2018 Outstanding Forester: Vern Labbe, Maine BPL

BPL Forester Vern Labbe, Maine State Forester Doug Denico and MFPC President Gordon Gamble.

At MFPC’s 58th Annual Meeting in Phippsburg Sept. 9, Maine State Forester Doug Denico presented the 2018 Outstanding Forester Award to Vern Labbe of the state Bureau of Parks and Public Lands. “

In recognition of 44 years of exceptional service in implementing sustainable forest management for the people of Maine on the Bureau of Public Lands.”

“It is with the greatest pleasure I am presenting this award to Vern,” Denico said. “I came to know Vern about 3 1/2 years ago when we began working together in Public Lands.  I consider this a good bit of luck to have come to know Vern. Tonight, Vern is being honored for his 44 years of exemplary professional forestry work across an unbelievably broad spectrum of forestry activities.   

“Unless you are involved with Public Lands, you can’t understand the complex and demanding type of work that is required.    From the top, or bottom, depending on your perspective, Vern has had multiple bosses at the same time. The public, Legislature, department heads and someone like me have oversight over Vern; a barely functional type of management structure.   

“Public Lands practices uneven age silviculture, a complicated system at best. Growth and harvest have to be balanced by small geographic units of about 30,000 acres, another tough hurdle.   Silvicutural prescriptions are limited to 11 examples and policy is dictated by a document called the Integrated Resource Plan. Also, Public Lands is dual certified under SFI and FSC, and practices under Outcome Based Forestry. Given these restraints, Vern has made some remarkable achievements.   

Doug Denico, Joyce and Vern Labbe.

“Vern has doubled the amount of pre-commercial thinning on Public Lands over the last three years. He has introduced areal herbiciding to help broaden the tools to use against beech.  His willingness to productively engage in wildlife management is outstanding. Along with managing a working forest, Vern has tens of thousands of ecological reserves to manage.   

“Also, Vern has found the time to assist in purchasing more public lands and resolving many of our common and undivided parcels. The public gets a chance every five years to give Public Lands its insight into what kind of recreation is best to serve public needs on each of its 14 management units.    Vern has built a great infrastructure of hiking trails, campsites, boat launchers, and added access for persons with disabilities in key areas.   

“Vern introduced service contracting to Public Lands in about 2012 to gain the benefits all major landowners have come to enjoy.  But the process to create renewable contracts, pay for services weekly and have a fair and equitable bid procedure is nearly impossible to make work within a state system not used to dealing with a business. Vern has been instrumental in negotiating with mills for products produced. Negotiating on behalf of the people of Maine is not like negotiating to improve the bottomline.   

“Vern finished his state employment on Public Lands as its deputy director this past August. But true to his belief in and love of Public Lands, Vern has agreed to stay on in a contractional arrangement. I might add, in spite of more lucrative offers.   

“Vern, my heart felt appreciation goes out to you.  You have raised the bar on what the people of Maine can expect from its stewards of Public Lands. 

“Thank you, Vern.”