A tribute to a really good guy, Truman Puchbauer

This week I want share with you a story about a Kingman resident who I’ve known for a long time that I highly respect and unfortunately is moving.

His name is Truman Puchbauer and he has lived in Kingman for about 24 years.

Truman is 85 years old, though you probably wouldn’t know it from looking at him.

I met this kind, soft-spoken gentleman many years ago when we were both appointed to the Mohave County Public Lands Use Committee that was formed by then-Mohave County Supervisor Sam Standefer.

Truman was appointed as chairman of the Forestry Subcommittee while I was appointed as chairman of the Wilderness, Wildlife and Endangered Species Subcommittee.

I thought it kind of odd at the time that we had a forestry subcommittee, as we really don’t have a lot of forest in Mohave County. There is some on the Arizona Strip in game management Unit 13B, and some in Unit 13A.

But to me and others on various subcommittees in MCPLUC, including Anita Waite and Ken McReynolds, who also had the opportunity to work with Truman, it was obvious that we had a man with a wealth of knowledge about forestry in our midst.

I learned a lot about forest management from going on field trips to northern Arizona, and even to Unit 10 in Pine Canyon, than I could have learned by going to school.

Truman is a teacher, a man with much knowledge of Ponderosa Pine forests and forest management. I truly enjoyed the time we spent together on field trips and in meetings.

In a few weeks Truman is moving to Reno to be closer to his family. The loss of him to the Kingman community, including his church, is going to be tough.

Let me give you a little background on this man.

Truman started off his forestry career in 1952 serving as a summer intern in Oregon while attending the University of Missouri in Columbia where he was in enrolled in its forest management program.

In 1956 Truman received a master’s degree, not in forestry, but in wildlife management. His master’s thesis was to develop a timber management plan for the Mingo Duck and Goose Federal Wildlife Preserve in southern Missouri.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army and after his service was over in 1958, Truman who was now married and a father, went back to work for the U.S. Forest Service. He was assigned to the Rogue River National Forest in Oregon.

Truman rose through the ranks and in 1968 was assigned as District Ranger at Umpqua National Forest.

In 1972 Truman was assigned as the District Ranger for the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Union, Oregon.

Truman was drafted into the U.S. Army and went to Ft. Lewis, Washington for basic training, and then on to Ft. Gordon, Georgia where he was assigned to the Signal Corps. Truman was trained to be message center operator, but did so well that he was ultimately assigned as an instructor at that base.

After his service was over in 1958, Truman who was now married and a father, went back to work for the U.S. Forest Service. He was assigned to the Rogue River National Forest in Oregon.

Truman rose through the ranks and in 1968 was assigned as District Ranger at Umpqua National Forest.

In 1972 Truman was assigned as the District Ranger for the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Union, Oregon.

In 1980, Truman became the Timber Staff officer for the Boise National Forest in Boise, Idaho. It was a position he would stay in until 1993. Truman noted that at that time there were a lot of elected officials who lived in Boise and that “At times there were a lot of politics involved with the forestry programs.”

Truman was going to retire in 1993 but a huge wildfire started on BLM controlled lands in Idaho that spread to the national forest. When it was over, Truman oversaw the removal of over 400 million board feet of lumber from the forest, much of it burnt but salvaged timber.

Truman did retire in 1994 after 36 years of federal service.

He and Karen moved to Kingman in 1994.

When working with Truman on MCPLUC, which he eventually became chairman of, I was impressed as he reported to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors on projects that were then considered “experimental” at that time. Under the auspices of Wally Covington, who was highly respected as a forester at Northern Arizona University, new ideas on forest management were being implemented in certain areas of Mohave County, including the Mt. Trumbull area in Unit 13A.

Many embraced the ideas of Covington on forest health and management practices. Some forest managers believed that Covington was thinking “outside the box” on forest health and Ponderosa Pine management in northern Arizona. The results of some of those ideas are still visible on the forest even today.

Truman stayed involved with forestry and was a member of the Society of American Foresters. He attended many meetings of the group in Flagstaff. NAU did and still does have a recognized forestry program at that school.

According to Truman, due to politics and what he calls the infiltration of the green groups into forest management positions, current management practices are not what it used to be or where he thinks it ought to be.

Truman lamented on how the forests of the West aren’t thinned like they should be, nor is timber being utilized like he thinks it should.

“We’ve become a society that builds houses out of plastic, and not wood like they used to be,” he said.

I remember hearing Truman say that the BLM and U.S. Forest Service needed to re-think their ideas of doing prescribed burns on hundreds of acres.

“They should be thinking of ways to do thousands of acres if they want to make a difference on the landscape,” he said.

Truman noted that much of our national forests in the West are in danger of burning.

The old forester said the reasons are many for the decline of our forest health in the West. He identified drought, insect and disease, and the lack of thinning as issues that have set up our western forests for destruction by stand replacement fires.

Truman noted the political climate within the U.S. Forest Service has made managing the forest health almost nonexistent.

He cites the many conflicting environmental laws that are administered by the federal agencies as one of the reasons why the U.S. Forest Service has been unable to address forest health in a meaningful way.

It is a shame that many of the “old guard,” men like Truman with years and years of experience and knowledge aren’t being utilized to help solve the forest health problems in the West.

His vast knowledge and wealth of information makes him an expert in my opinion on forest health and management.

A good man, a good friend and a fine citizen. Truman Puchbauer will be missed.