In memoriam: Doug McCreary
Doug McCreary speaking at an oak regeneration field day. Photo by Rick Standiford.
Douglas DeWitt McCreary, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources specialist, died on Feb. 15 in Grass Valley. He was 72.
“Doug was the epitome of what a CE specialist should be - a world-renowned researcher, a first-rate teacher, and an attitude that could bring people from diverse backgrounds and philosophies together,” said Richard B. Standiford, UC Cooperative Extension forest management specialist emeritus and long-time colleague of McCreary.
Born in San Mateo and raised in Berkeley, McCreary earned a bachelor's degree in economics at UC Riverside. After graduating from UCR, he studied at the London School of Economics for one year, then traveled throughout Europe. He earned his master's degree and Ph.D. in forestry at Oregon State University.
In 1986, McCreary joined UC ANR as part of its statewide Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program, newly created in response to public concern that oaks, the most common tree species in California hardwood rangelands, and their habitats were declining through neglect.
McCreary and daughter Megan walk among the oaks in a photo published in California Agriculture journal article “Urbanization crowds out oaks” in September 1995.
McCreary's research and extension work revolutionized oak regeneration in the state.
“Prior to Doug's work, oak planting on rangelands was a costly and low-success enterprise,” Standiford said. “Natural oak regeneration of white oaks was lacking in many areas, raising concerns about the long-term sustainability of oak woodlands. Doug developed low-cost, practical techniques for planting oaks, predominantly blue and valley oaks, on rangeland sites. This work was widely adopted throughout the state.”
McCreary introduced the use of tree shelters from Europe, and found that they increased survival of oak seedlings in California's Mediterranean climate. He also developed the timing for successfully gathering acorns for regeneration. After the 49er Fire, which started near Highway 49 in Nevada County in 1988, he organized Project Acorn, a county-wide effort with dozens of volunteers who collected and planted acorns in areas devastated by the fire. In 1990, McCreary was honored for Project Acorn with the Take Pride in America Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.
McCreary, who was based at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center, worked with state, federal and private nurseries to produce high-vigor bare root and containerized seedlings. He also developed silvicultural techniques to encourage natural seedlings to recruit into larger size trees.
“Doug was not content to just produce voluminous scientific journal articles on oak regeneration, but organized countless oak regeneration field days, workshops and symposia throughout the entire state,” Standiford said. “His biannual oak regeneration field days at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center were must-attend events for the restoration and conservation community.”
The ANR publication, “Regenerating Rangeland Oaks” written and updated by McCreary in 2009, Standiford said, “is the bible for oak restoration, and provides a practical guide for all parts of the regeneration cycle for landowners and professionals.”
McCreary retired in 2011.
From left, Joni Rippee, McCreary, Bill Tietje, Greg Giusti, Sherry Cooper, James Bartolome and Rick Standiford at Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center in May 2017. Photo courtesy of Rick Standiford.
“We will all miss Doug very much. He was a wonderful colleague and friend,” Standiford said.
“I concur with Rick,” said Mel George, UC Cooperative Extension rangeland management specialist emeritus.
McCreary is survived by his partner, Therese Hukill-DeRock, his children Tyson McCreary and Megan Cielatka, and his grandchildren Hazel, Sybil, Ian and Isaac.
A celebration of McCreary's life is planned for June 10 in Grass Valley.