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Northwest Forest Plan Oral History Collection, 2016-2017

By Chris Petersen

Collection Overview

Title: Northwest Forest Plan Oral History Collection, 2016-2017

ID: OH 048

Primary Creator: Schmieding, Sam

Extent: 25.7 gigabytes. More info below.

Arrangement: The collection has been organized into a single series: 1. Interviews, 2016-2017. All interviews have been organized chronologically.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2019

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Northwest Forest Plan Oral History Collection consists of interviews conducted in 2016 and 2017 with thirteen scientists and others whose input proved crucial to the shaping of the Northwest Forest Plan, a monumental set of federal forest lands policies for the Pacific Northwest enacted by the Clinton administration in 1994. The sessions trace the personal and professional lives of these individuals, including their participation in one or more of the major efforts to provide policy makers with scientific information and perspectives. All interviews were collected by historian Samuel Schmieding. The collection is entirely born digital and available online.

Scope and Content Notes

The oral histories held in this collection were commissioned by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the US Forest Service, and were conducted by historian Samuel Schmieding at a variety of locations in Oregon and Washington. The interviews were collected to audio-only, often in multiple parts. The original *.wav files collected by Schmieding have been preserved. In addition, *.mp3 derivatives have also been created for each file, and multiple files collected for a given interview have been compiled together for user access. Each interview has also been professionally transcribed and made available online. The biographical sketches and abstracts used to contextualize each of these interviews in their online form were written by Frederick J. Swanson.

Two interviews conducted on separate days with Fred Swanson were transcribed as a single interview, and have also been released for online access as a single digital object.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Hailed as a landmark of the twentieth century conservation movement, the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) is a series of policy guidelines and directives adopted in 1994 by multiple agencies of the United States government. The NWFP was implemented as a response to serious gridlock in federal land use policy, as brought about by legal challenges to logging activities in the Pacific Northwest's old growth forests. By 1992, the court proceedings driving the stalemate had grown to a dozen lawsuits and three separate injunctions, many of them focusing on the need to protect habitat for the northern spotted owl, which was listed as a threatened species in 1990. At that point, timber sales in wide swaths of federally managed forests had come to a stop, with compliance managed by at least three federal agencies working independently of one another.

On April 2, 1993, President Bill Clinton convened the Northwest Forest Conference in Portland, Oregon; Vice President Al Gore and five members of the Clinton cabinet were also present at the gathering. The objective of the conference was to provide a public forum for expression of the many values people hold for public forest lands and also science-based interpretations of the status of those lands and the species within them. Following the conclusion of this meeting, Clinton directed Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to develop a set of options with different levels of timber harvest and protections for species, especially those associated with old growth forest, so that elected officials and the federal judge holding the injunctions could determine the preferred plan to meet federal environmental laws while permitting timber cutting. A Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team (FEMAT), consisting of scientists, academics and public policy analysts, was charged with devising those options to determine how best to balance interests and activities that often opposed one another.

On May 20, 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan went into effect. Covering some 24 million acres of federal forest land in the range of the northern spotted owl, the plan designated specific land allocations, designed specific management objectives and practices for each of them, and created a "comprehensive ecosystem management strategy." About eighty percent of lands defined as "late successional and old growth forests" were protected from logging, and one immediate impact of the plan was a dramatic reduction in clearcutting operations on public lands. The plan also placed an increased emphasis on protection of riparian zones and other habitats critical to endangered fish and wildlife; defined "matrix" areas where timber harvesting could continue, so long as it was conducted in compliance with certain environmental requirements; and reclassified a subset of lands as "Adaptive Management Areas," where novel approaches to land management could be tested. Today, the NWFP continues to govern use of those same 24 million acres in Washington, Oregon and northern California, as organized into 19 national forests, 7 Bureau of Land Management districts, 6 national parks, and an array of national wildlife refuges and Department of Defense lands.

The oral history interviews held in this collection were conducted by Samuel Schmieding, an independent research historian and photographer with interests in environmental history as well as the history of science, geography, cartography, Native American history and Latin American history.

Many of the oral histories in this collection are from participants in FEMAT and focus on the processes leading up to and following it. The narrators who contributed to the project are as follows:

Kelly Burnett, a research fish ecologist based in the Corvallis Forestry Sciences Laboratory of the Pacific Northwest Research Station who served on the FEMAT Aquatic/Watershed Group.

Eric Forsman, a Forest Service wildlife biologist and northern spotted owl expert who served on the FEMAT Terrestrial Ecology Group.

Jerry Franklin, a distinguished research forester and chief plant ecologist with the Forest Service, professor of ecosystem analysis at the University of Washington, and a member of the FEMAT Terrestrial Ecology Group, who played a central role in merging the terrestrial and aquatic teams' conservation strategies.

John Gordon, a professor of forest science at Oregon State University and, later, Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, who was regularly involved in conversations with industry leaders, members of Congress, and others about the issues and implications of the NWFP.

Becky Gravenmier, a Forest Service science coordinator who facilitated NWFP work conducted by the Regional Office of the National Forest System, the Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Richard Haynes, a forest economist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the Forest Service who specialized in assessing forest resources and markets, and participated in the formulation of the NWFP.

Norman Johnson, a professor of forest policy at Oregon State University and leader of the FEMAT Resource Analysis Group, charged with evaluating timber harvest levels for the various options under consideration.

Bruce Marcot, a Forest Service wildlife ecologist and member of FEMAT.

Cindy Miner, Assistant Director for Communications and Applications at the Pacific Northwest Research Station, and a member of the FEMAT social science team.

Martin Raphael, Pacific Northwest Research Station wildlife biologist and deputy team leader of FEMAT.

Gordon Reeves, Pacific Northwest Research Station fish biologist and co-leader of the FEMAT Aquatic/Watershed Group.

Tom Spies, Pacific Northwest Research Station forester and member of the FEMAT Terrestrial Ecology Group.

Fred Swanson, Pacific Northwest Research Station geologist. As a member of FEMAT he worked in the Aquatic/Watershed and Adaptive Management Groups and facilitated interaction with the Willamette National Forest.

Author: Chris Petersen and Frederick J. Swanson

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 14 audio files

Statement on Access: The collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: The collection was transferred to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center by Fred Swanson and Samuel Schmieding in 2019.

Related Materials:

Video recordings of two roundtable sessions held at the Northwest Forest Conference in Portland, Oregon on April 2, 1993 are held in the Oregon Sea Grant Communications Videotapes and DVDs (FV185 - SG1), and have been released online in digitized form. ("Roundtable 1 - Who Is Affected and How"; "Roundtable 2 - Ecological and Economic Assessments") John Gordon and Jerry Franklin both appear in the second video. Additional materials documenting the Northwest Forest Plan are held in the Gerald W. Williams Electronic Records (MSS WilliamsGElectronic), the Liz VanLeeuwen Spotted Owl Collection (MSS VanLeeuwen), the Bruce G. Marcot Spotted Owl Collection (MSS Marcot), the James R. Sedell Papers (MSS Sedell), and the Gerald W. Williams Slides (P 314).

SCARC also holds two topically related oral history collections that were generated, at least in part, by Samuel Schmieding with the assistance of Fred Swanson: the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Oral History Collection (OH 028) and the Mount St. Helens Oral History Collection (OH 050). The full contents of both of those oral history collections are available online through the SCARC exhibit, Voice of the Forests, Voices of the Mills.

A thorough account of the history of the NWFP is held in The Making of the Northwest Forest Plan: The Wild Science of Saving Old Growth Ecosystems (K. Norman Johnson, Jerry F. Franklin and Gordon H. Reeves. Oregon State University Press. 2023.), which draws substantially on the oral history interviews held in this collection.

Other SCARC oral history collections that incorporate natural resources as a major point of emphasis include the Oral History Interviews, Personal Histories and Sound Recordings Collection on Agriculture, Forestry and Oregon History (OH 005), the Soap Creek Valley History Project Oral Histories (OH 006), the Horner Museum Oral History Collection (OH 010), and the Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Collection (OH 026).

Preferred Citation: Northwest Forest Plan Oral History Collection (OH 048), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Schmieding, Sam
Swanson, Frederick J. (Frederick John), 1943-

People, Places, and Topics

Endangered species--Northwest, Pacific.
Forest management--Northwest, Pacific.
Forestry law and legislation.
Forests and forestry--Research--Northwest, Pacific.
Habitat conservation--Oregon.
Natural Resources
Northern spotted owl--Habitat--Oregon.
Northwest Forest Plan (U.S.)
Riparian areas--Northwest, Pacific--Management.
United States. Forest Service--Employees.
United States. Forest Service. Pacific Northwest Region
University History

Forms of Material

Born digital.
Oral histories (literary genre)

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Interviews, 2016-2017
All interviews were conducted by Samuel Schmieding and collected to audio-only. Most of the narrators that Schmieding interviewed for this project were participants in FEMAT, with interview sessions focusing on the processes leading up to and following the group's formation. In addition to the item-level links provided below, the collected contents of this series are also available online.
Extent: 14 sets of audio recordings

Digital Folder 1: Gordon Reeves, August 26, 2016
Interview conducted at the Reeves residence in Corvallis, Oregon.
Extent: 3:31:06

Digital Folder 2: Fred Swanson, September 29, 2016
Interview 1 of 2. Both Swanson interviews were transcribed as a single file and presented online as a single digital object. Interviews were conducted at the Forest Sciences Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon.
Extent: 2:19:08

Digital Folder 3: Fred Swanson, October 2, 2016
Interview 2 of 2.
Extent: 1:54:31

Digital Folder 4: John Gordon, November 2, 2016
Interview conducted at the Gordon residence in Portland, Oregon.
Extent: 2:26:42

Digital Folder 5: Tom Spies, November 2, 2016
Interview conducted at the Forest Sciences Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon.
Extent: 3:19:07

Digital Folder 6: Martin Raphael, November 14, 2016
Interview conducted at the Forest Sciences Laboratory, Olympia, Washington.
Extent: 2:55:35

Digital Folder 7: Jerry Franklin, November 15, 2016
Interview conducted at the Franklin residence, Issaquah, Washington.
Extent: 2:59:42

Digital Folder 8: Norman Johnson, November 29, 2016
Interview conducted at Strand Agriculture Hall, Oregon State University.
Extent: 3:08:23

Digital Folder 9: Eric Forsman, December 5, 2016
Interview conducted at the Forest Sciences Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon.
Extent: 3:51:27

Digital Folder 10: Richard Haynes, May 25, 2017
Interview conducted at the Haynes residence, Beaverton, Oregon.
Extent: 3:50:09

Digital Folder 11: Kelly Burnett, May 30, 2017
Interview conducted at the Burnett residence, Corvallis, Oregon.
Extent: 3:31:39

Digital Folder 12: Cindy Miner, July 21, 2017
Interview conducted at the Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Portland, Oregon.
Extent: 3:49:01

Digital Folder 13: Bruce Marcot, July 27, 2017
Interview conducted at the Tualatin River (Oregon) National Wildlife Refuge.
Extent: 3:20:26

Digital Folder 14: Becky Gravenmier, August 1, 2017
Interview conducted at the U.S. Forest Service Region 6 Office, Portland, Oregon.
Extent: 2:32:26

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.