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Posts Tagged ‘Society of American Foresters’

Last Friday we received word that Bill Hagenstein, a giant in the forest industry and the history of American forestry, had died. The following biography is adapted from the files of the World Forestry Center, which he helped to establish in Portland, Oregon. While it does a fine job of summarizing his life and career, it doesn’t begin to capture what a character Bill was. He never varnished the truth and was known for his direct, if profanity-laced, take on forestry and life, both of which are evident in his two oral history interviews with FHS and his colorful memoir Cork & Suspenders: Memoir of an Early Forester. As you’ll see he may very well have been the last living link we had to the first generation of American foresters. 

One of the most important American and Northwestern foresters in the twentieth century, William D. “Bill” Hagenstein was a key advocate for sound national and regional forestry policies that protected forests and ensured their continuing productivity. In addition to participating in the creation of the nationwide Tree Farm Program and pioneering other sustainable forestry practices, Bill provided expert testimony to the Oregon and Washington legislatures and the Congress for more than 30 years.

Bill Hagenstein, in an undated photo from the FHS Photo Collection

Bill Hagenstein, in an undated photo from the FHS Photo Collection

A fourth generation Northwesterner, Bill was born in Seattle on March 8, 1915. When Bill was eleven, his father, Charles William Hagenstein, passed away and his upbringing was left to his mother, Janet May Hagenstein (née Finigan). Bill began working in the woods at age 12. Already six feet tall and 170 pounds, Bill was able to pass for 18, the minimum age required for logging by state law. Throughout his teens, Bill worked every summer in logging camps and by the time he was 19 he held his first foreman’s job.

As the Great Depression set in, Bill traveled the country on freight cars between jobs in logging camps. In the early 1930s, he worked on several major forest fires in Idaho. These experiences educated him about the devastation that forest fires can cause without efforts to prevent and control them.

In the fall of 1934, Bill returned to his mother’s house in Seattle after spending the summer on the disastrous Pete King fire on Idaho’s Selway National Forest. He had been out of high school for four years and his mother encouraged him to enroll in the University of Washington, just four miles away from where he was born. At enrollment, a woman at the registrar’s office rattled off an alphabetical list of possible majors. When she got to “f” Bill stopped her and selected forestry.

Bill received his Bachelor of Science in Forestry in 1938. He had spent the summers working for the U.S. Forest Service and the Seattle Water Department. That year forestry employment was hard to come by, but Bill worked several jobs. First he was a fire warden for the City of Seattle on its Cedar River Watershed. Then he worked as a forest entomologist for the U.S. Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine in northern California. Bill spent 1939 as a logging superintendent and engineer for the Eagle Logging Company in Skagit County, Washington. In 1940 he spent a few months as a foreman in a CCC Camp on the Snoqualmie National Forest.

Spurred by his desire to see another part of the country—especially another major timber-producing area—Bill enrolled as a scholarship student in Duke University’s School of Forestry, from which he received the Master of Forestry degree in 1941. The West Coast Lumbermen’s Association (WCLA) immediately employed him as Forester for Western Washington.

On January 20, 1942, Bill participated in the historic founding of the American Tree Farm System. Thirteen men, including prominent Northwest lumbermen and foresters, met in the old Portland Hotel and certified the country’s first tree farms. Bill was secretary of the meeting and signed its minutes. Tree farms were certified when their owners pledged to dedicate their lands permanently to growing, protecting, and harvesting trees for permanent production. Bill considered his part in this program, which spread quickly throughout the United States, to be one of the crowning achievements of his life.

Bill Hagenstein (third from right) considered his involvement in the founding of the American Tree Farm System "the crowning achievement of his career."

Bill Hagenstein (third from right) considered his involvement in the founding of the American Tree Farm System “one of the crowning achievements of his life.”

Col. William B. Greeley, then Secretary-Manager of WCLA, and former chief of the U.S. Forest Service, was also present at the founding of the Tree Farm System. Colonel Greeley was Bill’s closest professional colleague and mentor for fifteen years. (Ed: Bill always spoke reverently and respectfully of “the Colonel” and maintained a friendship with the Greeley family the rest of his life.)

In 1943, World War II took Bill to the South and Central Pacific. He served as Chief Engineer of military lumbering in those theaters of war. Though often overlooked, timber was critical to the war effort. Lumber was needed for tent framing and decking, docks and wharves, bridges, hospitals, and dunnage for loading supply ships. In 1945, as the war was winding down, Bill was sent to Costa Rica to help establish a cinchona (quinine) plantation to grow the bark needed for producing the drug used to treat malaria.

After the war, Bill returned to WCLA, which moved its headquarters in 1946 from Seattle to Portland. In 1947, after a change in Washington law, Bill qualified as a Professional Engineer in Logging Engineering. Upon his move to Oregon he was similarly licensed in that state. Bill became the organization’s Chief Forester in 1948. In 1949 WCLA created a new organization that focused entirely on forestry and called it the Industrial Forestry Association (IFA). Bill was named manager and later, when the organization officially incorporated, was elected Executive Vice President. Bill held that position until his retirement in 1980.

At IFA’s peak, Bill had approximately 300 people working with him, including a professional forestry staff of 20. IFA’s mission was to develop a permanent timber supply in the Douglas-fir region as basic support for the Northwest economy. In addition to certifying tree farms in the Douglas-fir region, IFA operated four nonprofit nurseries, which grew trees for member companies. By 1980 the IFA nurseries had grown 500 million trees, which reforested one million acres on tree farms in western Washington and Oregon. In 1954 IFA started the first regional program of tree improvement to apply the principles of genetics to the growing of timber. This is now standard practice by industry and government.

Among IFA’s most important tasks was professional expression of the needs of forestry to the public and every level of government. Over a 35-year period, Bill provided expert testimony to agencies and Congress on about 250 occasions. One of IFA’s strengths was its credibility on all aspects of Northwest forestry. Eventually, Bill and IFA became the principal national voice for the Douglas-fir industry.

Bill joined the Society of American Foresters in 1938 and served this professional society in many ways, including seven years as associate editor of the Journal of Forestry, ten years on its Governing Council, and four years as President from 1966 to 1969. He was elected a Fellow in 1963 and was awarded the Society’s Gifford Pinchot medal in 1987.

He served as a regional leader in times of crisis. As chairman of the Timber Disaster Committee of the Northwest Forest Pest Action Council, he led the salvage efforts to clean up the mess created by the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 that blew down 17 billion board feet of timber in five hours. This effort greatly minimized the proliferation of pests and forest fires that could have seriously damaged the region’s economy.

Bill was active in the forest fire prevention campaigns of the Keep Washington Green and Keep Oregon Green Associations from their inception in the early 1940s. He served the Washington association as an Advisory Trustee from 1957 to 1995 and the Oregon association as Trustee from 1957 on and as President in 1972–73.

A tireless promoter of forestry, Bill wrote more than 500 published pieces in a variety of media. He coauthored with Wackerman and Mitchell the textbook, Harvesting Timber Crops, widely used by forestry schools throughout the world. He delivered a speech every 10 working days for 35 years. In addition to appearing before professional and civic groups, Bill delivered lectures at universities in California, North Carolina, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Bill was a member of numerous professional associations and received many awards and honors.

From a Portland hilltop, Bill witnessed the burning of the city’s magnificent Forestry Building in 1964, a massive wood structure that had been a cornerstone of the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition of 1905. In response to the absence left by this fire, Mayor Terry Schrunk appointed Bill and ten others as founders and builders of the Western Forestry Center, now the World Forestry Center.

Bill’s varied career brought him in touch with many forestry luminaries. In 1940, when he was attending his first annual meeting of the Society of American Foresters in Washington, DC, Bill met and had lunch with Gifford Pinchot, America’s first forester and one of seven founders of the Society in 1900. Bill met five of the other founders at subsequent annual meetings.

Bill retired from IFA in 1980. With no interest in retirement, he incorporated W. D. Hagenstein and Associates and continued working as a consulting forester for many more years. As his résumé shows, he was active in several organizations, including serving on the Forest History Society’s Board of Directors from 2001 to 2004, and the recipient of numerous achievement awards.

For more than 70 years, Bill made the woods his profession and his passion. He once said that dendrology—the study of trees—was his hobby. Bill was also a devoted husband.  His wife of nearly 40 years, Ruth Helen Hagenstein (née Johnson) passed away in 1979. Bill married Jean Kraemer Edson in 1980. She passed away in 2000.

Bill devoted both his professional and personal life to promoting forestry as the foundation of the Northwest economy because of the unique renewability of trees. He always emphasized that we must take good care of our forests and, in doing so, they will take good care of us. For Bill Hagenstein this responsibility meant cherishing our forests by using their bounty wisely and renewing them promptly by the practice of forestry.

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On this day in 1935, the Society of American Foresters presented its first-ever award, the Sir William Schlich Memorial Award Medal, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Roosevelt was recognized for his “interest and effective work for forest conservation,” with specific acclamation given for his establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

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(Standing, left to right) SAF officers H.H. Chapman, E.H. Clapp, and Franklin W. Reed present the Schlich Award to President Franklin Roosevelt in the White House, January 29, 1935.

The award was named for Sir William Schlich, a 19th-century German-born forester, who worked extensively in India for the British government developing forest management and education programs.  Schlich served as a member of the Royal Indian Forest Service from 1867 to 1885, moved to England and became a British citizen in 1886, and in 1905 founded the School of Forestry at Oxford.  Following Schlich’s death in 1925, a fund was raised by Oxford to establish an award in his name.  Schlich awards were given in Australia, New Zealand, and India, before the trustees of the award elected the U.S. to be the next country of recipient.  At this time the Society of American Foresters adopted the award as a permanent fixture within their organization.

Schlich Award Medal

The award has been presented by SAF to a total of 33 individuals since 1935.  Many of the winners over the past 70 years represent a who’s who of major figures from the world of forestry — from early winners such as Gifford Pinchot (1940), Henry S. Graves (1944), and William B. Greeley (1946) to more recent recipients such as USFS researcher Robert E. Buckman (1994) and our own Harold K. (Pete) Steen (2000), Executive Director of the Forest History Society from 1978-1997.

The FHS Archives houses numerous materials relating to the award and its past winners, including items from the Society of American Foresters Records documenting the award selection process through the years.  The archives also feature several collections with newly published online finding aids representing winners such as Tom Gill (1954), William E. Towell (1978), and Harold K. Steen (2000).

For more on the history of the Sir William Schlich Memorial Award, see “The First American Forestry Award” by Harold K. Steen, from Forest History Today, Spring 2000.

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On this day in 1874, Raphael Zon was born in Simbirsk, Russia.  From Russian radical to New World immigrant, Zon achieved national and international influence as a forest researcher.  Gifford Pinchot even proclaimed, “Mr. Zon is my old and valued friend. . . There is no higher authority in forestry in America.”

In Simbirsk, Zon studied at the classical gymnasium.  At this school, Alexander Kerensky’s father acted as director and Lenin was an older classmate.  Later, Zon pursued studies in medical and natural sciences at the University of Kazan, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in comparative embryology.

In his early life, Zon had a history of political agitation and subsequent imprisonment in his native land.  While a student, Zon engaged in political activity, especially pressing for representative government in Russia, for which he was periodically arrested.  Then briefly assigned to the international zoological station in Naples, he was investigated for helping to form the first trade union at Kazan in 1894.  With the help of future Duma leader Alexis Aladin, Zon escaped his 11-year sentence of confinement.

Inscribed: To Henry Schmitz*, May the School under your leadership grow and prosper. Raphael Zon, January 8, 1926.

Fleeing westward, Zon studied natural sciences, political economy, and philosophy at universities in Belgium and London.  In 1897, Zon arrived in New York City with a mere fifteen cents to his name.  Zon soon left his temporary job at a drugstore for Ithaca, New York, where he enrolled in the nascent New York State College of Forestry at Cornell University.  Studying under Bernhard E. Fernow and Filibert Roth, Zon earned his degree of forest engineer in 1901, becoming a member of the school’s first graduating class.

On July 1, 1901, Zon entered the U. S. Forest Service as a student assistant assigned to forest investigations.  Six years later, he was promoted to Chief of the Office of Silvics (later Forest Investigations).  Zon made a persuasive and persistent case for separating research work from forest administration, achieved in 1915 with the establishment of the Branch of Research.  Zon’s advocacy of research led to his organization of the first Federal Forest Experiment Stations and the Forest Products Laboratory.  In order to advance the war effort, Woodrow Wilson appointed Zon to the National Research Council to study forest problems during World War I.  In 1923, Zon left Washington, D.C., to accept appointment as director of the Lake States Forest Experiment Station at St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1923.  In this position, Zon served with distinction until his retirement in 1944.

Presenting the inaugural Gifford Pinchot Medal to Raphael Zon, George L. Drake lauded Zon’s role in American forestry:

Throughout his official career, Raphael Zon exercised a national influence on the development of forest research not surpassed by any other American forester.

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What do you give a professional organization on its 108th birthday? Warm wishes, I suppose. But in the case of the Society of American Foresters, formally founded on November 30, 1900, in the cramped office of its first president, Gifford Pinchot, it seems appropriate to offer up something a bit more meaningful than an air-kiss or a genial hurrah.

A more significant memento might be to recall the charge that SAF members received from the president of the United States during the society’s third year: “I believe that there is no body of men who have it in their power today to do a greater service to the country,” Theodore Roosevelt asserted, “than those engaged in the scientific study of, and practical application of, approved methods of forestry for the preservation of the woods of the United States.” His confidence in their contributions as foresters and citizens surely warmed his listeners’ hearts. But they and he understood that this generous praise, while not misplaced, was a tad premature.

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On this day in history, leading conservationist Gifford Pinchot and six other foresters founded the Society of American Foresters in Washington, D.C.  In its 108-year history, the Society has grown to become the largest professional organization for foresters in the world. Currently representing more than 15,000 forestry professionals and students working in private industry, educational settings, and local, state and federal government, SAF strives to advance the science and professional management of forest resources, enhance member competency, and promote sound forest management and conservation practices for the health of forest ecosystems.

The Forest History Society is the fortunate steward of the records of the Society of American Foresters — 449.5 linear feet, with more additions anticipated!  To describe SAF’s beginnings, I defer to the original meeting minutes, which we hold in our collection, to provide an account:

Washington, D.C. November 30, 1900.

Minutes of the First Meeting of the Society of American Foresters.

An informal meeting of foresters was called at the office of Mr. Pinchot on the morning of November 30th.  There were present Mr. [Gifford] Pinchot, Mr. [Overton] Price, Mr. [William] Hall, Mr. [Ralph] Hosmer, Mr. [Thomas] Sherrard, Mr. [E. T.] Allen, and Mr. [Henry] Graves.  It was stated that the object of the meeting was to discuss the feasibility of organizing a Society of American Foresters.  All those present were in favor of the organization of such a Society.

Mr. Pinchot was appointed temporary Chairman, and Mr. Graves temporary Secretary, in order that the Society might be formally organized.

A motion was made, seconded, and carried, that the society be known as the Society of American Foresters.  It was then moved and seconded that a committee of three be appointed by the Chair for the purpose of making recommendations as to the complete organization of this society. The Chair appointed Mr. Graves, Chairman, Mr. Price and Mr. Hosmer.  It was then decided that the Chair should call a meeting as soon as the report of the committee was ready.

Henry S. Graves, Sec’y Protem

Today also marks another significant event in forest history: the first appearance of a guest blogger on Peeling Back the Bark!  To celebrate the anniversary of SAF’s founding, we have invited historian Char Miller, senior fellow of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, to comment.  In his entry, Miller recalls fledgling efforts at professional forestry, debates within the field, and forestry’s responsiveness to shifting challenges.

As Miller offers an overview of SAF, the rest of this post will highlight some interesting finds in our archival holdings.

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