Scope and Content
Title: Rudolf W. Becking Collection
Identifier/Call Number: 2003.04
Humboldt State University
Language of Material:
122.0 Cubic feet
94 Record Storage Boxes, 9 Oversize Boxes
Date (bulk): Bulk, 1940-2005
Date (inclusive): 1850-2010
Rudolf Willem Becking was a professor of Forestry and Natural Resources at Humboldt State University from 1960-1983. He did
extensive work in Northwestern California. His research interests included Redwoods, sustainable forestry (Plenturung), plant
community ecology (Phytosociology), serpentine endemics, the Marbled Murrelet, timber cruise methodology, and many other topics.
He worked in the Great Smoky Mountains in the 1950s-1960s and again in the 1970s. He did additional scholarly work in Indonesia,
the USSR and in China. Becking also participated in political processes in the Northern California region. Highlights include
involvement in the establishment and later expansion of Redwood National Park (1960s and 1970s), municipal environmental issues
related to the city of Arcata, California and Humboldt Bay in the 1970s and 1980s, revision of the California Forest Practices
Act in the 1970s, and many other regional environmental issues.
Language of Materials:
Becking, Rudolf Willem, 1922-2009
The collection is open for research.
Copyright to the unpublished Becking material is the sole property of Humboldt State University Library. To obtain permission
to publish or reproduce, please contact the Special Collections Librarian.
In 2003, Becking moved from his Arcata, California home office and donated the first of three installments of what is now
the Rudolf W. Becking Collection to the Humboldt State University Library. Becking sent the second installment when he moved
from Oregon to Utah. The last installment came after Becking’s 2009 death, arriving in 2010. The first two installments were
packed by Becking, and the last installment was packed and shipped by family from Becking’s final residence in Utah.
A number of foreign language books relating to forestry and botany were not accessioned by HSU. The majority of these books
were from or about the Netherlands, Indonesia, India, Fiji, China, Japan, and the USSR.
Rudolf Willem Becking was born in 1922 in Dutch-occupied Indonesia to a Dutch family. He had an early interest in the natural
sciences that he shared with his brother and father. During World War II, Becking was captured as a Prisoner of War by the
Japanese. He received two forestry degrees from Wageningen University in The Netherlands in 1952. Becking married H. Louise
Sheltema, and they moved together to Seattle, WA, where he received his PhD from the University of Washington in 1954. He
had brief employment with the Dutch Forest Service and universities in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Alabama before being
hired at Humboldt State University in 1960. He retired from HSU in 1983, but remained an active professor emeritus, teaching
classes and sponsoring graduate students for many years after. Both Becking and his wife died in 2009 and were survived by
all three of their children.
Becking lived the majority of his life in the United States, but had significant international influences from being raised
in Indonesia, attending college in The Netherlands, and traveling extensively throughout his life. Thus, Becking’s approach
to forestry and botany were unique amongst his American colleagues. For example, Becking was a strong advocate of Plenturung,
an all-aged sustainable harvest model, at a time when even-aged harvest (clear cutting) was central to American forestry.
In addition, Becking practiced Phytosociology, a technique of plant community analysis that had international support but
very few American proponents. Throughout his career in the United States, Becking corresponded with a vast network of international
Although primarily identified as a forester, Becking’s work was interdisciplinary. In addition to forest growth and yield,
he did research on plant and forest community ecology, taxonomy, and plant biology. He was a specialist in dipterocarps and
redwoods, and did significant work with serpentine endemics, the lichen Usnea longissima, and forest/plant communities of
the Great Smoky Mountains. Soil analysis was essential to his forest and plant research. Becking also did substantial research
in ornithology (though he considered himself an amateur), primarily focused on the old-growth-forest-dependent Marbled Murrelet.
Becking was a skilled illustrator and used his artistic ability as a tool in his scientific work.
Becking was a citizen activist who focused on environmental management issues. During his long-term residence in Arcata, California,
he engaged with the City of Arcata’s management of municipal transportation, waste, and forests. Becking was elected onto
the Arcata City Council in 1972. Through letter writing, speaking, community organizing and other campaigning, Becking also
worked for ancient forest conservation and improved forest policy. He was involved in many regional issues including the establishment
and expansion of Redwood National Park, stopping the building of the Gasquet-Orleans Road (G-O Road), and the critique of
numerous proposed timber sales on public lands. Becking worked on environmental protection of Humboldt Bay, proposed (with
Deane B. Mather) the development of a regional recreation area he called the “Tri-Lake Plan”, and advocated against the proposed
Butler Valley Dam.
As a teacher, Becking left a lasting impression on his students who have described him as challenging, approachable, empowering
and inspiring. He formed mentorships with students that often became lasting friendships. He was known for engaging his students
in scientific studies that involved real-world field, lab and data analysis work. He integrated his own research interests
and projects with his forestry and natural resources curricula.
Becking attended the Humboldt Unitarian Fellowship and occasionally gave talks there that provided a view of how his work
as a scientist and activist intersected with his spirituality.
Scope and Content
The Rudolf W. Becking Collection is documentation of the professional and political work of Dr. Rudolf Becking from the time
of his post secondary education in the 1940s and 1950s, through his teaching career in the 1960s-1990s, and his continued
work until his death in 2009.
The collection contains primarily textual materials including research notes, data, correspondence, publications, and reports.
There are also non-textual materials including photographs, slides, maps, posters, illustrations, sound recordings, and computer
Major topics covered include all-aged forest management (Plenturung), plant community ecology (Phytosociology), old growth
conservation, serpentine endemic plants, redwood biology, redwood forest ecology, timber cruise methodology, Marbled Murrelets,
and the municipal environmental management of Arcata, California.
The Becking Collection came to HSU in three installments, and processing began between the arrival of the second and third
installments. When the materials were packed to be delivered to the library, their original order was disrupted. At the library,
to prepare for final processing, HSU Archivist Edie Butler and Processing Archivist Adrienne Harling sorted the collection
according to topic and geographic area.
Processing was completed primarily off campus, in several installments of 10-20 boxes at one time. The collection was processed
efficiently, and series were arranged at different levels of detail (based on need and perceived research value).
Becking used recycled manila envelopes and 3-ring binders to organize his materials. He labeled most envelopes and binders.
When processed, materials were transferred out of the envelopes and binders and into file folders and archival storage boxes.
Folder contents were transferred in their original order. Becking’s labels were used as folder headings when available, and
the processing archivist provided additional information and generated folder headings for unlabeled materials (differentiated
from Becking’s labels with brackets ). Becking’s spelling, grammar and punctuation were not edited when his labels were
transferred to file folders.
There were many loose materials that came with the collection, which were sorted according to collection series and labeled
with the terms “loose” and/or “miscellaneous” without further description. The lack of description of these materials should
not be mistaken for lack of research value, and researchers are encouraged to scan these folders for content within each series
they are using. Items that were mixed into envelopes or binders of unrelated materials were not moved. Significant quantities
of such out-of-place materials were noted in the series descriptions when identified.
Processing of the Rudolf W. Becking Collection was generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and administered
by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The Humboldt State University Library was awarded a Cataloging
Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from 2010-2012, "Uncovering California's Environmental Collections," in collaboration
with eight additional special collections and archival repositories throughout the state and the California Digital Library
(CDL). Grant objectives included processing of over 33 hidden collections related to the state's environment and environmental
history. The collections document an array of important sub-topics such as irrigation, mining, forestry, agriculture, industry,
land use, activism, and research. Together they form a multifaceted picture of the natural world and the way it was probed,
altered, exploited and protected in California over the twentieth century. Finding aids are made available through the Online
Archive of California (OAC).
The series level arrangement reflects Becking’s roles as researcher, activist, and teacher, with sub-series broken out by
topic or geographic area. Folders within series are loosely grouped together according to topic.
Different material types are not separated except for sound recordings, computer files and oversized items.
Pamphlet Collection at Humboldt State University Library’s Humboldt Room – For many years, Becking brought individual unpublished
documents such as correspondence into the Humboldt Room to make available to researchers. These items were incorporated into
the HSU Library’s Humboldt Room’s
and assigned subject headings to be used for retrieval.
Redwood National Park – Two collections at the National Park Service Redwood National Park headquarters in Orick, California
are directly related to materials in Humboldt State University’s Rudolf W. Becking Collection. Becking donated some of his
papers to the National Park Service in the late 1990s (Rudolf W. Becking Collection, Catalog Number: REDW 27748), before his
larger collection came to HSU in 2003. They include documentation of Becking’s involvement in the establishment of Redwood
National Park. The collection at Humboldt State University is focused on the expansion of the Park and the movement to protect
the Emerald Creek Watershed. The collection at Redwood National Park’s office is focused on the initial establishment of the
Another collection at the Orick office is the
Dave Van de Mark Photograph Collection
(Catalog Number: REDW 17722). The collection includes photographs that document the Redwood National Park region and land
management activities in that region. They were taken in an effort to gather support for the creation and later expansion
of the Redwood National Park.
Zoological Museum University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Becking and his brother (J.H. Becking) developed an extensive
egg collection from Java, Indonesia, starting as early as the 1930s. They donated their joint collection to the
. Related materials can be found in the Rudolf W. Becking Collection in "Biography" and "Research and Writing : Marbled Murrelet".
Humboldt State University Vascular Plant Herbarium - Several boxes of plant specimen were included in Becking’s donations
to the Humboldt State University Library. For proper care, these plant specimens were transferred to the
Humboldt State University Vascular Plant Herbarium
Humboldt State University Nonvascular Plant Herbarium - Several boxes of mounted lichens and bryophytes were included in the
third installment of Beckings’ donations to the Humboldt State University Library. The lichen and bryophyte specimens were
mounted onto index cards that included metadata. For proper care, these specimens were transferred to the Humboldt State University
Nonvascular Plant Herbarium in 2011.
Rudolf W. Becking Collection, 2003.04. Humboldt State University Library, Arcata, Calif.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary (Calif.).
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (N.C. and Tenn.).
Humboldt State University -- College of Natural Resources and Sciences.
Humboldt State University -- Forestry Dept..
Redwood National Park (Calif.).
Butler Valley Dam (Proposed)
Forest management--California, Northern
Forest management--Environmental aspects.
Forestry schools and education--California--History.
Forests and Forestry
Gasquet-Orleans Road (Calif.)
Humboldt Bay (Calif.)
Humboldt State University. Dept. of Forestry--History.
Klamath River Watershed (Or. and Calif.)
Mad River (Calif.)
Natural resources--Study and teaching
Old growth forest conservation
Old growth forests
Sand Dune Plants
Uncovering California's Environmental Collections Project