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Inventory of the R. Max Peterson Papers, 1970 - 1990

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Descriptive Summary

Abstract: Civil engineer R. Max Peterson (born 1927) became the first non-forester to be named chief of the United States Forest Service. He served in this capacity from 1979 to 1987.
The collection includes materials pertaining chiefly to Peterson's career as Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Materials include daily planners, budget records, copies of testimony before Congress (concerning proposed laws affecting the management of forest resources), copies of speeches delivered by Peterson at various organizational gatherings, copies of U.S. Forest Service news releases, and miscellaneous reports, correspondence, and memos. Also includes nine photographs of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Tree Planting Ceremony held in January 1984.
Title: R. Max Peterson Papers, 1970 - 1990
Creator: Peterson, R. Max
Repository: Forest History Society Library and Archives
Call Number: 3937
Language of Material: Material in English
Extent: 1.5 linear feet
(1 record carton)

Biographical Note

Civil engineer R. Max Peterson (born 1927) became the first non-forester to be named chief of the United States Forest Service. He served in this capacity from 1979 to 1987.

Ralph Max Peterson was born and raised in Doniphan, Missouri. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri in 1949 and received a Master of Science degree in Public Administration from Harvard University in 1959 as a result winning a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship.

Peterson began his career with the U.S. Forest Service in 1949 as an engineer assigned to work in the national forests of California. He completed watershed management and fire control assignments in California until 1959, when he transferred to the Northern Regional Office of the Forest Service in Missoula, Monatana. In 1961, Peterson moved to Washington, D.C. to work with the U.S. Forest Service's Engineering and Administrative staffs. In 1966, he moved back west to become a regional engineer for the U.S. Forest Service in California. In this post, he developed a number of innovative engineering approaches for building roads, bridges, and recreation areas. In 1971, he was selected as deputy regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service in Atlanta, Georgia, and one year later he became regional forester for forest programs in thirteen southern states. In 1974, he accepted the position of deputy chief of U.S. Forest Service for Programs and Legislation.

In 1979, Peterson was appointed by President Carter as chief of the U.S. Forest Service, a position he held until his retirement in February of 1987. While chief of the Forest Service, Peterson achieved agreements with Canada and Mexico to facilitate improved North American cooperation in numerous forestry programs.

Source: Stroud, Richard H., ed. National Leaders of American Conservation. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985, pp. 301-302.


Collection Overview

The collection includes materials pertaining chiefly to Peterson's career as Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Materials include daily planners, budget records, copies of testimony before Congress (concerning proposed laws affecting the management of forest resources), copies of speeches delivered by Peterson at various organizational gatherings, copies of U.S. Forest Service news releases, and miscellaneous reports, correspondence, and memos. Also includes nine photographs of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Tree Planting Ceremony held in January 1984.

Collection Arrangement

1. Files and Loose Materials, 1970-1990



Subject Headings

  • Foresters -- United States
  • Forests and forestry -- United States
  • Forestry law and legislation -- United States
  • Government executives -- United States
  • Kaibab National Forest (Agency : U.S.)
  • King, Coretta Scott, 1927-2006
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
  • Lumber trade -- United States
  • Peterson, R. Max
  • Steen, Harold K.
  • United States. Bureau of Land Management
  • United States. Forest Service

Separated Material

One photographic negative (subject unknown) and nine 8" x 10" photographs of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Tree Planting Ceremony held in January 1984 were removed from these papers during processing and placed in the biographical file labled "Peterson, Max" in the Forest History Society Photographic Collection.

Detailed Description of the Collection

1. Files and Loose Materials, 1970-1990.

Box 1
Stenographer's Notepads, 1979-1987
Includes seven notepads containing personal agenda notes.
Box 1
Daily Planners, 1974-1988
Box 1
Pocket-Sized Address/Telephone Directories, 1980-1981
Box 1
George A. Craig. The Spotted Owl and Wise Forest Use. Sacramento: Artprint Press, 1986.
Work was commissioned by the Western Timber Association.
Box 1
R. Max Peterson Files
   Folder 1
Budget Records, Fiscal Years 1980-1983
   Folder 2
Forest Service 75th Anniversary, 1980
   Folder 3
News Releases, 1983
   Folder 4
Peterson's Speeches, 1983
   Folder 5
Testimony, 1983
   Folder 6
Federal Timber Contract Payment Modification Act, 1984
   Folder 7
RPA Report, 1985
   Folder 8
Federal Executive Development Seminar, 1986
   Folder 9-12
Miscellaneous, 1970-1986 and undated
   Folder 13
Pete Steen's History Project, 1979-1990
   Folder 14
Iconographic Materials, 1984 and undated
Box 1
Noteboooks and Reports
Brown Notebook: Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
Contains memos, maps, and pamphlets pertaining to an April 1985 tour Peterson took of the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. Also contains information about the endangered and threatened fish and wildlife of Arizona forests and rangelands.
Booklet: "Legislative Environmental Impact Statement," February 1986
Concerns land management interchange between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Black Notebook: Land Transfer and Land Management
Includes miscellaneous information about proposed transfer of land between the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. Includes reports, maps, memos, and historical background information. Concerns the land management of areas in western states only.
Blue Notebook: Operation Delta Nine
Includes briefing book on Operation Delta Nine, a 50-state cannabis (marijuana) eradication effort planned for August 5-7, 1985. Government agencies involved: the Justice Department's DEA, the FBI, the National Guard Bureau, the U.S. Forest Service, and land management agencies of the Department of the Interior. The Forest Service's involvement was necessary because many marijuana fields were known to be cultivated in our national forests.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright Notice

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The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], R. Max Peterson Papers, Library and Archives, Forest History Society, Durham, NC, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Received from Max Peterson in August 1991.

Processing Information

Processed by Michele Justice, October 1991

Encoded by Amanda Ross, January 2009

Funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission supported the encoding of this finding aid. Support for digitization and outreach provided by the Alvin J. Huss Endowment.