Faculty Spotlight: John Erixson

John Erixson
Meet John Erixson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln courtesy assistant forester and state forester and director of the Nebraska Forest Service.
January 12, 2021

About John

I found my interest in the natural environment during my years in scouting and as an avid outdoorsman, where I enjoyed hunting, fishing and hiking through the trees, forest and prairies of our state. Little did I know at the time, this activity would lead me to a lifetime of appreciation for nature and all of the beauty the natural world provides. Moreover, this would drive me to become a forester. 

My adventure began in forestry when my wife and I moved our young family to Idaho in the 1980s.  This began a path toward earning a degree in forest management and an advanced degree in range management.  From there, I had the opportunity to join a natural resource consulting firm, which operated throughout the Northwest.  It was a great place for a young forester to learn the meaning of being a forester.  I had the opportunity to work in many forest types from mesic coastal forests of Oregon to the drier Douglas-fir and pine forests in Wyoming and Montana. 

As a consulting forester, I worked in all aspects of forestry with landowners and professionals with many different backgrounds. Every day was different, I could be fighting wildfires one day to protect the forest and a week later, I could be lighting a prescribed burn to prepare the site for planting the future forest. It was truly a great opportunity to get to know not only the forests but also the people.  

Due to this appreciation for nature and in particular trees, I have given back by planting thousands of trees to keep the forests going in whatever part of the United States I find myself.

What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln? 

I have the pleasure of serving as the state forester and director of the Nebraska Forest Service where we provide support, outreach and assistance to landowners and communities across the state. Some of the areas we focus on include wildland fire, rural forestry, community forests, forest products, conservation education and forest health to name just a few. I am involved at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a courtesy assistant forester.

What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

Born and raised here in Lincoln, I have always had a love for Nebraska and all the state has to offer.  When the opportunity arose to return to Lincoln and become the deputy director for the Nebraska Forest Service, I was thrilled. Now, to be able to lead this team of amazing professionals at the Nebraska Forest Service is truly an honor and a highlight for me both personally and professionally.

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most? 

I have long felt that I, as a forester, must give back to society. Working for IANR and UNL in this position provides me with the greatest opportunity I could hope for to accomplish this goal. I work daily with landowners, students and other professionals to promote and recognize the value the trees and forests bring us every day. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Personally, I would have to say it is all about family.  Both of my sons are grown and are active members of their communities. They, along with their families, have found their own paths in life and they are achieving their goals. 

Professionally, being part of establishing an Incident Management Team here in Nebraska will have long lasting positive impacts on how we respond to wildfires and other disasters in the state; thus, protecting lives and property in Nebraska. This did not began with me, but NFS along with other state agencies, such as the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office, and our volunteer fire departments have worked long and hard to gain the necessary training and skills to put forth two teams. Because of this, Nebraska is better prepared for wildfires or any disaster that will come in the future. 

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Our family has a small ranch in the northwest corner of Nebraska.  My wife and I enjoy sitting on the front porch of the ranch house and sharing a cup of coffee in the morning as the sun peaks over the horizon. The “ranch” is nestled along the edge of Nebraska’s pine forest and the badlands in northern Sioux County. In our spare time, we will travel out to the ranch to fix fence, develop water sources and the like. It is sometimes hard work, but it is a very satisfying feeling when you accomplish your chores.    

What is your life like outside of work?

I find myself finding projects to do around the house. The house my wife and I have here in Lincoln was built in the late 70s, so it is fair to say it is a little dated. We enjoy remodeling the home to make it our own. Putting in hardwood floors, changing tile, remodeling the kitchen or bathrooms are all on the table for a weekend (or longer) project. 

Beyond that I enjoy wood working and my wife is an amazing gardener, so I enjoy a walk around the yard to see what new flowers are blooming or what new fruits or vegetables are ready for me to sample.