The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Jim Denison Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

September 24, 2014


“A Life Spent in Oregon's Forests”  September 24, 2014  Location: Lebanon Public Library, Lebanon, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Denison discusses his family background and his upbringing in Salem and Klamath Falls, Oregon, including his earliest memories of working in the woods. He likewise reflects upon his enlistment in the United States Navy and his military experience during the final months of World War II.

From there Denison remarks on his undergraduate years as a discharged GI at Oregon State College. He speaks of various classmates in Forestry as well as influential professors, including Walter McCulloch, who became Dean of Forestry during Denison's time at OSU. Denison also notes field classes and other practical learning experiences that made an impact on him while he was an undergraduate.

The vast majority of the session is devoted to an examination of Denison's career in forestry. In discussing his various jobs and employers, Denison speaks frequently of changes in land acquisition and logging practices. He places particular emphasis on his time working for Cascade Lumber Company and Publishers Paper Company, noting the impact made on the latter company by its parent corporation, The Los Angeles Times newspaper.

Denison also describes his and his wife's co-founding of both Denison Surveying and, later, Coastal Land Management. He shares his memories of various clashes between logging interests and environmentalists to which he was privy, and also remarks on the controversy created by legislation to protect the northern spotted owl. Denison likewise shares his perspective on federal forest policy and administration, and discusses his associations with George Peavy, T.J. Starker and Tony Van Vliet. The interview concludes with Denison's thoughts on the present state of forestry in Oregon.

Denison's wife, Betty, also participated in the interview.