06 Jul Phil Battaglia Uprooted Himself from the City and Put his Roots Down in the Forest
Forty-two years ago, a Bay Area city kid, with a love of the outdoors, decided to trade in his urban roots for a life in the forest. Since then, Phil Battaglia, General Manager of W. M. Beaty & Associates, Inc., has spent time in the high desert of Susanville to the cold hills of Redding, but when asked if he would change anything about the course of his career, Phil says, “I’ve been blessed. Looking back on my career, I can’t think of anything I would have changed. The people I’ve met, worked with and for, the forests I’ve helped managed and the places I’ve seen have completely validated my decision to be part of the forestry profession.” For someone who essentially fell into this industry, with no family history or connection to it, its abundantly clear that this was a matter of manifest-forest destiny for Battaglia.
As Phil nears the end of a successful career in the industry, he offered some unique insights to anyone considering a similar path. “With a fresh degree from Washington State University, I was pretty naive about what this forestry thing was all about, especially in California. I thought I was going to get a Smokey the Bear hat and a horse.” Actually, he didn’t plan on practicing forestry in California. He planned to fight fire the first summer out of school, write his resume and head back to the Northwest. Obviously, that plan didn’t work out. While Phil speaks fondly of the romantic side of forestry, of being one with California’s majestic forests on a daily basis, he advises future foresters to also keep in mind that this is a highly specialized discipline that has evolved into its own science. So while prospective foresters should never lose sight of their “pie in the sky” notions of forestry, as Phil puts it, they should also be prepared for the intellectually challenging rigors that learning about and working in this sector present to its students and practitioners.
Another telling insight that Phil reveals is the drastic – and not necessarily for the better – evolution of the regulatory side of the forestry sector. When asked about the regulatory dynamic that existed between the forestry sector and the agencies, Phil speaks almost glowingly about the spirit of collaboration and the mutual goal of problem-solving that characterized both sides in the early ‘80s. On this, Phil remarks, “One neat thing is that when I first started, the regulatory agencies were partners. We worked together to solve problems.” While there is no question the changing political landscape in California has resulted in a contentious regulatory environment, the successes of earlier, more collaborative days are not lost on him. “Looking back its easy to see how well our relationship worked out for California’s forests now, even though today it is unfortunately a different story…but I feel content that both sides during those early days did the best we could to ensure forests were managed effectively and responsibly, and you can see the results of that work to this day.”
Of course, achieving these important gains did not happen in a vacuum. Forestry is a team effort, even amongst competitors, and Phil speaks highly about the people in this industry. “There is and has been a great group of people within our industry and I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t want to see or work with again. We waste a lot of paper in this industry as a handshake is usually all it takes.” All that being said, the excitement in Phil’s voice is discernible as he discusses making up for lost fishing days – and avoiding the inevitable “honey-do” list heading his way. He expects to spend more time on the McCloud, his favorite river, enjoying the forest it passes under. Phil, who also enjoys the occasional libation, is also looking forward to kicking back and sipping his drink more slowly. Asked about his favorite drink – it’s anything that Lloyd Bradshaw buys – and while those might be a little harder to come by, he will surely take that in stride.
Whether spending a few minutes with Phil or an entire career working with him, one thing is clear: he is a passionate, consummate professional. When describing his favorite part of the job, his love for forestry cannot be suppressed. “For me, it’s always been about that first job in the spring, turning fresh dirt and seeing the loggers excited to be back. It’s all about that smell you forgot over the winter.” Phil knows this industry intimately. He is immersed in the technical side of forestry, but also understands fully well how the political and regulatory establishment affects it at every step of the process. Owing to his humble persona, he would never call himself this, but he is very much a forestry guru, although you might not necessarily think so when he says, “It seems like first half of your career you’re trying to learn more and every day brings something new. However, towards the end, you’re reflecting back on how much you don’t know and what you didn’t learn.” It’s that sort of humility that has made Phil a beloved member of this industry for more than four decades and it’s also the very spirit that characterizes this sector in a nutshell. While Phil counts himself lucky to have been a part of this special industry for so long, this industry can also count itself lucky that a Bay Area kid decided to leave the city for greener pastures (read: forests).