Richard W. Behan worked for 6 years as
forester in Alaska for the US Forest Service, laying out some of the
clearcuts on the planet (soon surpassed, however, by Mac Blo in BC).
Eventually disenchanted, he accepted an invitation to join the forestry
the University of Montana in 1963. Richard then took a leave of absence to earn a
at the University of California (in natural resource policy), where
Ronald Reagan did him two signal honors: his helicopters teargassed him and his companions for protesting the Vietnam War at the Oakland Draft Board, and
several years later he affixed his signature to his doctoral degree.
His relationship with Reagan matured over the years, particularly after he was
President and ushered in the neoliberal, anti-government, "free market"
fundamentalism that poisons US domestic and foreign policy to this day.
Behen spent his professional life disagreeing as vehemently as possible, in
research and writing, in his teaching, and certainly in political
He joined the faculty of the School of Forestry at Northern
University in 1975 and in 1979 was appointed Dean of the School. That
interlude took him often to Washington D.C. to do battle directly with
his natural resource agencies - and to lobby, of course, for fatter
appropriations for the MacIntire-Stennis Forestry Research program.
He then stepped down as Dean (or perhaps back up - to the teaching faculty) in
retired to Lopez Island in 1993. With the aid of a skilled wife
the radial arm saw and a plucky granddaughter picking up wood scraps, he built a
Behen wrote a book for Island Press, Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands, published in 2001. It was a final report that he felt compelled
to write, expressing gratitude for having been paid to read, think, talk, and
A tenured full professorship at a small western university in an
attractive biophysical setting is difficult to match, impossible to
He marched in the Battle of Seattle in 1999 and made a conscious
choice to broaden his area of inquiry and writing. The natural resource and
public land use issues seemed adequately addressed by lots of bright people, in
whose hands he chose to leave them. Richard has now begun another book on the systemic
failures of US political and market systems, but when George Bush was "elected" it was put aside for a new compulsion arose: to focus his efforts on the
insanity this man has unleashed, and add them to the desperately needed
groundswell of opposition.