Henry James Vaux, an innovator of forestry policy and UC Berkeley professor emeritus, dies at 88

January 03, 2001
02 Jan 2001

By Catherine Zandonella, Media Relations

Berkeley - Henry James Vaux, Sr., a professor emeritus of forestry at the University of California, Berkeley, and former chairman of California's Board of Forestry, died on Dec. 22 in Berkeley after a brief illness. He was 88.

Vaux was best known for his contributions to the field of forest economics and forest policy. His research in forestry formed the basis for the development of modern forest practices and his leadership was pivotal to the evolution of forest policy in California. Over his 45-year career as a forestry economist, Vaux emphasized the need for forestry practitioners to be accountable to the public and for forest management decisions to be based on strong scientific and professional principles.

"Henry James Vaux was one of the most innovative people in the forest policy arena," said Richard B. Standiford, associate dean for forestry in UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources. "He was one of the giants in forestry in California."

Vaux's views were frequently sought by legislators and policy makers and he played a significant role in the development of California's forestry laws during the 1960s and 1970s. These laws included a forest practices act, which created for the state a public trust responsibility to protect environmental attributes such as soil and water on forested lands. He also played a key role in a forest tax reform act which eliminated tax incentives to harvest timber prematurely, and a forest improvement act which created a fiscal partnership between the state and private forest landowners aimed at improving forest management on private land.

In 1976, then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Vaux chairman of the state Board of Forestry, which carried both policy and regulatory responsibilities. He was subsequently appointed for a second term and served in the position until 1983. Vaux's service as chairman was noteworthy for reinvigorating the board's policy-making role. Policies to strengthen the forestry profession, to improve forest management practices, to improve forest taxation and to improve forest resource planning were developed under his leadership.

Throughout his career Vaux received many professional honors. Among them were the Gifford Pinchot Medal awarded by the Society of American Foresters and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Forestry Association. He was also a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. UC Berkeley awarded him the Berkeley Citation upon his retirement, and the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources established the Henry Vaux Forestry Education Center at Blodgett Forest near Auburn. The Center was dedicated in his honor in 1999.

Last fall the College of Natural Resources announced the establishment of the Henry Vaux Distinguished Professorship in Forest Policy. Funds for the professorship were raised through gifts from several hundred of Vaux's colleagues, friends, former students, and family members.

Vaux was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., in 1912. He graduated with a BS in physics from Haverford College in 1933 and earned his MS in forestry at UC Berkeley in 1935. He acquired extensive practical experience by working as a forest engineer for the Crown Willamett Paper Co. in Portland, Oregon, as a forest economist at the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station and as an instructor at Oregon State College (now University) in Corvallis.

He also worked as an economist with the U.S. Forest Service and spent three years on active duty with the U.S. Navy Reserve in Washington, D.C., during World War II. He completed his PhD in agricultural economics from UC Berkeley in 1948 and joined the UC Berkeley faculty the same year. In 1955 he was appointed dean of the School of Forestry and for a decade guided the school through a period of rapid growth. While serving as dean he proposed the formation of the Wildland Research Center (now the Wildland Resource Center) dedicated to research in wildland ecology and management. He retired from UC Berkeley in 1978 but continued to be active in research and teaching.

In the last 25 years of his life, Vaux spent much of his time establishing a family home in the Alexander Valley, a wine-growing region in Sonoma County. He was known to many of his friends and colleagues as Hank.

Vaux is survived by his daughter, Alice Vaux Hall of Portland, Oregon; his son, Henry Vaux, Jr. of El Cerrito, Calif.; his daughter-in-law Prindle A. Vaux of El Cerrito, Calif.; and three grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27 at the Men's Faculty Club at UC Berkeley. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Henry Vaux Distinguished Professorship in Forest Policy, c/o the College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-3100.