In Memoriam – Doug Leisz – 1926 – 2024

Doug Leisz passed away April 20th at home in Placerville, surrounded by family. Doug was one of the great Regional Foresters in the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service and a true visionary leader. He personally mentored hundreds of foresters and Forest Service employees. He retired as Associate Chief of the Forest Service in 1982, after serving alongside of Forest Service Chiefs Max Peterson and F. Dale Robertson. Doug had an uncanny way with people, getting them to see the Forest Service side of highly controversial issues.

Doug was born in Oakland in 1926 and attended Oakland High School. Upon graduation, he attended UC Berkeley, intending to major in engineering. But as World War II began, he decided to join the Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, hoping for an officer’s commission in the Navy or Merchant Marine. He was field promoted to a third officer in the Merchant Marines, and stayed in the service until the war ended. It was during his time at sea that Doug decided a desk job was not what he wanted and decided to look into forestry when he returned to Berkeley. His first job with the Forest Service was in 1948, working a summer for the Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine doing surveys in Northern California and Oregon. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1950. It was the same year that he and Marian were married.

His career in the Forest Service, after graduation, began as the foreman at the Mt. Shasta nursery, near McCloud. Other positions in the Forest Service over his career included District Ranger, Assistant Regional Forester, Forest Supervisor, Regional Forester, and Associate Chief. Doug retired from the Associate Chief position and (semi)retired to the Placerville area.

Doug was a long-time SAF member, joining in 1953. He was also a Golden Member and an SAF Fellow.

After his retirement, Doug was instrumental in the creation of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees that acted as an advisory group to Forest Service leadership. He served as the organization’s first Chair. He also served on the board of the National Museum of Forest Service History for many years. In 2018, the National Museum of Forest Service History and the National Association of Forest Service Retirees established the Leisz Leadership Award in honor of Doug to recognize those who have made signification contributions to both organizations. The first Award was presented to Doug in 2018.

He and Marian had their own vineyard in Placerville and produced outstanding red wines. They were married for 70 years until Marian’s death in 2020.

Doug was part of California SAF’s oral history project. For insight into Doug’s career and life, in his own words, you can see his oral history here: Oral History Project

Personal note from your website editor – I knew Doug for many years, and remember visiting Doug and Marian at their home in Camino while I worked on the Eldorado National Forest. Doug invited my wife and I (and our kids) to pick empress plums on his property for canning, which we did a few years in a row. Doug was always willing to lend a hand (and a few bottles of wine) for any SAF fundraising effort. I really enjoyed talking forestry and politics with him and will miss him – David Bakke

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