Contributors are invited to post memoirs, documents and photos relevant to Forest Service Information Management history, and to ask questions to be answered by those who remember.
November 29, 2010 at 1:21 am #116325
I found this one reference to computers in publication FS-650, The USDA Forest Service — The First Century. It is in the chapter covering “The Environmentalism and Public Participation Era, 1970 to 1993.” The section is called, “Internal
Struggles,” and along with the implementation of the DG and a picture of
the R6 Regional Forester, James Torrence, in front of a DG keyboard, it
covers the sex discrimination lawsuit that resulted in the “consent
decree,” downsizing during the 1990’s, a series of “wilderness
acts” in the 1980’s, and the bombings and threats to FS facilities during
the “Sagebrush Rebellion.”
I checked with Office of Communication and they are OK with our posting this excerpt. It seems that this is where our story must begin.
I have reached out to try to find former RF James Torrence and to see if he can provide any recollection of the early days.
November 29, 2010 at 1:35 am #116332
I contacted the FSX Club for Washington, DC, about our project and got the following information from member Don Driscoll:
I claim no background in the subject nor do I even pretend to have even a superficial grounding in the field.
However, I would like to share with you what FS and USDA experience I have had dealing with the subject. I can only deal with those aspects with which I have first hand knowledge.
I started my FS career 54 years ago (Nov. 1956) as an administrative trainee in the Supervisor’s Office of the old St. Joe NF in St. Maries, ID. Some time after that the RO of R-1 had the good fortune of hiring Lyle Boehler from the Fort Harrison Veterans Administration in Helena, MT.
Subsequent to that enlightened move by Region One, I attended a regional meeting in which Lyle and a fellow named Len Butrym, a USDA computer specialist spoke to the attendees about the possibilities that the electronic age had to offer for the FS.
At this juncture let me say that the FS was really fortunate, in my eyes, for bringing Lyle on board, because he not only possesses technical competence but he also brings to the table an exceptionally keen ability in his interactions with people, which I consider important.
The next landmark that sticks out in my mind and this was in the early 1960’s when I was still in R-1, but while I was Administrative Officer on the Helena NF in Montana. At that time, Administrative Management in the WO had the lead role in introducing this technology to the agency. They detailed George Fleming from R-1 and an R-6 management analyst whose last name Taylor to the WO to come up with just how this would play out. Len Lundberg of our FSX club was a branch chief in WO Administrative Management. He would be a wonderful source of info on that initiative.
Following my R-1 tour, in April of 1965 I transferred down to Asheville, NC where I served in the Director’s Office of the SE Station. While there, the only Station entity that even dealt with automation was the Forest Survey unit and they used the National Weather Records center, which was located in Asheville to handle the volumes of data they generated. And probably at that time it was all a punch card operation.
In June of 1966, while still at the Station, I got a new boss, Glenn Haney. He remained there as Asst.
Director for Research Services until June of 1972 when he went out to R-5 as Deputy Regional Forester for Administration.
FYI there was a push by the FS in the late 1960’s to establish a National Finance Office in Fort Collins, CO. That effort would focus basically, I reckon, for handling payment documents, rather than the whole gamut of FS activities that lend themselves to computerization.
During the time Glenn was in that job, the WO must have made a push to move forward to deal with adopting service wide standards, hardware, etc, instead of each FS entity “doing their own thing”. Anyway, in 1976, Glenn moved back to Washington and assumed the role in the Deputy Chief for Administration’s bailiwick as Associate Chief overseeing this function. Looking at the 1977 FS Organizational Directory, it cited a Computer Systems Application Staff headed up by Jim Space, a Computer Technology Staff with Howbert Bonnett as Staff Director and a Data Management Staff with Jon Kennedy in charge. Those units were all located in Rosslyn. Glenn, a professional forester, admitted at the outset to those within his area of responsibility that was not a subject-matter specialist but was put in the job because of his managerial capabilities. It was during this period that Data General was introduced throughout the organization and the rest is history.
In 1982, Glenn moved over to USDA’s Departmental Administration to undertake a new challenge in USDA as Director of the Office of Information Resources Management.lead their computer operations. He had worked for FS since college graduation in 1951. He served at USDA from 1982 to 1990 when he retired. While with USDA, he was widely acclaimed throughout Govt. IT circles, but since your focus is FS IT, I won’t go into that chapter of Information Technology. I worked for him in OIRM from 1984, when I transferred over from the FS, until he retired in 1990. He was without a peer as a boss, who possessed communicative skills, prudent judgment, exceptional integrity and honesty and was truly a coalition builder par excellence.
Those most conversant with the subject of this exercise who immediately come to mind are: Lyle Boehler, Mike Travis (whom I knew from my days at the PSW); Howbert Bonnett who pretty much was involved with FS IT from its genesis; and Glenn Haney, who is an FSX member, though he resides in State College, PA.
February 2, 2011 at 7:55 pm #116328
In February 1992 the FS issues an information management “Framework for the Future.” This was before I came to the FS
(I came in 1998.)
When I came over to FS, Jack Arthur referred to this as the “puzzlehead document,” (because of the picture on the cover.)
I have gotten a PDF copy thanks to John King and Mike Cummings and attached it here. Would be interesting to go back and look at the recommendations and see how relevant they still are today.
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