approved in the School’s undergraduate curricula. The School’s graduate students peaked at 131 in 1995, and the number of undergraduates reached its highest, 227, in 1998. Additional grants for research, which included money for graduate research assistants, helped increase graduate enrollment.

The School changed its name in 2002 to the School of Renewable Natural Resources. In 2004 an undergraduate program in Natural Resource Ecology and Management was established as an umbrella for conservation biology, fisheries, natural resources, wildlife ecology, wetland science and wildlife law enforcement. Faculty positions were added for specialists in forested wetland ecology and human dimensions of natural resources.

In 2005 undergraduate programs were revised. Two areas of concentration were made available in the B.S.F., and the B.S. major in wildlife and fisheries was changed to the major in natural resource ecology and management, with seven areas of concentration. Although there were only seven students enrolled in forestry spring camp, the School taught more than 70 courses, yielding more than 3,000 contact hours for students. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to trees at Lee Memorial Forest.

The tradition of having an annual spring semester awards reception in the School was begun in 2006. LSU’s wildlife science program was ranked in the top 10 wildlife science programs in the nation for faculty productivity.

The second Louisiana Natural Resources Symposium was held in 2007, and its proceedings were published. A student chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists was formed, enrollment in RNR 1001, and Natural Resource Conservation, surged to 340. A Hall of Fame was established by the Forestry-Wildlife-Fisheries Alumni Association, and two persons were inducted.

In 2008 the School had four student chapters of national conservation organizations: Society of American Foresters, The Wildlife Society, Xi Sigma Pi Honor Society, and American Water Resources Association. The School had 23 faculty members engaged in teaching. In addition the School had 21 Adjunct Faculty and 10 Professors Emeriti. The fall enrollment was 131 undergraduates and 76 graduate students, and a total of 43 degrees was awarded.

Heading the School’s education programs over the years were: J.G. Lee, Sr. (1926), Gordon D. Marckworth (1927-31), Bryant A. Bateman (1931-34), Ralph W. Hayes (1934-55), Paul Y. Burns (1955-76), Thomas Hansbrough (1976-88), Stanley B. Carpenter (1988-97), Norwin E. Linnartz (1997-2000), Bob G. Blackmon (2000-05), William E. Kelso (2005-08), and D. Allen Rutherford (2007-date).

The total number of degrees granted by the School 1926-2008 was 3,091. These graduates have distinguished themselves in forest, wildlife, and fisheries industries; in city, state, and federal agencies; in international forestry; and in higher education. In addition, many graduates have made valuable contributions to society in positions only marginally related to their major academic fields.