United States Forest Service Region 5 Oral History Project

About the Project
Interview Transcripts
Documents and Reports
Relevant Resources


The Lure of the Forest: Oral Histories from the National Forests In California (2005)Image of cover of Volume 1

In preparation for the Forest Service’s one-hundredth anniversary, Region Five retirees, with financial and logistical support from the Regional Forester, established an oral history committee to interview over fifty retirees and publish the edited portions of the interviews as part of a collaborative agreement with the University of California at Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office (ROHO). Victor W. Geraci, PhD,  ROHO Associate Director, then selected interview segments and lightly edited them for publication and prepared contextual narrative. 

The selected interview clips provide the narrative for the common recurring themes that reflected how past employees remembered their service to the forest and the struggles they faced in the course of their careers. In the first part, “The Lure of the Forest,” we listen to stories that detail why both men and women joined the Forest Service and what motivated young people to dedicate their lives to stewardship of our forest resources. Part two, “Called to Service,” lays out how these Forest Service veterans recall multitasking, job mobility, promotion, and the transition from jack-of-all-trades positions to a more specialized profession. In part three, “Managing Multi-Headed Dragons,” participants speak about their experiences and philosophy of protection and conservation of our forest resources from fire. Their story continues in part four, “The Forest Community: Everyday Life In the Service,” as “old-timers” describe their social history and their sense of the loss of a forest community. In part five, “Memorable Events and People - Remembering the Good Times,” the narrative briefly turns to the heartwarming stories that naturally radiate from oral histories.

The Unmarked Trail: Managing National Forests in a Turbulent Era (2009)

Cover Image of The Unmarked TrailAs a continuation of the 2004 oral history project the USDA Forest Service Region 5 retirees’ oral history committee, with financial and logistical support from the Regional Forester, conducted interviews for publication of a second volume of edited interviews. The committee extended its collaborative agreement with the University of California at Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) and again Victor W. Geraci, PhD, ROHO Associate Director, selected interview segments, lightly edited them for publication, and researched and suggested contextual narrative.

In the first section, “Timber,” foresters reflect upon the shift from an era when timber was king and necessary for the benefit of the national economy to an era driven by an environmental focus that resulted in reduced budgets and new legal and legislative restrictions.  The second section of the book, “Changing Workforce,” showcases narrative stories that reflect upon the changing employment demographics as specialization of job descriptions, civil rights concerns, affirmative action, and a consent decree ushered in new professions, people of color, and women to the Service. Section three, “Firescope,” concentrates on the development of Region 5s cutting-edge approach to increase effectiveness of firefighting policies and procedures. The resulting Firescope program became a model for local, state, national and international approaches to all large-scale human disasters. In the final section, “Communications,” narrators describe how the Forest Service utilized Public Relations to protect the Service’s public image in an era of challenges by environmentalists who portrayed the Service as destroyers of the very natural resources that they were sworn to protect.

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