Wayne Giesy never backed down from a fight. So it was no surprise to anyone that, when he broke his leg this summer on his Philomath-area tree farm, he attacked the challenge of recovery with the determination of a boxer training for a title bout.
For awhile he appeared to be winning that battle, but things took a turn for the worse and Giesy died on July 28. He was 99 years old.
“He fought right up to the end,” said Bob Zybach, Giesy’s longtime friend and collaborator in the Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project, a nonprofit devoted to the idea that timber harvesting and conservation can coexist in Oregon.
Standing up for the importance of active forest management was the big fight of Giesy’s life, and his unwavering sincerity and dogged persistence, coupled with a frank and friendly demeanor, earned him a hefty measure of respect among many of the people engaged in shaping Oregon timber policy — including some who strongly disagreed with his positions.
As Zybach recalled it, “His saying was, ‘The trick is that when you tell somebody to go to hell, it’s in a way that they enjoy the journey.’”
Wayne Giesy was born on March 14, 1920, in Aurora, where his grandfather had been the Aurora Colony’s first physician. After a series of moves, the family settled on a farm near Amity.
Growing up during the Depression, Giesy started working early, cutting and selling firewood when he was still in elementary school to supplement the family budget. He got his first taste of logging at the age of 13, when he helped his grandfather fell a big cedar using a springboard and a crosscut saw.
He attended Amity High School, lettering in football, baseball and basketball and leading the basketball team to a championship in the B Division and a second-place finish in the A Division in 1938.
After graduation he went to work in a local feed store until World War II interrupted his career. Giesy enlisted in the Army in 1943, training as a combat engineer and mustering out in 1946 with the rank of second lieutenant.
In 1947, Giesy moved to Monroe to run the feed store there and began a long friendship with Ralph Hull, owner of the Hull-Oakes Lumber Co. Hull was deeply concerned with timber policy in Oregon, and in time Giesy would become the company’s representative on policy issues.
From 1955 to 1957, Giesy served as Benton County’s representative in the Oregon House, where he advocated for better management of state forests and improvements in wildland fire protection.
In 1977 he started his own gyppo logging outfit, but after getting hurt in a logging accident in 1983, he took a job as sales manager for Hull-Oakes Lumber. Giesy eventually became a partner in the business, and although he officially retired in 1995 at the age of 75, he stayed on as a consultant, serving as the company’s voice with timber industry organizations and state agencies.
In the early 1980s, looking for a way to balance the timber industry’s needs with the growing power of the environmental movement, Giesy came up with a proposal to set aside 40 percent of public forests for conservation, 10 percent for streams and fish and the remaining 50 percent for timber production.
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For the rest of his life, he tirelessly promoted the “Giesy Plan” to anyone who would listen, bending the ears of politicians from Salem to Washington, D.C. Whether they agreed with him or not, they all heard him out — he was so persistent it was almost unavoidable.
“He was on a first-name basis with our state legislators and congressional delegation, from both parties — he really wanted to make sure they understood forestry,” said Mike Cloughesy, director of forestry with the Oregon Forest Resources Institute.
“It was a very human approach, and he was a very likable guy.”
He also was well known to faculty and administrators of the Oregon State University College of Forestry, where a scholarship exists in his honor.
After the OSU College of Forestry emerged as a leading candidate to take over management of the Elliott State Forest, Giesy mounted a campaign to persuade university leaders to adopt his plan. Shortly before his death, he was making arrangements to take OSU President Ed Ray on a forestry tour.
“Oregon has lost a great friend, and I will miss Wayne personally,” Ray said.
“Wayne was a passionate advocate for responsible forest management. I got to know him over the years, especially from discussions at College of Forestry Educators’ Day meetings, where he always tried to keep people talking to find common ground on important issues.”
Todd Nystrom, Ralph Hull’s grandson and the current owner of Hull-Oakes Lumber, said Giesy never got discouraged, even as public opinion tilted in favor of environmental protection and against the timber industry.
His support for what he called responsible forest management never wavered, even in the face of strong opposition, and that helped “keep the discussion alive,” Nystrom said.
“He had strong opinions, but he didn’t make his point by putting anybody down,” he said.
“A lot of people are kind of scared to say things, but Wayne was never scared. He was never afraid to say what he thought,” Nystrom added.
“He’s definitely going to be missed.”
Giesy served on the board of the Oregon Forest Industries Council and was an honorary member of the Oregon Society of American Foresters. In 1996 he was recognized as Lumberman of the Year by the Portland Wholesale Lumber Association, and in 1999 he was honored by the Benton County Historic Resources Commission for his role in getting the Hull-Oakes mill listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Giesy is survived by his wife of 63 years, Betty Jo; three children; six grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. No local services are planned.