E.O. Siecke

E. O. Siecke: Texas’ Second State Forester (1918-1942)

Eric O. Siecke, a native of Nebraska, was hired as Texas’ second state forester, upon the resignation of J. H. Foster. Siecke, the youngest of seven siblings, was born on August 28, 1882, and raised in Wisner, Nebraska. Like W. Goodrich Jones, Siecke was a first generation American of German immigrant parents. He graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1904 with a bachelor of arts degree and received his bachelor of science degree in forestry one year later. Following two years working with the US Forest Service in Iowa and in Washington, DC, he taught for one year at Washington State College at Pullman before rejoining the USFS in the Pacific Northwest for two more years in 1908. He was hired as an assistant forestry professor at the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) at Corvallis. One year later, Siecke became deputy state forester of Oregon, a position he held from 1911 to 1918. He then accepted the position of state forester in Texas in March, 1918. At thirty-five years of age when he joined TFS, Siecke continues to hold claim to being the youngest state forester in Texas. Unlike He would hold the state forester position for more than 24 years. He was very active in TFA, serving as secretary from 1921 until 1937. In a 1980 interview, D. A. “Andy” Anderson, interim TFS director in 1948 and head of the TFS Information and Education Department in the late 1960s, characterized Director Siecke as…“a straight-shooter. He was German, a strict disciplinarian, and demanded work from his people. He received it. He had, however, respect from all. He would do anything for anybody who worked for him. He had a heart. And, above all, he knew politics and how to get things done.” Siecke provided TFS the leadership the agency needed to help convince the state to increase forestry appropriations and he expanded the forestry programs his predecessor started. The ninth annual report of the Texas Forest Service, written in 1924, stated: “Public ownership should be minimized and private ownership and initiative should be encouraged in the great task relating to the renewal and proper management of forests.” This was the corner stone of TFS policy during Siecke’s administration. Under his guidance, TFS established the first state forests, the first state tree nurseries, coordinated the CCC operations in East Texas, and improved fire protection on private lands, including the first use of fire towers. He also diversified the agency by establishing the Forest Fire Control Department, the Forest Management Department, the Research Department, and the Forest Products Department. He was active in SAF and was named Fellow in 1946, the first Texas forester to receive this recognition. Siecke retired October 10, 1942, and moved to Galveston to care for his ailing wife. He passed on May 15, 1974 at the age of 91. To the very last, Siecke was faithful to the joint mission of TFA and TFS, leaving income from portions of his estate to both. The first state forest in Texas, located near Kirbyville in Newton County, was renamed in his honor in 1951. In September 2002, E. O. Siecke was inducted into the Texas Forestry Hall of Fame. The pioneering work of State Forester Siecke continues through both TFA and TFS, and his legend lives in forestry in Texas.