NEWRY – A fight broke out on the Executive Committee when the Maine Forest Products Council decided to give Jim Robbins Sr. the prestigious Albert D. Nutting Award. Everyone wanted to present the award to Robbins, who is one of the most respected and beloved members of Maine’s forest products community.
“I’m happy to say that I won,” Jim Contino of Verso said at MFPC’s 55th Annual Meeting Monday night at Sunday River Resort.
Contino, who is vice president of the MFPC Board, praised Robbins as an excellent leader, skilled facilitator, tough negotiator, out-of-the-box thinker and tireless advocate for the forest products industry.
“For about 10 years now I have served with Jim on the Executive Committee at MFPC,” he said. “He has an informed opinion about most issues. He has a strong sense of what is good for our industry and where the common ground should be.”
Also honored this year were:
- Maine’s Outstanding Logger — Dean Pepper of Fayette, D. R. Pepper Wood Harvesting, for “exemplary on the ground performance and a strong commitment to meeting the management objectives of the landowner through innovation and sound business management.”
- Maine’s Outstanding Forester — Tom Whitworth of Wallagrass, former regional enforcement coordinator for the Maine Forest Service (MFS), for “a career of tireless, pro-active education and counseling on forest management practices while maintaining the respect of landowners within a regulatory framework.”
- Maine’s Outstanding Manufacturer — Lumbra Hardwoods Inc., Milo, in recognition of their perseverance, ingenuity, and excellence in the sawmill business, and support of the Milo community and the forest products industry since 1952.”
- Abby Holman Public Service Award — Keith Kanoti of Old Town, formerly of the Maine Forest Service, “in recognition of his role as MFS water resource forester in supporting Maine’s private forest landowners.
Robbins is president and owner of Robbins Lumber in Searsmont, a family-owned business for five generations. The award recognizes “his leadership of the Robbins Family legacy of sawmill operators, his dedication and advocacy for the forest industry, his passion for educating the public about Maine’s forest resources, and his accomplishments as a forester and conservationist.”
MFPC established the award to honor Albert Nutting, who was director of the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine, Maine Commissioner of Forestry, and one of the Council’s founders. The recipient must demonstrate leadership and integrity as well as a commitment to the values, both public and private, generated from the working forest. His or her experience must reflect concern for the sound environmental use as well as the economic value of the forest to industry and to the community at large. The award has been presented annually since 1990 to a remarkable group of individuals, each of them truly unique, but with a common commitment to Maine and it’s forest industry. See previous winners.
“I’m really honored to received this award,” Robbins said. “One of the reasons I’m honored is just thinking about the people who have received this in the past and it’s a great list of really wonderful people. To be included in that category is a really humbling honor. I really appreciate it.”
Abby Holman Public Service Award
Kanoti, who served as MFS water resource forester, received the Abby Holman Public Service Award for his outstanding work with private landowners to improve fish passage and stream connectivity. In June, he began a new job as forest manager for the University of Maine.
One of the best examples has been Keith’s work with the SFI Implementation Committee, said Gordon Gamble, who chairs the committee. Kanoti was integral to the development of the Fisheries Improvement Network (FIN), which brings together landowners, state fisheries biologists and others to improve habitat, stream crossings and stream connectivity. As the father of “Stream Smart Training,” Keith’s efforts and expertise are recognized throughout the natural resource and environmental communities.
“He has taken a strong program and made it stronger,” said Gamble, Wagner Forest Management. “Keith has been a champion for practical and innovative solutions to water quality issues in stream crossings and road construction.”
Winners of the Holman award, named for MFPC’s former executive director, must demonstrate a level of passion, loyalty, and dedication to the industry, to good government and a robust economy.
“It’s not always easy, but in Maine we find a way to sit down together and get stuff done. The forest industry keeps going and the fish keep swimming. So I thank you for this,” Kanoti said, holding up his award. “It’s a tremendous honor.”
Maine’s Outstanding Logger 2015
Pepper, who comes from a logging family, was chosen as Maine’s Outstanding Logger in recognition “of exemplary on the ground performance and a strong commitment to meeting the management objectives of the landowner through innovation and sound business management.”
“I’m very honored,” Pepper said, “and I would like to thank my parents for bringing me up around the forest industry and also my wife, Catherine, for helping me through the tough times.
Maine’s outstanding logger must meet high standards for “safety, protecting the environment, great employee relations, innovation, working well landowners and doing just generally great work,” MFPC Executive Director Patrick Strauch said.
Pepper lives up to those high standards, said Joe Stevenson and John Starett of SAPPI North America.
“We wish to congratulate Dean in front of all his professional peers and his parents and family,” Starett said.
Maine’s Outstanding Forester
Whitworth was honored as Maine’s Outstanding Forester for “a career of tireless, pro-active education and counseling on forest management practices while maintaining the respect of landowners within a regulatory framework.”
He retired in February after 35 years with MFS, serving as regional enforcement coordinator since 1998.
“One of the things that I always tried to do as a forester was make people aware of what they could do with their woodlots,” Whitworth said. “And I always told them that it’s not a bad thing to cut trees. It’s good. And I gave them the best advice that I had. I would always work with loggers, foresters from the companies and I treated them fairly. I gave them respect and I think they respected me.”
Terry Walters, formerly of Pleasant River Lumber, praised Whitworth’s dedicated service to the practice of forestry and the forest industry.
“Tom was dedicated to applying standards fairly and negotiating settlement agreements that were reasonable and were designed to eliminate repeat occurrences,” Walters said. “Tom also provided educational programs to landowners, foresters and loggers on forestry standards and Best Management Practices. He’s a very worthy recipient of this award because he’s had an outstanding career in the forest industry.”
Maine’s Outstanding Manufacturer
Lumbra Hardwoods, Maine’s Outstanding Manufacturer, was established by Oscar and Reuben W. Lumbra, a father and son team that operated a mill in Vermont before moving to Milo in 1960. Now Reuben’s sons, Reuben T. (Benny) Lumbra, president, and Stephen Lumbra, vice president, run the mill, which employs 36.
“This is a great family-owned business,” said Peter Triandafillou, Huber Resources. “It’s a pleasure to do business with them. They’re great corporate citizens of the community where they work.”
About seven million feet of hardwood logs per year go through the mill, Benny Lumbra said, with about 55 percent hard maple and the remainder yellow birch, soft maple, some white ash and some “odds and ends.”
Benny Lumbra said he was honored to accept the award on behalf of his family and employees.
“Maine’s forest industry has been very good to the Lumbra family,” he said. “It’s sustained the family business in Maine for 55 years. I’ve seen land ownerships come and go and the forest keeps growing.”