Forest Profiles

ROYCE COX   -   Creating a Forestry Legacy - 70+ years a Forester                    Royce Cox videos

Forestry jobs were scarce in 1940, but 24-year-old Royce Cox had a better reason than most to find employment. Without a job, the recent Iowa State forestry graduate would not have the blessing of his future father-in-law to marry Lu Ellen, the pretty red-headed coed Royce had fallen for two years earlier. Royce's 82 letters seeking employment produced only two replies, neither offering a real forestry job. So, Royce kissed his sweetheart a reluctant goodbye, loaded a 1928 Model "A" with camping gear and headed West, stopping at any likely job prospect along the way.

Several contacts urged him to check with Potlatch Forests, Inc. (PFI) at Lewiston, Idaho. Royce had already come to love North Idaho during a U.S. Forest Service summer job at Priest Lake in 1938.

He was also attracted by Potlatch's reputation, which included instituting one of the nation's first "formal" sustained yield forestry programs. Unfortunately, the only job Potlatch could offer Royce was as a laborer, digging a water line at "Headquarters," a remote logging camp. Royce now jokes that he not only got in at ground level, he actually started a few feet below the ground.

But first he checked out a Weyerhaeuser Co. prospect at Longview, Washington. There he was advised by David Weyerhaeuser, younger son of the company founder, to take the Potlatch job. That turned out to be good advice, Royce says now, because it led to a 40-year forestry career with Potlatch.
Most important, it helped facilitate his 1940 marriage to his cherished Lu Ellen.
Their 68-year union produced three children, including a redheaded son who became a well-known forest economist, now also retired.

Born in 1915, Royce has chronicled his life and career in a well-illustrated manuscript entitled The Tree and Me, which he hopes to publish soon. Beginning with his boyhood ambition to be a forest ranger, the book follows his challenging early years at Potlatch, formation of cooperative fire protection and development of early state and federal forestry laws and regulations. The text is sprinkled with colorful vignettes of personalities and events, interweaving the history of forestry development in Idaho and the nation. In the turbulent 1960s and 70s, Royce served as Potlatch's Environmental Forester and, independently, headed the Western Forestry & Conservation Association. He had a front row seat during formulation of landmark state and federal laws covering forestry and the environment. "I should have had a degree in law as well as forestry," he quips.

Life-long commitment to education
In the 1950s, Royce also began a life-long commitment to teaching elementary school kids to appreciate their precious gift of trees. Mostly on his own time, he collected equipment and photos designed to capture youngsters' imaginations while teaching them practical forestry and conservation lessons. In doing so, he recalled his own fascination with the broadleaf forests on his family's Iowa farm. "Kids learn best when they have hands-on experiences," he observes. His lively classroom and museum presentations are still recalled by the hundreds of adults he inspired in four decades, before and after his retirement. Royce has also contributed to a variety of forestry promotions, including TV, newspaper, magazine ads ans has served as a guide in educational forest tours.

Forest history in pictures
Not the least of Royce's many contributions to forestry history and education is a series of photographs, taken over many decades, of forest regeneration at several sites in North Idaho.

The Photo Point Project, as it became generally known, includes many locations that illustrate reforestation-natural as well as planting and seeding-by a successive series of photos taken from the same camera points.

Hollywood photo point in 1937 (upper right), 1950 (lower right) and 2011 (above)

Collectively, they capture lessons learned by a generation of foresters. A sampling of the sites is included in The Tree and Me, but two of the most illustrative photo points (in addition to the Hollywood site -also called Cow Creek-illustrated above) are linked here. Hildebrand and Meadow photo histories are typical of the entire Photo Point Project.
Although the project began in earnest in the 1950s, Royce credits his inspiration to a 1941 Bureau of Entomology project tracking the progression of white pine blister rust on a recently logged site. The Hollywood site was located near Headquarters (the Cox family home for several years), and dates back to the mid-1930s. Like many locations, it tracks the history and progress of white pine blister rust, a disease that nearly eliminated Idaho's famed species from commercial consideration.

Although he started the photo point project on his own, Royce eventually convinced Potlatch management of its value. It became part of his responsibilities as he moved through the ranks. Upon his retirement in 1980, he continued to staff the project, with help of other volunteers. He still tries to update ten of the most valuable sites as often as possible. He hopes to simplify location of camera points with GPS positioning for future photography, with the goal of facilitating continuation of the project. Royce emphasizes that the photo points graphically demonstrate that our forests are renewable and that a new crop of harvestable trees can be grown in one man's lifetime-his own!

Hildebrand Burn

First selectively cut for sawlogs in 1944, Hildebrand provided a harvest of cedar poles in 1947. (Cedar was in high demand at the time). Harvested poles were hand-peeled on site, leaving resulting debris (slash) that was subsequently ignited by lightning repeatedly. Resulting fires destroyed naturally reseeded seedlings on 90 acres. About 50 acres at the burn center were planted in 1954 with three-year-old white pine seedlings from the Forest Service Montana nursery.

Above left: Hildebrand following fire in late 1940s.
Above right: Potlatch planting crew in 1954.
Left: Lewiston Boy Scouts planting outing in 1954.

Hildebrand was Potlatch's first project-sized plantation of white pine. Blister rust resistant white pine planting stock was unavailable at the time, so the site's white pine suffered considerable mortality.

However, a surprising number of the species survived, some demonstrating a natural resistance to the disease.
Nearly 90 percent survived through 1955, but by 1961 survival had fallen to 76 percent.
By 1988, the white pine mortality increased dramatically. In the interim, natural seeding filled in with western larch, Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir, grand fir and western red cedar.
Through the years, a variety of blister rust control methods, such as eradication of the host plants for the disease, were employed to increase white pine survival.
Although these efforts were largely unsuccessful, the few surviving white pine trees grew well.
By the early 1990s, surviving white pine had grown sufficiently to warrant an intermediate commercial thinning in the winter of 1994. Infected white pine was also salvaged.

Left: First planting crew reunited in the 1980s. Royce is standing. Right: The site after 1980s pre-commercial thinning.

    At left: Potlatch Area Forester Paul Gravelle in 1994 with Royce Cox inspecting the results of Hildebrand 1994 thinning and salvage logging.

Meadow Creek Burn

Salvage-logged in 1949 following a devastating wildfire, the Meadow Creek site consisted of white pine and mixed conifers seed sources. Initial regeneration came from remaining seed sources. By 1955, the site was 61 percent stocked
(500 evenly spaced trees per acre). Subsequently, minimal hand seeding and planting tests were conducted on various slope exposures and with and without protection from rodents.

But a majority of the regeneration came from natural reseeding.

(Potatch traded this site in 1992).

Click for several special interviews with Royce Cox:

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