Professor Honored for Outstanding Contributions to California Forestry

October 12, 2009

The California State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection presented the Francis H. Raymond Award for Outstanding Contributions to California Forestry to Dr. William Libby on October 7, 2009.

Dr. Libby is Professor Emeritus of Forest Genetics, having taught forestry at the College of Natural Resources in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management between 1962 and 1994. His pioneering work in the field of forest tree genetics is internationally recognized and respected. Dr. Libby has practiced forestry on several continents and is well known for his work with California’s coast redwood and Monterey pine trees.

Though he officially retired in 1994, Dr. Libby has continued to educate and enlighten across the borders of country and perspective. He currently sits on the Board of the Save the Redwoods League with a focus on promoting research on redwood forest disturbance effects and the impacts of climate change on California’s coast redwood and giant sequoia forests. Dr. Libby’s observations on state and national forest policy are reflective of his insight and intellectual curiosity. His dedication in service to the forests of California and elsewhere is inspirational.

“Dr. Libby’s contributions to decades of forestry students and fellow researchers cannot be
measured,” said George Gentry, executive officer for the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The award is named for Francis H. Raymond who was the Director of the California Department
of Forestry and Fire Protection from 1953 to 1970. Mr. Raymond was one of the primary
advocates for the passage of the Professional Foresters Law in 1973. Since 1987 it has been
awarded to a group or individual who has achieved excellence in forestry in California.

Former Student of Libby's Congratulates Him on Achievements

I am proud of being one of Bill Libby’s graduate students at Berkeley, from 1969 to 1974. Being his graduate student was a great privilege in that I had chance to meet different people from different races, different cultures, different social status, different academic backgrounds and different disciplines (both forestry and genetics). Such a great diversity that I found in Berkeley profoundly enriched both my personal and professional life in the years that followed.

Even as early as the1970’s, Bill had vision to give us (his students and colleagues) the global perspectives of forestry, both in time and space dimensions. The time dimension started through constantly changing genetic architecture of plants (including forest trees) by domestication processes as early as the Stone Age. It continued into the future by conservation activities of germ-plasms. The space dimension of his perspectives started from California through breeding and conservation activities and extended all over the globe, as far as Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the Mediterranean countries.

In 2006, we had an IUFRO Conference in Antalya-Turkey, on the breeding and genetic conservation of forest trees, when I acted as the chair of local organizing committee and also served in the steering committee of the conference. The steering committee (which consists of 27 members from 17 different countries, lasting from China to Argentina) was seeking nominations for the keynote speech of the conference. We did not have any difficulty in deciding on who the keynote speaker should be, because from among the several names suggested, Bill Libby was unanimously chosen as the first nominee by the committee. The committee members interpreted this as an appreciation of Bill Libby’s contribution to the forest genetic activities and forestry around the world.

The title of Bill’s speech in the congress was “The next 30 years” in forestry around the Earth. His speech was very welcome by the participants, and it was soon translated into Turkish and published in the Journal of Chamber of Turkish Foresters in Ankara (Volume 44: 33-37, 2007) (The proceedings of the conference and the keynote speech by Bill is still available on

Bill has made considerable impacts on the conservation of forest genetic resources, not only in California but around the world; not only on theory but on practice as well. On the occasion of IUFRO Congress in Antalya, for example, he brought with him about 200 grams of giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) seeds, along with appropriate phytosanitary certificate. Bill had to come two days earlier than the conference starts so that we would have time to see the nursery (State-owned Egirdir nursery where the seeds to be grown) and the prospective sites on the Taurus Mountains where the giant sequoia seedlings to be planted. He was so enthusiastic to see about 30 year old giant sequoias growing near the nursery site, and he easily established an effective and lovely communication with the nursery workers as to how to care and grow giant sequoia seedlings. The next day, during his keynote talk on the conference room, Bill presented the package of giant sequoia seeds to the Deputy Undersecretary (Dr. Kucuk) of the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Environment. Dr Kucuk responded with a short speech of acceptance and handed the seed package to me to pursue necessary research on this great species, promising that the Ministry will provide any means to support the research and to grow the trees. By this way, a “human-assisted-migration” of giant sequoia from the Sierra Mountains to the Taurus Mountains was being performed. We now have about 1000 seedlings of giant seqouia in large containers in Egirdir Nursery, about the same elevation of Placerville, Ca.. The seedlings will be planted soon to a well prepared site on the Taurus Mountains to commemorate the forest genetics conference that we had in 2008 in Antalya, hoping to carry the memories millennium years ahead.

Bill has been persistent in his works and has shown extraordinary efforts to follow what he started. For example, just handling the giant sequoia seeds to the authorities was not enough for him to have the job completed. About 6 months after the sequoia seeds were sown in Egirdir nursery, Bill sent us another pack of seeds, this time of a “fellow species of giant sequoia”, incense cedar (Libocedrus decurrens) seeds, with an attached instruction that “the giant sequoias seem to do better in mixed-conifer stands than pure stands... You might want to plant them with some or all of the local conifers... and incense cedar seedlings to be derived from this pack...” This also indicates that Bill has been keen to follow a systems approach in his forestry activities.

I am glad that this prestigious award in 2009 is given to Bill Libby. To me, and I think to many other colleagues around the globe, Bill Libby, with giant sequoia in his one hand and radiata pine in his other hand, is a real Californian; but at the same time he is a real world forester. For that matter, the award given to Bill, I think, is given to a forester who contributed both to California forestry as well as to world forestry.

Oct. 12, 2009
Kani ISIK, PhD.
Professor of Plant Biology and Genetics
Akdeniz University
07058 Antalya