Gary Blanchard of Starker Forests has been presented the Oregon Society of American Foresters’ Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is presented to persons to recognize their lifetime contribution to SAF and lifetime achievement in the forestry profession by an OSAF member.
Blanchard has worked for Starker Forests for nearly 59 years. Although semi-retired, he still comes into the office an hour or so every day as he works on two projects: 1) a book to document the history of the company’s lands, and 2) conducting video interviews of people who have been integral to the growth and success of the company.
Blanchard grew up in the small town of Mosier, Oregon, at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge. He went to college at Oregon State University, graduating in 1961 with a BS degree in Forest Management.
Blanchard worked for Starker Forests while in college. Upon his graduation, and with his wife pregnant with their first child, Blanchard was given a permanent position by TJ Starker and Bruce Starker, the first two generations of Starker Forests’ owners. He was the first non-family employee of Starker Forests. When Bruce died in an airplane accident in 1975, Blanchard became the company’s chief forester, a position he held until he “retired” at the age of 70 in 2009. Until 1972, he was the company’s only employee. Since then, another dozen or so foresters have come on board.
For all new Starker foresters, Blanchard has been a mentor. When Bruce Starker died, TJ Starker had given up his active role in the management of the company. The leadership of the company fell to Bond and Barte Starker, the third generation of Starker Forests’ owners – both still in their 20s. Blanchard’s leadership at the time was crucial in helping Bond and Barte successfully take on their roles as the company’s owners and managers.
Under Blanchard’s guidance, thousands of acres of Coast Range forests have been converted from underproductive brush lands into highly productive conifer forests. Many of those forests have now reached the age where they are being commercially thinned for the first time.
Blanchard was especially valuable to the company when it came to neighbor relations. He frequently stopped for lunch at small, rural cafes where he became acquainted with a lot of neighbors. In addition, he served on watershed councils. These outreach efforts created good will with neighbors that continues to this day.
Blanchard has been a strong supporter of the Oregon Tree Farm System. For many years, he worked with a tree farm committee to choose the recipient of the state’s Tree Farmer of the Year. He also inspected and certified/re-certified several tree farms.
A mentor to every one of the company’s foresters, Blanchard encouraged them all to become active members of SAF.
To that end:
- Gary (2003), Mark Gourley, Marc Vomocil, and Jennifer Beathe have all received SAF’s Presidential Field Forester Award
- Gary (1988), Dick Powell, Marc Vomocil, and Gary Springer have been honored as SAF Fellows
- Gary (1987), Bond Starker, Barte Starker, and Dick Powell were selected as OSAF Forester of the Year
- Gary (1981), Marc Vomocil, and Dick Powell were elected as OSAF chairs
- Gary (late 1970s), Randy Hereford, Marc Vomocil, Dick Powell, and Jennifer Beathe served as Mary’s Peak Chapter chairs
- Dick Powell was given SAF’s Outstanding Communicator Award
- Gary Springer and Mark Gourley (twice) were selected as recipients of OSAF’s Tough Tree Award
These awards and service to SAF culminated in Starker Forests receiving OSAF’s inaugural Heritage Award in 2016 and earned the company the national SAF Employer Support Award later that same year.
In addition to SAF leadership roles mentioned above, Blanchard served as the general chair when the Mary’s Peak Chapter hosted OSAF’s annual meeting in 2010. In 1992, he helped develop the OR Forest Industries Council’s Stream Classification and Protection System proposal. Then, in 2004, the dean asked him to serve on the OSU College of Forestry’s McDonald-Dunn Planning Team and where he helped develop the long-term management plan for the University’s forests.
Bob Alverts, Jim Rombach, and George Brown each submitted letters of support for Gary.