Ex-LTBMU Forest Service chief Bob Harris killed


By Kathryn Reed

Bob Harris, former forest supervisor of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, has died. He was 72.

“He was quite an environmentalist, but also a professionally knowledgeable land manager. He was able to balance environmental ethics with land and conservation knowledge,” Bill Morgan said of his friend of 47 years.

Harris led the local U.S. Forest Service office from 1988-97. He arrived at a time when the Forest Service Plan was being finalized and left as the Environmental Improvement Program was being launched.

Harris was a key figure in having then President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore visit the basin in what was the inaugural Lake Tahoe Environmental Summit in 1997.

Bob Harris

“One of the legacies of that monumental visit was some funding for the first time by federal sources to invest in the future of Lake Tahoe’s health,” Don Lane, long-time Forest Service employee, told Lake Tahoe News. “The EIP was the legacy of that visit. Bob was very much engaged in facilitating that.”

Harris followed Morgan a bit career-wise. Both were engineers to start with. When Morgan left the Tahoe National Forest, Harris took his engineering job.

Morgan was a supervisor of the LTBMU before Harris. During part of Harris’ tenure Morgan was executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“I think the most outstanding characteristic about him was he was a high-energy guy. He never turned down a request when someone needed something,” Morgan told Lake Tahoe News.

They both also had a profound interest in the Tahoe-Baikal Institute; having traveled together to Russia. It was Harris who recruited Morgan to be on the board of directors.

“He would take young people from the Baikal Institute on long hikes in the mountains and tell them about forest management and the history of Lake Tahoe,” Morgan said.

Harris grew up in Oakland. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in civil engineering.

In the last 1960s he helped design the Taylor Creek Visitors Center, including the stream profile center. He also worked on trails in Desolation and Meiss wilderness areas.

As Harris progressed up the ranks and took over the Lake Tahoe office, his love of the outdoors did not diminish.

“He liked to go in the backcountry a lot. You usually don’t get people who are that physically engaged,” Lane said. He remembers that time fondly – being out with the big boss, sitting around a campfire, sleeping on the hard granite, going over mountains and hiking through meadows.

Lane said it was Harris’ collaborative management style that allowed him to accomplish various tasks with people of differing opinions.

Although Harris retired in 1997, he still visited the local Forest Service office, always with a smile.

“He pushed Forest Service retirees – (saying) don’t just quit, stay involved,” Lane said. “He really pioneered a lot of education and community education programs.”

Harris died from a gunshot wound Jan. 6 at his Pollock Pines home. His 70-year-old wife, Colleen, is accused of murder.

Harris is survived by two sons and a daughter. Funeral services are pending.

 

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Comments (8)
  1. David Kurtzman says - Posted: January 9, 2013

    A real tragedy and loss to the community. Bob was a gentleman and a pleasure to work with in my roll as President of the Tallac Association during the developmental and growth of the Tallac site and the Boathouse Theater. He dealt with issues in a reasonable and balanced manner and as a result of his support as well as the support of so many others we have this outstanding site and facility. Thank you, Bob, for your support and friendship.

  2. Jerry Gause says - Posted: January 9, 2013

    Bob was an all around person. He got things done with a natural smile. He inspired people because he was a great communicator and said the toughest things in a pleasing way. He was a great organizer and thought highly of all those that he met. and worked with, both inside and outside the Forest Service.
    I can still hear his voice,
    Jerry Gause
    Novato, Ca.

  3. Jerry Gause says - Posted: January 9, 2013

    Bob was an all around person. He got things done with a natural smile. He inspired people because he was a great communicator and said the toughest things in a pleasing way. He was a great organizer and thought highly of ell those he met and worked with, both inside and outside the Forest Service.
    I can still hear his voice.

    Jerry Gause
    Novato, Ca.

  4. Dennis Harmon says - Posted: January 10, 2013

    As president of Heavenly Ski Resort in the 90’s, I had frequent interactions with Bob when he was LTBMU Forest Supervisor and subsequently when he consulted with us on a forest permit project in Colorado. He was an energetic and serious Forest Service executive, but always positive in his outlook and approach and fair to deal with. He was a gentleman in every way. We admired him greatly.

  5. ljames says - Posted: January 10, 2013

    when did this happen? I could not find any other info on this tragic event – many folks here knew Bob Harris, my self included.

  6. Judi McCallum says - Posted: January 10, 2013

    Words simply can’t describe the loss we feel with the passing of Bob Harris. He has been a part of my life personally and professionally for 30 years. I have attached the Lake Tahoe News article from today that shows his photo and a bit of commentary on his legacy. He was as equally active on the West Slope as the interim Forest Supervisor for the Eldorado National and as a STAR volunteer for the Sheriff’s Department, likewise a co-coordinator for the Watershed Education Summit via Resource Conservation District.

    He contributed so much to the positive course of El Dorado County. He will be greatly missed.

    The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors plan to adjourn their public meeting in memory of Robert Harris on Tuesday, January 15th in Placerville.

  7. David Kurtzman says - Posted: January 10, 2013

    The story / tragedy is in the Mountain Democrat