The origins of forest science in Latvia date back to the 19th century, drawing from both the German and Russian school of thought. Because of the local geographic and climatic peculiarities a need for a national institution in forest science emerged with time.

During the first period of Latvia’s independence forestry research was carried out at the Forestry Department of the Latvian University, and later also at the Forest Research Station, which was founded in 1928. The emphasis was on the problems topical for practical forestry: establishing forests on lean soils and sandy areas, thinnings, stimulating natural regeneration, rational methods in preparing timber assortments, etc.

The Latvian Institute of Forestry Problems was established in 1946. The staff included 38 research scientists and 15 persons as technical personnel. The subject areas of research work were forest biology and silviculture, timber harvesting, forest management and forest inventory, wood chemistry and woodworking. Over more than 50 years of its existence the Institute has seen a number of reorganisations. The scope of research and development was greatly expanded when the Research and Production Association "Silava" (ZRA "Silava") (1976–1991) was established as a merger between the Institute of Forestry Problems, the Project and Survey Organization, the Specialized Design Bureau, the Pilot Plant for Forestry Machine Building, the Forest Research Station "Kalsnava", and the Computing Centre. At that time the research staff was about 200. When Latvia regained its independence in the early 1990s, the socio-political and economic changes resulted in dissolving the organizational and production structures of the socialist system of economy, including the Association "Silava". Instead, the Latvian State Forest Research Institute "Silava" as a national research organization and a number of research oriented private entities were set up. So, the Institute’s research potential is strong enough to carry out basic research in a number of fields essential for the forest science. Without a sound theoretical basis a successful development of the country’s forest sector, answering the current challenges and meeting the present day demands, would be seriously slowed down or even made impossible.