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John McGuire, 85; Forest Service Chief Revised Timber Rules

April 19, 2002|ADAM BERNSTEIN | WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON -- John McGuire, an economist who implemented controversial lumber policy issues of the 1970s as chief of the U.S. Forest Service, died April 6 at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Md. He was 85 and had brain cancer and emphysema.

McGuire--tall, taciturn, rarely without his pipe--was a career Forest Service employee. Beginning in forest research, he gained a reputation as an expert manager and took over as chief in 1972. He retired in 1979 as protector of nearly 190 million acres of public land.

One of the most important issues of his day was clear-cutting. He had to balance the needs of the lumber industry, the concerns of environmentalists and the average citizen who might be shocked by the aesthetic result of the cutting.

Upon becoming chief, McGuire added guidance that affected the size of tree-cutting on some land. His plans also considered the effects on soil, water, fish and wildlife.

He was instrumental in formulating and implementing the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, a master plan to manage the supply of and demand for resources on private and public forest land.

McGuire played a large role in drafting the National Forest Management Act of 1976. The act was passed in response to a court decision prohibiting the cutting of trees that were not mature or "large growth," meaning big for their species. The 1976 act offered a comprehensive management review of land supervised by the Forest Service. It also repealed the 19th century law at the root of the court case.

In a contentious move in 1979, President Jimmy Carter ordered McGuire to temporarily increase the amount of timber sold from national forests by 1 billion board feet per year. The president sold the decision as a way to reduce housing costs and inflation.

"At some point in the future, we would have to cut less," McGuire said. "Then we could go back to a sustainable yield. It's a balancing act."

The concerns were not always so weighty. During Christmas 1975, a reporter noticed an artificial tree in McGuire's Agriculture Department office. A spate of news stories followed.

As it turned out, McGuire was on vacation and his secretary thought his office needed a holiday touch. She brought the fake tree from her home. When McGuire returned, he laughed off the situation and proudly told his secretary that she did a nice job of managing the press.

John Richard McGuire was a Milwaukee native and a forestry graduate of the University of Minnesota. He received a master's degree in forestry from Yale University and a master's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. During World War II, he served in the Army Corps of Engineers in the Pacific theater.

In the 1950s and '60s, he was chief economist and then director of the Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station in Berkeley. He was a prime contributor to "Timber Resources for America's Future," an agency survey.

He came to the Washington area in 1967 as a top assistant to his predecessor, Edward Cliff. He received the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Service.

Survivors include his wife, Marjory Graff McGuire, whom he married in 1945, of Gaithersburg; a daughter, Joan McGuire of Raleigh, N.C.; a brother; and a sister.

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