Faces from the Past
Reynolds and the Crossett Experimental Forest
By James Barnett
The Crossett Experimental Forest, located south of Crossett, Arkansas, and north of the Louisiana state line, was established by the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station in 1933. It resulted from a cooperative agreement with the Crossett Company that donated about 1,600 acres to the Station with a provision that the forest could be returned after 20 years.
Russell R. 'Russ' Reynolds, a native of Michigan, graduated from the University of Michigan with B.S. and M.S. degrees and joined the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station in 1930. Russ was assigned to the Crossett Experimental Forest when it opened in 1933 and spent the next 34 years establishing and directing the research center.
Early in the development of the Crossett Experimental Forest, it was decided to establish the Crossett Research Center on the forest. This was to become the first Forest Service branch research station in the South. Due to lack of funds for establishment, the buildings for the center and staff housing were constructed with pine logs harvested from the forest.
Russ and his wife, Geneva, lived in Crossett at the Rose Inn while housing was constructed on the experimental forest. The Rose Inn was owned by the Crossett Lumber Company and provided the only public housing in the town. The large Rose Inn dining room, always with sparkling white tablecloths, was famous for its good food. For many years, men had to wear ties and coats before they were admitted to the room. However, to assure that no one was turned away, a supply of extra coats and ties was kept outside the room. Lodgers paid $30 per month to live and eat at the hotel.
Reynolds research began with the goal of determining how to cut the cutover mixed pine-hardwood forests of Arkansas and north Louisiana at a profit while at the same time maintaining and improving the stand of timber. In 1937, Russ established the famous "Poor" and "Good" farm forties. Russ and his colleagues evaluated whether previously unmanaged, understocked, second-growth loblolly-shortleaf stands could be successfully rehabilitated and managed using the selection cutting (uneven-aged management) technique.
Meticulous records were kept so that the economics of this management could be evaluated. An important aspect of management was to remove cull hardwoods. Reynolds was fortunate in that the Crossett Lumber Company had a "charcoal plant" that used very small hardwood material that was removed from the stands.
Although some criticized Reynold's success with selection cutting by indicating that the needed intensive competition control efforts were difficult to apply on a large scale and that he had no even-aged management check, Russ's studies did much to convince landowners that forestry was a sound business investment.
His "Farm Forty Days" were an outstanding success. Russ used these to demonstrate a large volume of logs, pulpwood, and other products could be harvested annually from second-growth shortleaf-loblolly pine stands when managed on the selection system. With great skill, Russ converted the poor forty to a good one with profits from the stand each year.
Reynolds spent his career on the Crossett Experimental Forest and earned a number of prestigious awards. In 1947, he received a Superior Service Award for "accomplishments of national significance and value in research on applied forestry management." A similar award was given to him and his staff in 1959 "for exceptional initiative and achievement in developing and disseminating knowledge that stimulated landowners to restore millions of depleted forest acres and then to manage them for profitable timber production."
Truly, Russ Reynolds made a major contribution in the promotion and understanding of forestry to small landowners across the South.
(The Ed Kerr article entitled "Twenty-five years on a poor farm forty" in the 4th quarter issue of the 1962 Forests & People was used as a resource for this article)