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for people who care about the West

The story of Hig and Big Guy


Regarding Anna V. Smith’s recent story about Oregon’s Valley of the Giants (“Growing pains,” HCN, 3/6/17), long, long ago my boss, Guy Higginson, supervised a group of BLM foresters. I was one of them. The Bureau of Land Management back in the 1970s was a timber-producing machine, and we O&C foresters pulled the levers. In those days, our axes could point at a patch of timber and off it went to the mill. But not the 51 acres in the Valley of the Giants. Guy (known as “Hig”) was friends with a barber in Salem, Oregon, an aficionado of big trees. The barber discovered that the largest Doug fir in Oregon stood tall in this valley, and he and Hig initiated a two-man effort to keep timber beasts out. The tree, “Big Guy,” was written up in the paper. It was listed in books about giant trees. It was famous. Hig, leader of the foresters, stretched out his arms and told us beasts to stay back, so we did. A few years passed and we promoted the place a bit; it’s not easy to find. Then three of us hacked a trail right up to Big Guy and posted a sign by the road — “Trail to Big Guy.” A few people visited. It’s of minor ecological value; an island in a landscape of private second- and third-growth timber.

More years passed, and the BLM turned a little “green” — even O&C foresters did. Somewhere along the line, Valley of the Giants was designated an “outstanding natural area.” It didn’t need Hig to watch over it anymore. Ancient Big Guy toppled in a 1981 winter storm. My boss and friend fell, too, some 24 years later. Those of us who care know that protection of special places in the West is often initiated by one or two people who take action, be it from within the agency or without. Thanks for the memories.

Pete Schay
Bureau of Land Management, retired
Camp Sherman, Oregon