2018 President’s Award goes to Ken Laustsen

By Jim Contino, outgoing president of the Maine Forest Products Council

The President’s Award is a recognition reserved to the Presidents discretion.  I get to give it to anyone I want – it’s one of the few perks of the job…  Since I am the outgoing President, this is essentially my last gasp! It is my pleasure to present this award to Ken Laustsen.

 “In recognition of his public service to the forest products industry as state biometrician, as well as his unique ability to make a complicated subject easily understood. His advocacy for better forestry communications went far beyond insuring that facts and figures were correct. He helped people evaluate the credibility and usefulness of information so that they could make better decisions.”

Ken has recently finished a distinguished Forest Products career that started in 1974 as a ROW Foreman doing brush control work for Asplundh and ended this year when he retired from the Maine Forest Service as as our Forest Biometrician.  He was not always the inventory geek that most of us know and love today.  In between he had lots of different jobs:

  • 1975 – 90: A bunch of forest operations jobs for Great Northern.
  • 1990 – 99: He gravitated to become the inventory guy for GNP.
  • 1999 – 2018: He served as the Biometrician for the State.

Many of you might not know exactly what a Forest Biometrician is.  I suggest you think of it this way:

  • One part mensurationist (Timber Cruiser)
  • One part statistician (Poker Player)
  • One part modeler (Computer Geek)
Ken Laustsen and Jim Contino.

Shake them together vigorously and you get a guy who can tell you just about anything that you need to know about the forests of Maine.  Not only can he tell you how much standing timber there is but he can model its growth and availability.  Many of us in this room have developed love affairs with the forests of Maine.  We go to sleep at night and we see pictures of the places we have worked come to us in our dreams.  I think Ken is different because in his dreams he is watching movies rather than just looking at pictures.  Ken is an extraordinary Biometrician because he has seen the Maine forest change through the last 45 years and he is gifted enough to play that movie into the future for the rest of us.  A good Biometrician knows how to model change.  Ken is a very good Biometrician!

Ken is worth his weight in gold to anyone that needs to scope out the available wood supply for expansions or new projects.  I worked closely with Ken when we were doing the wood supply projections for the Bucksport mill biomass project.  Sadly, that project could not prevent the demise of our mill there but I can tell you that Ken helped us nail the volume of material that was available to us from the counties surrounding Bucksport.  Three years after the project, we conducted a post capital review to measure the success of the project and it turned out that our supply assumptions and resulting wood cost projections were incredibly close to what we projected.  There is simply no way I was smart enough to have done that without Ken’s help.

It strikes me that we really need someone to fill this role for us in Maine as developers and new technologies look to create new markets and investments.  Ken left some very big shoes to fill and I am certain they are very important shoes to fill as well.

But it was never all about the Forestry Stuff for Ken.  He is incredibly devoted to a number of community service organizations including:

  • Abanaki Girl Scouts
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Maine Tree Farm
  • Society of American Foresters
  • Project Learning Tree
  • Accredited softball and soccer umpire

The volunteer list goes on, but the umpire role seemed to make perfect sense to me.  The one guy in the room that I could not imagine arguing with over a tough sports call would be Ken.  He would absolutely always get the benefit of the doubt from me.