Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Jan Davis

Assistant Director of Cooperative Forestry
May 23rd, 2018 at 7:30AM

A picture of Jan Davis
Jan Davis (Photo Credit: Dominic Cumberland, USDA Forest Service)

Jan Davis grew up in a Fort Worth, Texas suburb built on what was once a treeless rolling prairie. After earning a BS degree in Forest Management, she began working for the Texas Forest Service delivering federal urban forestry programs on the ground as a state field employee. Eventually, she worked her way up to the state’s agency headquarters to lead rural assistance programs and work on forest policy issues. After 17 years with the state, she came to the USDA Forest Service as the national program leader for the agency’s State and Private Forestry Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) program.


Who or what inspired you growing up?

My two grandmothers, both catalysts in their own small, rural communities, influenced my values and roused my interest in the outdoors and forestry. Grandmother Warren led her Garden Clubs of America Chapter. She grew prize winning day-lilies in her back yard on a small patch of the family’s 300-acre soybean farm in northeast Arkansas. Grandmother Young, a leader in her church, took me on long walks in the woods of deep East Texas where, as a child, I spent hours with her searching for bits of petrified wood on the 80-acre loblolly pine plantation forest that surrounded her home.


What is your favorite part of your job?

The people, including the national partners who have an interest in the UCF program. It makes me proud to know that trees get planted and cared for every day in neighborhoods and communities across the nation as a result of the program through such a broad partner network. I am also honored to work with extremely talented colleagues and staff who truly embrace their roles as a team. They make me a better person every day, and I like knowing I can influence their careers in a positive way. Finally, I like seeing the sense of accomplishment shown by the people served by the UFC program after a city completes an urban tree canopy assessment, an Arbor Day Celebration tree planting event, or even something as simple as an early Saturday morning tree give-away.


Why do you think your field is important?

I went into forestry because I knew forests at the most basic level provide products, clean water, clean air, places to recreate, and respite. Bringing that understanding to where people live, work, play, and learn not only influences their decisions about the management of forests but also offers them the same benefits in their own neighborhoods.


Describe a recent, current, or upcoming project that you’re currently working on.

The launch of the UCF program’s Vibrant Cities website, a toolkit for communities of all sizes, has taken the program to higher levels and to more audiences. The result of a two-year collaboration with four national partners, it not only makes the business and health case of the need for tree canopy cover in communities but also provides curated research, case studies, and best practices for healthy urban forests and sustainable municipal urban forestry programs.


How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?

I wish the public knew that Forest Service employees really try to do right by the land and that our work managing the forests and working with partners who manage community forests adds exponential value to their lives.


A picture of Jan Davis standing behind a podium.
Jan welcomes the audience to Arbor Day Foundation’s Partners Conference. (Photo courtesy of Arbor Day Foundation.)

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?

No matter if you are a forester or a budget analyst, I have found that people who work for the Forest Service are motivated because the work appeals to both their intellect and their passion. To make these two drivers work in concert to one’s advantage, seek two kinds of mentors. First, find a Forest Service leader to help connect you with an appropriate mentor who understands where you are in your career and your goals. This should be someone you can talk to on a scheduled basis. Second, identify a mentor that you may never know or you may only know in passing, but one that you want to emulate because of their leadership values and perspectives.


Describe a professional or personal achievement that you are particularly proud of.

Personally, I am most proud of being a mom. My 27-year-old son graduated with a degree in Communications from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth Texas and does marketing work for an investment firm in Texas.


What do you like to do for fun on your free time?

In my free time I like to cook with fresh herbs from my apartment balcony garden. If I had a yard, I would be growing day-lilies!