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Interview with Arthur W. Cooper, November 14, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Arthur W. Cooper, November 14, 2002
November 14, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Cooper, Arthur W. Interviewer:  Warren, Harry Date of Interview:  11/14/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length  63 minutes


Warren: My name is Harry Warren. I’m the camera person and the interviewer for this oral history with Mr. Art Cooper here at NC State University. Today is November 14, 2002 at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Warren: Mr. Cooper, could tell us your name and spell it for us and where are you from, your educational background and when you were born?

Cooper: My name is Arthur W. Cooper. I was born in Washington, D.C., grew up there and went to school in Maine for a couple of years and then I got my Bachelor’s degree at Colgate University and my Master’s degree there also and doctorate degree at the University of Michigan. I came to NC State in 1958 and with the exception of about five years when I worked for the state of North Carolina, I’ve been with NC State ever since.

Warren: What are your degrees in?

Cooper: My undergraduate degree was in physical education and natural science. My Master’s degree was in botany and my doctor’s degree was in botany with emphasis on plant ecology.

Warren: So the graduate degrees led you into forestry?

Cooper: Yeah, it was particularly the doctoral degree. The work I did was in the forest area of Michigan and had developed those interests and pursued them. I also was in my research work at NC State was pretty involved in coastal ecology.

Warren: You came to NC State in 1958 you say. Well you don’t look old enough to have been here since 1958 honestly. You came here to teach?

Cooper: Yes, to teach and do research.

Warren: Here in the School of Forestry?

Cooper: No, I was in the department of botany, I was in botany. I was in botany from 1958 to 1971 and then from ’71 to ’76, I was deputy director of the Department of Conservation and Development. When that transformed into Natural and Economic Resources, I was one of two assistant secretaries of that department until 1976. Then in 1976, I came back to the forestry department and have been here ever since.

Warren: You say you came back to it in ’76. I mean were you coming back to it or was that actually your…

Cooper: Coming back to NC State.

Warren: Coming back to NC State but that was actually the first time that you were working in the forestry department. Why did you come back and get into the forestry department?

Cooper: Well my interests had shifted away from essentially pure ecology to much more interest in the interface between ecology and natural resource management politics. That seemed to fit a lot better in forestry than it did in botany. Besides while I worked downtown, the botany department had replaced me with two or three other people so they didn't need another ecologist.

Warren: But you found that forestry fit well with your training and your experience.

Cooper: Well I had had a joint appointment in forestry while I was in the botany department so I knew the department real well. It fit me and I think I fit them pretty well.

Warren: Now when you were working with the state from ’71 to ’76 I believe you said, you were with what is now I think DENR. DENR includes of course the state forest service. Were they part of that department when you were part of them? Did you have many dealings with them at that time?

Cooper: Yeah, I had as much dealings with them as I did with any of the divisions.

Warren: What was that like? What was the state forest service like during those years?

Cooper: That’s hard to say. Ralph Winkworth was the state forester then. It was an agency that was much, much more heavily oriented towards fire protection generally. They didn't have the same degree of emphasis on silvaculture and assisting the landowners with management and development of incentive programs like they do now.

Warren: I was over there yesterday doing some oral histories. One of the folks I spoke with was Joe Hogue. You might know him. He does some educational programs over there. In fact, I think he started in ’71 so you all were over there at about the same time. He responded to an ad to get that job in ’71. The ad for the North Carolina State Forest Service called for an individual to come to work for a looking for a progressive state forest service. This was in 1971. Do you think that the forest service in North Carolina is looked at as being progressive back in those days? What would that mean?

Cooper: Probably for those days. I don’t know what it would have meant. My guess is that it meant that they were…that they considered themselves up to date with respect to equipment and facilities and reasonably good financing and a sense of the kind of programs that they wanted to do.

Warren: Now when you came back to NC State in 1976, you came over to the forestry department as a professor of forestry, not as head of the department. What are some of the courses that you taught?

Cooper: I taught a course in natural resource policy. I taught actually two of them, one at the undergraduate level and one at the graduate level.

Warren: Now NC State, I’ve heard about its forestry department for years and I’m not forester, as being an outstanding program. Would you say it deserves that reputation and how long as the forestry department been in existence here at NC State?

Cooper: Well the forestry department here as existed since about 1929 or 1930. It was created when the legislature authorized the program over in what was then the School of Agriculture. It grew slowly through the 30’s and 40’s. My belief is now and at the time I joined it in the 70’s, it deserved the reputation of being one of the best programs in the country.

Warren: What are some of the other good programs that would give it some competition?

Cooper: State University of New York in Syracuse, Minnesota, BPI certainly has a good program now. At that time in the 70’s, BPI was just developing its program and of course the western schools, Oregon State, the University of Washington, the University of Idaho, the University of Wisconsin, and the Midwestern school, all of them are strong.

Warren: What do you think made NC State’s program particularly strong and successful.

Cooper: The faculty.

Warren: We’ll get to your being department head, but you knew a lot of folks before you became the department head here. Who were some of the faculty back in the late 50’s and 60’s?

Cooper: At that time the forestry department, they had, the forestry department had. Wally Mackey. Dr. Mackey was an expert in silvaculture and particularly in drainage of wetlands. He had a worldwide reputation. Bruce Yolks was brought here in 1956 to develop a tree improvement program. Dick Preston was then the dean. Bruce also had an international reputation. As the department expanded through the 60’s and 70’s, it added other faculty members who either had substantial reputations or who developed them shortly in the department.

A couple of names that come to mind are Jack Crufield, Joe Lamey.

Warren: How large was the department back in the late 50’s?

Cooper: In the late 50’s, it probably had 10 to 12 faculty members would be my guess. It’s a little bit hard to judge because forestry was called forestry and wood science and the work we had in pulp and paper was all combined into just a single program. Departments weren’t split out until the 60’s as I recall with as many as 15 to 20 people.

Warren: Faculty that is.

Cooper: Yeah.

Warren: Do you have any idea how many students might have been involved?

Cooper: No, not really. I would guess undergraduates, 150, 200 maybe. Far fewer grad students than there are now.

Warren: Other than the graduate students, have the undergraduate student’s numbers stayed fairly consistent over the years?

Cooper: No, they’ve undergone cycles of growth and decline. For example in the mid-70’s, there were a tremendous number of students. I can’t remember what the absolute number was, but my guess would be way over 300 to 350. Then it declined through the 80’s and increased slightly in the 90’s. I’m not in touch with what the situation is now.

Warren: Why do you suppose there were so many folks here in the 70’s?

Cooper: I think it was an outgrowth of the environmental movement that had begun in the early 70’s. I think a lot of students felt that forestry was where they would like to work and expressed their interest in the environment. The feelings about forestry were probably a little bit different then than they are now among a lot of students.

Warren: How so?

Cooper: Well at that time foresters I think were still, forestry and foresters were still regarded on the average much more favorably than they are now.

Warren: Why was that?

Cooper: Well I think it was that through the 70’s and 80’s, as the environmental movement grew there got to be a greater interest in the environmental movement in pure preservation. I think foresters were viewed as to exploit, interested only in cutting trees. A lot of students were not interested in that particular part of forestry and that’s why I think there was a decline in the 80’s. Of course part of it is also tied to cycles, business cycles. When forestry as a business is strong, enrollment is generally strong. When business is weak, enrollment is also weak.

Warren: The forestry service folks were telling me yesterday that there was a time when it seemed like everybody thought foresters were just great and they could do no wrong and now it seems like they have to prove themselves at every corner.

Cooper: I think that’s a fair statement. That’s a reflection of the general attitudes that I just mentioned. When I was a kid in the Boy Scouts and when I was in college for that matter, forestry and the U.S. Forest Service were regarded as the real white hats of natural resource management. I don’t think that they would be regarded in that way today. I hasten to say I think they deserve a far better reputation than they have among many members of the public.

Warren: When did this reputation start changing? Were there one or two watershed events that started this image change?

Cooper: One of them was wilderness. The forest service generally fought the wilderness principle which is ironic considering that the first wilderness area in the country were designated by the forest service. The forest service resisted the passage of the wilderness bill and I think the profession generally looked on the wilderness concept with some degree of skepticism.

Clear cutting of course was a lightning rod issue as it is now with a lot of people. A lot of people simply felt that the foresters were environmentally irresponsible by doing clear cutting. Again the situation is much more complicated than that, but I think that’s the way it got simplified in the minds of the average member of the public.

Warren: And so the image started to change and it just went downhill for a while. But it seems like they’re turning it around a little bit now.

Cooper: Well I hope we are because that’s one of the things that the profession has spent some time on trying to do, is not only to improve its image but to improve its image by actually doing a better job of all of the things that make up modern forestry.

Warren: Now a superficial PR image change, but something that really has substance.

Cooper: There’s some of that involved for sure, but I think the profession is really making a serious effort to do things the right way.

Warren: Now getting back to the campus here, the School of Forestry, has it always been located in the building we’re in today? What building are we in today?

Cooper: We’re in Jordan Hall now. Jordan Hall is the fourth building that the Department of Forestry has occupied. I think the original building, originally they were either in Patterson Hall or Ricks Hall over on the main campus. I don’t remember which. When I came here, they were in Kilgore Hall in ’58. They shared that building with horticulture. Then in roughly 1970, they moved over to Biltmore Hall which adjacent to Jordan Hall and then all the time I was department head, the forestry department was located in Biltmore Hall. When Fred became head, the office was moved over here to Jordan Hall.

Warren: And he’s been head about eight years. It’s been about that long since they’ve been in Jordan.

Cooper: It’s been about seven years. I think he was over in Biltmore Hall a year.

Warren: Are the facilities just growing and getting larger than where they were when you came in 1958?

Cooper: Oh yeah, the Department of Forestry has never been space rich. In fact I think throughout most of its existence, it’s been space poor. But the facilities now are much better than they were when it was over in Biltmore Hall.

Warren: What are some of the elements of the department? I know that I’ve been to a woodworking shop here on campus. Is that part of forestry?

Cooper: No, that’s part of the Department of Wood and Paper Science. That’s a program that split off from forestry in the early 1960’s.

Warren: So it’s not even a part of the forestry department?

Cooper: No, it’s part of the old College of Forest Resources which is now the College of Natural Resources.

Warren: How many department heads have you known or that you could recall for us prior to yourself?

Cooper: I can recall two, Wally Mackey. As I recall, he was department head when I came here, although I hasten to say I’m not sure that there was a formally designated head of the department then because I think that Vic Preston operated as sort of a combination of department head and dean because the school was small enough in those days so he could do that. I think sometimes in the 60’s, now my chronology may be way off, sometime in the 60’s, Wally was made head of the forestry program.

Then in about 1969, Chuck Davey became the department head. He was the department head when I came back from downtown. Then when Chuck stepped down to go back to teaching and research, Bill Johnson was appointed head and Bill lasted as head for just nine months and he died of a heart attack running in a cross-country race on Thanksgiving in 1979. That’s when I became department head.

Warren: So he was in good physical condition obviously if he was running in a race he thought anyway.

Cooper: Yeah, it was a freak thing. I don’t know that the doctors really know what happened to him, but two-thirds of the way in that race, he just keeled over. He was dead before he hit the ground.

Warren: My goodness, I’m a runner myself so you never know. You think you’re in good shape. So he was your immediate predecessor?

Cooper: Bill was, yeah.

Warren: So he died suddenly so you were without a department head. How did you come about being selected for that?

Cooper: Bill died on the Friday of Thanksgiving week and he was buried on Sunday. When the students went home on Thanksgiving break, Bill was department head and when they came back Monday morning, with me as department head.

Warren: So you were named immediately.

Cooper: Yeah, Eric Elwood who was the dean then, got me aside when we both were first together and told me I was going to be department head. I had been assistant department head and I was responsible for the graduate program so it made sense to get the appointment. He didn't want to go through another search that soon after having just done it.

Warren: For you, it was unfortunate for the man that had passed away, but for you it was a way that your career was moving in the right direction.

Cooper: Yeah, I enjoyed being department head. I enjoyed it more at the beginning than I did at the end. That has nothing to do with the people I worked for or the faculty or anything else. The job just became more and more consuming with paperwork, responding to impetus/stimuli from administrators above us at all levels. A lot of the work you did towards the end didn't seem terribly productive of anything useful.

Warren: Right, pushing paper around. What did you like about the job when you first started?

Cooper: The thing I liked most was working with the faculty, faculty members and the students.

Warren: Who were some of the outstanding faculty that you had?

Cooper: Well Bruce Sobel was still active although he had retired. He was on a half time appointment and Chuck Davey, they were probably two of the best known members of the faculty. Bob Kelson, Bob Weir, a fellow named Russ Ballard who was a soil scientist then. He was a New Zealander and went back there and eventually became head of the New Zealand forest service.

Warren: Did you continue to teach even as department head?

Cooper: I taught natural resource management for I think one or two years, the undergraduate course. Then I taught the graduate course in resource management all while I was department head and then about 1991, no way earlier… maybe the mid-80’s I took over and taught the introductory course in forestry.

Warren: You’ve seen a lot of students come through NC State. What made a student decide to go into forestry?

Cooper: Well we tried to figure that out because we thought knowing the answer to that would help us in recruiting. I don’t know that we ever did get a good handle on it except that students came in generally for two reasons. One was not a very good reason and that is that they felt that going into forestry would be a continuation of fishing and hunting and the outdoor life which they enjoyed while they were in high school and they thought that would be a way to continue it.

The other large group of students were ones who were interested in natural resource management or environmental management and they thought that forestry was the place to do that.

Warren: Was there a stereotypical type of person that went into forestry?

Cooper: No. We used to joke about the stereotypical kid being somebody that fished and hunted and chewed tobacco and spit in a beer can in class, but that was just a joke among the faculty. We had some kids like that, but the vast majority were good serious kids.

Warren: I run into so many people from around the country that went to school here. What percentage over the years would you say your students were North Carolinians as opposed to people coming from outside?

Cooper: A very high percentage. I’d say probably 75% or 80% of the undergraduates were North Carolinians.

Warren: Do you recall any particular students, undergraduates or graduates, that stand out in your mind?

Cooper: One who certainly stands out from the very first year I was here, 1958, is Scott Wallinger who’s the vice-president of Wesvaco Corporation. Now I guess it’s Meade Wesvaco. Scott is still one of the leaders in industrial forestry in this country. I think he’s one of the most forward looking foresters I know, a very thoughtful man. It was clear from even when you knew him as an undergraduate that he was going to be good.

Then Bob Keleson, a man who went on to be a long time a faculty member here, I knew as a graduate student. I taught him in two classes in graduate school and served on his graduate committee.

Warren: Everybody that’s into forestry that I’ve met seemed to really love what they’re doing. Do you think that’s one of the things that drives people, is a passion for the forest and being outdoors?

Cooper: Yeah, I think foresters by in large are among the most dedicated people I know. They can’t be in it for the money because there’s not all that much money in forestry. You can earn a decent wage and a very comfortable living, but if your desire is to acquire a lot of things and to become wealthy, then forestry is probably not the place for you to be. Most of the people in the profession are highly motivated and believe in what they’re doing and almost without exception, I know them to be highly confident people.

Warren: What are some of the occupations, if I had a B.A. degree in forestry, jobs that I might be looking for?

Cooper: Up in until maybe 10 years or so ago, almost all of our students went directly into field forestry either with an industry or with one of the state forest services. Industry people usually became land managers. Occasionally they’d be hired on as a procurement forester for a timber company.

More recently a lot of students end up working for environmental consulting firms as the number of industry opportunities has shrunk somewhat. As I say, they end up working for environmental consulting firms, going into consulting forestry themselves or going into procurement for themselves.

Warren: So really there are many different types of jobs.

Cooper: Oh yeah, I think the range of options now is a good deal greater than it was say 20 years ago. Twenty years ago you were pretty much confined going into forestry defined narrowly.

Warren: Now one of the changes I’ve seen from some of the old photographs from the old classes was a certain gender absence. There were no women back in the old days. There’s not a lot today, but there are a few women getting into forestry. Do you remember when that started happening?

Cooper: Yeah, my recollection is it was in the mid-70’s, about the time I came back to join the forestry department. There were a few women in forestry at that time. Through much of the time I was department head, we had up to 30% of our students were women, but that number has declined. Now I think, last I knew it was about 15%. The women that we have were almost without exception among the best students that we had in the program. They were always very, very good.

Warren: How’s the course of study for forestry changed since you first came? Has it changed?

Cooper: Yeah, in some ways it’s changed a lot and in other ways it hasn’t changed much at all. The curriculum has sort of gone from a model where there’s essentially nothing except a major in forestry to a model where there are as many as half a dozen options within the forestry degree. We went through a period just recently of maybe 10 years or so where there was basically just a single option.

I notice that the faculty now is considering going back to the multiple option. The basic courses in forestry, the names of the courses hasn’t changed that much. The content of them though has changed a great deal.

Warren: How so?

Cooper: To incorporation of modern technology as much as anything else, incorporation of computers and the computer capability, incorporation of remote sensing.

Warren: How about philosophies that kind of govern the profession like the managed forest and things of that nature?

Cooper: I don’t know that the fundamental philosophy has changed a great deal, but there’s much more emphasis now on a range of what we refer to in the slang as a range of outputs from the forest. Twenty or thirty years ago there was no question but what the emphasis of the program was on timber management, management of forest for the production of wood, wood fiber.

Now there’s much more emphasis on management of forests for a variety of different resources, fish and wildlife, water production, recreation, range in addition to wood management. I think the principle of multiple use which of course permeated the forest service back in the 60’s was a little bit slower to permeate the educational part of the forestry community, but it’s now pretty permanently imbedded in it.

Warren: I was at NCFA recently and there was a lot of talk about forest certification. Is that a fairly new concept?

Cooper: It’s probably six, seven years old maybe.

Warren: What do you think about that?

Cooper: Well I think it’s a step forward. It’s a concept that’s still feeling its way a little bit, but I think it’s pretty firmly imbedded in the profession now, that this is a direction in which we’re likely to go more strongly in the future, if not just certification to adherence to a set of published standards and practices that is available for public scrutiny which you by agreement choose to follow.

Warren: So hopefully this will in the long run help the forest industry.

Cooper: Oh I think so, yeah, I think it’ll help. It should blunt the argument that foresters are concerned with nothing but cutting trees and they don’t really care how they cut them. That’s plainly not true, but certification is one way that you can demonstrate that there is a concern for other dimensions of the forest.

Warren: The other, that was one of the hot topics at NCFA 2002 and the other was something I heard before, the stress between foresters and environmentalists and how wide the gap is between the extremes on both ends. How did that gap get so wide? There seems to be a lot of people in the middle, but you’ve got a few people on both ends that seem to be getting a lot of the media attention.

Cooper: Well I don’t know how many people we’ve got in the middle. That’s one of the things that concerns me. It seems to me particularly in the environmental community, I sense that the environmental community is pretty strongly anti-forestry, but that’s not the proper way to phrase it. There’s a pretty strong opposition to forestry among lots of members of the environmental community.

How that came about, I think it goes back to the 60’s and 70’s when for whatever reason foresters did not become part of the environmental side during the environmental movement. Foresters ended up apart from the mainstream environmentalists. Foresters of course could see themselves as being environmentalists and good solid resource managers, but the environmental community’s emphasis on resource protection as opposed to resource use caused the two sides to drift slowly apart.

Now unfortunately there’s so much politics involved that one of the ways the environmental community manages to keep itself viable is by beating on forestry. There’s no particular advantage to resolving any of the difficulties with forestry. As long as you keep forestry as a strong ____, you can use them for your own purposes. I hasten to say that there’s some people in the forestry community that treat the environmentalists the same way.

Warren: Well one of the sentiments at NCFA that one of the speakers made was no more appeasement, we’ve given too much and the more we give, the more they want. Is this true to some degree do you think?

Cooper: I think to an extent that is true, yeah., but there’s a difference between appeasement and trying to sit down and reason together and try to isolate those issues that truly divide you. There’s a lot of difference between that and just giving in.

Warren: It seems to me like these groups have really more in common than they do…so is it a matter of just building trust and getting them around the table?

Cooper: I think to a large extent the differences can be resolved because after all the interests of foresters are largely served by the same sorts of goals that the environmental community is looking toward. There are some that separate us like there’s probably always be a separation over the extent of which resources should be preserved as opposed to being used, the difference between preservation and conservation. But again that’s something that you can talk out on a case by case basis it seems to me.

Warren: There’s still a lot of things that need to be resolved between these two groups. What are some of the other major issues facing North Carolina forestry today?

Cooper: Well probably one of the most serious problems is urbanization. Although the amount of forest land in the state is, quoting the most recent statistics, remaining roughly stable. That stability is achieved as a result of reforestation, either natural or artificial reforestation of abandoned agricultural land and the balance between that and the loss of forest land due to the construction of housing developments and urban facilities.

A lot of the forest that is developed as a result of reforestation is plantation forestry. Although plantation forests are certainly forests, in a lot of people’s eyes they don’t take the place of natural forests. It’s natural forests that tend to be lost to urbanization.

Warren: Tell us the difference between plantation forest and a natural forest.

Cooper: Plantation forest, the trees are planted by man. Natural forests they regenerated naturally. Plantation forest has the appearance of a tended crop although as it matures it can take on the appearance of a natural stand. It has an ordered, regular appearance and generally isn’t quite as rich in species number, isn’t as rich in wildlife as natural forests are. Now those are gross generalizations of course. They don’t always hold true.

Warren: Have regulations changed or increase a lot since you first became in forestry as to what people could or could not do out in the woods?

Cooper: Well they’ve changed some, yeah. We here in North Carolina don’t have a whole lot of regulations relating to forestry. We don’t have, as far as practices act, the same way that some states, California, Maine, for example have pretty complicated pieces of forest regulatory legislation. We do not and the forestry community has resisted that strenuously. Constraints on cutting close to streams, felling slash and stream beds, protection of control of erosion, control of water pollution – all of those are new constraints on forestry that have come in over the last 25 years.

Warren: So that’s really all evolved since when you were head of the department.

Cooper: When I worked downtown in what was then natural and economic resources, we were developing some of the first of those regulations.

Warren: Oh really, back in the mid-70s. Gosh, I can imagine going from zero regulations to any regulations must have been a fairly big shock to some people that were growing timber. When you were with the department, our sense then at the university, what kind of reactions would you get from folks…I can imagine…what kind of reactions did you get from somebody who had been growing trees freely all their life and now you tell them they have to do this or that?

Cooper: The reactions were warm, and not warm because they were friendly (laughter). Generally speaking, the regulations were not greeted very positively. I think as foresters began to incorporate them and they realized they were not going to shut down the woods and that they could accommodate these regulations in most cases either with better planning or with limited modification of cutting practices. I think most foresters have come to accept them. They certainly accept that you don’t cut right along the edge of a stream, that you don’t fell slash into a stream and that you don’t drive up and down a stream pulling out logs.

Warren: Now these regulations, they came about during your time with the state, your five years you were with the state.

Cooper: The first of them did.

Warren: How did they enforce them?

Cooper: Well some of them were not enforced. The development of the state’s enforcement program and all of its regulatory areas, not just forestry but in all the other areas that it regulates, has been very slow and painful.

Warren: Down in our neck of the woods if you go to a place called Crusoe Island and you’ve got a government plate on your car, you need to let them know that you’re coming first. It doesn’t have anything to do with forestry. It has to do with other things in the woods. Do you ever hear of any state folks getting chased off property or anything like that? Somebody that’s really resistant.

Cooper: No, not in conjunction with forestry, no. I can recall some situations associated with Coastal Management where inspectors we had were prohibited from entering property. They went back to the sheriff.

Warren: One way to enforce it would be get local law enforcement involved. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing North Carolina forestry today?

Cooper: Probably maintaining the forestry business in a position where it can continue to or we can continue to practice forestry in this state and continue to utilize state’s forests as a principal major resource. In other words, the necessity to maintain strong enough degree of public acceptance so that forestry remains an important element of the state’s economy.

Warren: Have you been a member or associated with the North Carolina Forest Association during your career?

Cooper: Yeah, I’m a member now. I’m on the environment management committee.

Warren: What’s their role in state forestry?

Cooper: Well they’re the spokespersons for forestry in the state of North Carolina right now. There really is no other group. The Society for American Foresters of course has a presence in North Carolina. There’s a North Carolina division and I think there are like 12 or 13 chapters in the state, but the society of American Foresters is more of a professional organization. It has never had anywhere near the degree of political influence that the Forestry Association does.

Warren: They’re very good representatives for the forestry industry?

Cooper: Yes, they’re very effective representatives of forestry. I think they tend to represent those portions of forestry that are so more strongly associated with the business side of forestry, but they do a good job of representing professionalism and forestry programs generally.

Warren: I asked the question the biggest challenge. Some of the really, really old-timers in their 80’s and 90’s, some of those folks respond our biggest challenge is education, that is educating the public. How would you respond to that?

Cooper: Well I think that’s part of what I was driving at when I said that forestry has to maintain a position where it has a degree of acceptance to continue practicing forestry. Education is part of that, no question about it. In addition to that, it’s a question of continually modifying and updating practices so that there can never be any question about the wisdom of what you’re doing and the soundness from an ecological perspective of the way you’re carrying out your practices.

Warren: Does the average person really understands how much wood is in there daily life?

Cooper: No, no way. I don’t know where they think it comes from, but I don’t think the average person has any sense of where those trees go when they’re cut.

Warren: Now when you were department head here, was the department involved in any kind of environmental controversy being one of the well known schools of forestry and all and all the environmental movements? You never had any people marching up and down the street?

Cooper: No, not as a department. Individual members of the department were involved in a whole variety of activities, but not as a department, no.

Warren: What kind of activities were some of those folks involved in?

Cooper: I was a member of the, a chairman in the Committee of Scientists who worked with the forest service to develop the first set of planning regulations for implementing the National Forest Management Act.

Warren: When did that come about?

Cooper: That was the late 1970’s, 77-79.

Warren: And what was the gist of it?

Cooper: Well the National Forest Management Act was passed in an attempt to deal with the issues that the Monongahela lift case raised and the act required that these issues be placed or dealt with through the development of forest plans. The forest service had no planning strategy at that time and the Committee of Scientists was commissioned to call for the legislation. It was commissioned to help the forest service develop those planning regulations.

Warren: What was that? The Monongahela? You wouldn’t know how to spell that?

Cooper: M-o-n-o-n-g-a-h-e-l-a. Well that was basically a case of the rows over clear-cut. It was a case brought against the forest service by the Izaak Walton League. They sued the forest service on the grounds that clear cutting violated the then forest service _____ which it clearly did and the courts stopped the forest service from clear cutting.

Warren: Where was this located?

Cooper: West Virginia. The prohibition against clear cutting was in the 4th, no 5th circuit, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and it was subsequently extended to one other circuit and it could have been extended nationally with no difficulty. So the forest service had a real problem on their hands.

Warren: Let me wind things up here. We have a little more time left on tape, but we won’t take it to the end. Let me go to your dates again. You were the head of the department here from 1978 until…

Cooper: Late 1979 until mid 1994.

Warren: And in 1994, you went back to teaching?

Cooper: Right.

Warren: Do you continue to teach now? I know you have an office here.

Cooper: No, I’m retired. I give guest lectures. I’m not responsible for teaching a complete course.

Warren: When did you retire?

Cooper: February 2001.

Warren: So you just have retired here. Is there anything that you would like to add, anything we’ve missed or anything you’d like to say?

Cooper: No, except that I always thoroughly enjoyed my association with the college and the department and I consider it a privilege to have worked here. All the people I worked for were great people and all the people I worked with were great people. That’s not to say we didn't have our differences over some things, but at the end of the day we all parted friends.

Warren: This was a place, this department is a place that could entertain a lot of different ideas and a lot of different people.

Cooper: Yeah, we had people with a whole variety of backgrounds, that’s right. Only about half of us had degrees in forestry. So we had people from all different sorts of backgrounds.

Warren: I know I’m getting into my time here, but just real quickly, what were some of the backgrounds that were in place?

Cooper: I was an ecologist. We had a fellow named Tom Perry who was a tree physiologist. Chuck Davey was a soil scientist. We had a fellow who was our first computer guru, knew nothing at all about forestry. He came in because of his background in computers. We had at least one man who was a statistician. I’d say 40% to 50% of the faculty were not trained directly in forestry schools as undergraduates. Now some of them had gone into forestry as graduate students, but we had a great variety of outlooks in the department.

Warren: Do you remember when computers first made their appearance in forestry?

Cooper: About the mid-1970’s, no wait a minute, the early 1970’s. That was way back when you had the card driven computers and I can remember when I was department head in the early 1980’s, I had to surplus the card printer, the card puncher machine because it was not being used anymore. Desktop computers didn't come in until the early 1980’s. I can remember a time when we only had two of them in the department. By the late 80’s everybody had one.

We even had a rudimentary email system in the middle 1980’s that connected all of the computers in the department, they were hard-wired connected with a telephone wire. I actually strung about a third of the cable myself on weekends (laughter).

Warren: I would say also in finding folks to interview, everybody kept telling me I needed to interview Art Cooper and I really do appreciate your taking the time.

Cooper: I enjoyed the chance to do it, Harry.

Warren: Thank you very much for the time Art and I hope you’ll come see us at the forestry museum real soon.

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