Zane Smith Oral History Interview

Interviewee: Zane Smith
Interviewer: Samuel Schmieding
Interview Date: May 29, 2014
Location: Smith residence, Springfield, Oregon
Duration: 3:02:55
 

Zane Grey Smith was a long-time leader within the National Forest System of the Forest Service, including serving as Supervisor of the Willamette National Forest in the 1970s, and ultimately retired to the McKenzie River Valley and continued to interact with leaders of the Andrews Forest. His life story gives a good sense of the evolution of an important leader in the Forest Service in the 1940s-1980s. Smith begins the oral history describing his youth in a “Forest Service family” with lots of moves in the Southwest and then the Northwest, following his father’s jobs, including his military service in World War II. In 1955 he completed a degree in forestry from the University of Montana while his father was supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. He describes his highly independent, outdoors youth with exposure to ranch chores, horses, general roaming in forests as a kid, and circumstances of his parents’ and grandparents’ ways of life that gave him diverse exposure to life in the West and Forest Service. Of course, his name and relation to the author Zane Grey gets attention. In reflecting on his forestry training at Montana, he notes the absence of attention to human dimensions of natural resources, but he gained experience in that through work assignments, personal inclinations, and a mid-career Masters program at Cornell.

The year 1970 was crucial for Smith – Earth Day occurred and he became Supervisor of the Willamette National Forest at a time when environmental activism was cranking up big time and Eugene and the Willamette were hotbeds of conflict. He describes the situation of that time while the French Pete controversy was raging – the “environmentalists” were University of Oregon professors, but he could deal with them and not alienate the industry folks. He then moved to the Washington Office of the Forest Service to work on Wilderness, recreation, and Roadless Area Review (RARE) issues. He describes how he realized that forest cutting was occurring at an unsustainable rate on the Willamette and then when he was Regional Forester in California, and how the industry had him removed from that position because of that perspective. He comments that he was “proud for having been fired for that reason,” i.e., having stuck to his principles, as Jack Ward Thomas had. He goes on to describe the shifting administrative system and culture of Forest Service land managers and how national governmental leadership did not have a good understanding of rural America. The conversation turns back to the Willamette and French Pete and he discusses approaches he took to build relationships with the contesting groups.

Smith comments on the importance of ecological science in Forest Service management in general, his close personal relationship with the Director of the Pacific Southwest Research Station when he was Regional Forester, and other indications of the value of staff with diverse skills and points of view, including the views of women and minorities. He values the relation with the Andrews program and states that the agency called on Jerry Franklin and other scientists frequently for advice on topics related to watershed processes and forest practices. He recounts interacting with Franklin on a big forestry project in southern Patagonia. He mentions taking foreign visitors on tours to the Andrews Forest as part of his efforts to introduce them to the region.

The latter part of the interview covers a wide range of topics, including the evolution of the spirit and actions of the Forest Service, its similarity to a military organization, the impacts on his family of having made 32 changes in postings, and the agency’s general pattern of being behind public opinion, especially on matters of the environment. He recounts stories of serious conflicts, including the Malheur and the Nevada armed standoffs. At several points in the interview Smith describes his international work in part through the Overseas Private Investment Company, with forest and conservation planning activities in Russia, Mongolia, Chile, Argentina, and China. He proudly used the Andrews Forest as a field tour venue with many foreign visitors. The conversation returns to experimental properties, which he describes as widespread across the Forest Service, but he does mention interacting with Franklin and Mark Harmon and others at Andrews Forest, especially concerning the log decomposition experiment which highlighted the importance of dead wood in forest ecosystems. Smith closes the interview reflecting on the state of Forest Service management of forests in response to fire, old growth, encroachment of housing, the fundamental mission of the agency, defining qualities of western Oregon life, and other issues.

Dublin Core

Title

Zane Smith Oral History Interview

Description

Zane Grey Smith was a long-time leader within the National Forest System of the Forest Service, including serving as Supervisor of the Willamette National Forest in the 1970s, and ultimately retired to the McKenzie River Valley and continued to interact with leaders of the Andrews Forest. His life story gives a good sense of the evolution of an important leader in the Forest Service in the 1940s-1980s. Smith begins the oral history describing his youth in a “Forest Service family” with lots of moves in the Southwest and then the Northwest, following his father’s jobs, including his military service in World War II. In 1955 he completed a degree in forestry from the University of Montana while his father was supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. He describes his highly independent, outdoors youth with exposure to ranch chores, horses, general roaming in forests as a kid, and circumstances of his parents’ and grandparents’ ways of life that gave him diverse exposure to life in the West and Forest Service. Of course, his name and relation to the author Zane Grey gets attention. In reflecting on his forestry training at Montana, he notes the absence of attention to human dimensions of natural resources, but he gained experience in that through work assignments, personal inclinations, and a mid-career Masters program at Cornell.

The year 1970 was crucial for Smith – Earth Day occurred and he became Supervisor of the Willamette National Forest at a time when environmental activism was cranking up big time and Eugene and the Willamette were hotbeds of conflict. He describes the situation of that time while the French Pete controversy was raging – the “environmentalists” were University of Oregon professors, but he could deal with them and not alienate the industry folks. He then moved to the Washington Office of the Forest Service to work on Wilderness, recreation, and Roadless Area Review (RARE) issues. He describes how he realized that forest cutting was occurring at an unsustainable rate on the Willamette and then when he was Regional Forester in California, and how the industry had him removed from that position because of that perspective. He comments that he was “proud for having been fired for that reason,” i.e., having stuck to his principles, as Jack Ward Thomas had. He goes on to describe the shifting administrative system and culture of Forest Service land managers and how national governmental leadership did not have a good understanding of rural America. The conversation turns back to the Willamette and French Pete and he discusses approaches he took to build relationships with the contesting groups.

Smith comments on the importance of ecological science in Forest Service management in general, his close personal relationship with the Director of the Pacific Southwest Research Station when he was Regional Forester, and other indications of the value of staff with diverse skills and points of view, including the views of women and minorities. He values the relation with the Andrews program and states that the agency called on Jerry Franklin and other scientists frequently for advice on topics related to watershed processes and forest practices. He recounts interacting with Franklin on a big forestry project in southern Patagonia. He mentions taking foreign visitors on tours to the Andrews Forest as part of his efforts to introduce them to the region.

The latter part of the interview covers a wide range of topics, including the evolution of the spirit and actions of the Forest Service, its similarity to a military organization, the impacts on his family of having made 32 changes in postings, and the agency’s general pattern of being behind public opinion, especially on matters of the environment. He recounts stories of serious conflicts, including the Malheur and the Nevada armed standoffs. At several points in the interview Smith describes his international work in part through the Overseas Private Investment Company, with forest and conservation planning activities in Russia, Mongolia, Chile, Argentina, and China. He proudly used the Andrews Forest as a field tour venue with many foreign visitors. The conversation returns to experimental properties, which he describes as widespread across the Forest Service, but he does mention interacting with Franklin and Mark Harmon and others at Andrews Forest, especially concerning the log decomposition experiment which highlighted the importance of dead wood in forest ecosystems. Smith closes the interview reflecting on the state of Forest Service management of forests in response to fire, old growth, encroachment of housing, the fundamental mission of the agency, defining qualities of western Oregon life, and other issues.

Creator

Zane Smith

Source

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Oral History Collection (OH 28)

Publisher

Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries

Date

May 29, 2014

Contributor

Samuel Schmieding

Format

Born Digital Audio

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Identifier

oh28-smith-zane-20140529

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Samuel Schmieding

Interviewee

Zane Smith

Location

Smith residence, Springfield, Oregon

Original Format

Born Digital Audio

Duration

3:02:55

OHMS Object

Interview Format

audio