MISSOULA – Philip Wayne Zieg died on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, shortly after retiring from the Bureau of Land Management. His career in natural resource management spanned 56 years. He was born in Missoula on Dec. 26, 1937, the first of five children of Mydas and Reuben Zieg. He began grade school in Alberton, graduated from Missoula County High School in 1955, and enrolled in the School of Forestry at Montana State University (now the University of Montana). He spent the summer after his freshman year on the Indian Graves fire lookout on the Powell Ranger District in Idaho. The following summer, he did government timber surveys in Alaska.
Philip joined the Army at Christmas in 1957. He expected to be sent to Europe. Instead, on Feb. 7, 1958, he was admitted to Ireland Army Hospital in Fort Knox, Kentucky, with staphylococcus pneumonia. In a late-night phone call, a doctor urged Philip’s parents in Missoula to come immediately to Fort Knox if they wanted to see their son alive. Philip’s mother flew from Missoula that same night to be at his bedside. She wrote in her diary, “I was with him seven weeks – desperate weeks of delirium, drugs of magnificent potency, and fear beyond words. Even now, my heart turns over when I think back to those days and nights.” Meanwhile, the family back home waited each night for phone calls; Philip’s siblings all remember the fear triggered by that ringing phone. His doctors had warned that even if Philip lived, he would likely be severely brain-damaged by the prolonged high fever. Thus, his recovery seemed miraculous.
Continued medical treatment took him from Fort Knox to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. and Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Colorado. As a result of the lung damage caused by his pneumonia, Philip eventually received a medical discharge from the Army and re-enrolled in school. Prompted by encouragement from Professor Melvin Morris, Philip chose to focus on range management.
After graduating in 1961 with a bachelor of science in forestry, Philip’s career path continued in McCall, Idaho, Prineville and Eugene, Oregon, Las Vegas and Battle Mountain, Nevada, and Richfield, Utah. He routinely received performance awards and Special Thanks for Achieving Results (STAR) awards. His work encompassed livestock grazing leases; development of wells and thermal springs for use by livestock, wildlife, and municipalities; permits for miles of new power lines; and administration of the wild horse program. His last career position as the Soil Conservationist in Richfield, allowed him more freedom to return to the fieldwork that he most loved. Philip embraced the transition in public land management that occurred during his years of service-from a singular focus on mining, timber, and livestock industries dominated by private interests to a broader focus on multiple use management that better reflects the desire of citizens to access and enjoy public lands.
Philip’s boyhood respect for the survival skills of Native Americans and pioneers matured into a lifelong interest in ancient hunting techniques, hide-tanning, leather-craft, wood-working, and guns, as well as admiration for marksmanship. His mother recorded that he made time “for many target practices on Blue Mountain, always taking along his 5-year-old brother.”
Philip was soft-spoken, listening with an open mind to the opinions of others while offering his own views with courtesy and grace. A man of few words, he nonetheless wrote weekly letters home that his family treasures-letters that illustrate his love for the solitude and beauty of the desert. He recounted stories of scorpions in his shower, chukar hunts, civet cats in isolated field camps, and weekend hikes into remote country to seek clues about the people who had explored the land before him.
Although Philip chose to live frugally, he delighted in returning to his family in Missoula several times a year to share in congenial conversations, hearty meals and laughter. His breadth of reading, attention to current events and capacious memory made him the most valued teammate in any game of Trivial Pursuit. Often, he brought with him gifts of stone-baked pikki bread and hand-ground blue cornmeal from his Hopi and Navajo friends. One Christmas, his siblings all received necklaces that Philip had made from piñon pine seeds gathered during hikes through the high-country desert where he lived. One of his favorite traditions during visits home was to wrangle the guys in the family for burgers and beer at the Mo Club in downtown Missoula. He entertained the family with funny, unique sayings that have become part of the family story. His siblings will be quoting him as long as they live. Yes, Philip, “Life can be a real juicer, but we’ll just keep rollin’ like the Fremont River.”
Philip was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his siblings, Katherine (Kent) Kleinkopf of Missoula, Carolyn (Jerry) Underwood of Missoula, Margaret (Jim) Eller of Sun River and Gerald Zieg (Teri Wolf) of Missoula and Cathedral City, California; his nephews and nieces, Justin and Bryn Cunningham, Stacey (Travis) Romeo, Ryan (Jessie) Zieg, Alyson (Nick) Hinds, Katrina Eller and his grandnephew Landon Zieg.
Cremation was under the care of Garden City Funeral Home & Crematory. A celebration of Philip’s life will be announced. To honor his respect for the Native way of life, the family suggests donations in Philip’s name to: ASU Foundation for A New American University, PO Box 2260, Tempe, AZ 85281. Checks must be made payable to ASU Foundation; please indicate that funds are for AISSS Operating. Or give online at: asufoundation.org/ and choose Make A Gift.
Condolences and memories may be left for the family at missoulafuneralhomes.com.