Heritage Forester and Friend of the Forest Awards to be Presented

The annual Owa-Chito Forestry Luncheon will be held Thursday, June 14 at 11:30 a.m. at the Museum of the Red River’s Mary Herron Conference Center in Idabel. This is the official kick-off for the Kiamichi Owa-Chito Festival of the Forest. Three awards will be presented this year, including the Heritage Forester Award and two Friend of the Forest Awards.

In 1982, the Forest Heritage Center started this program to honor those who have contributed to the forest industry in this region. Each year since then a Heritage Forester has been selected with the presentation made at the annual Owa-Chito Forestry Luncheon in June. This event is held during Oklahoma’s Forestry Week in conjunction with the Kiamichi Owa-Chito Festival of the Forest.

This year’s recipient of the Heritage Forester Award is Tommy C. Smith of Broken Bow and the recipients for the Friend of the Forest Awards are Bill Bohlmann, Jr. of Schulenburg, TX and the Southeast Oklahoma Woodturners.

Heritage Forester Award recipient Tommy C. Smith began his professional career as a Service Forester with Oklahoma Forestry Services in Tahlequah, August 1, 1972. As supervisor for the Corps Project, Smith’s tree planting efforts helped beautify and shade the recreational areas around Corps of Engineers lakes in northeastern Oklahoma providing a priceless green legacy that lake visitors still enjoy.

In 1974, Smith was named Area Forester for Oklahoma Forestry Services’ Southeast Area in Broken Bow. As an Area Forester, he had a huge impact on forestry programs in Oklahoma. Smith initiated improvements to the fire protection program that were instrumental in suppressing wildfires during many of the worst wildfire seasons on record due to periodic droughts and increased arson activity. Smith retired in 2006 after serving as an Area Forester for 32 years.

Since retirement, he has continued to be an active supporter of Oklahoma’s forest management programs, the Forest Heritage Center Museum and the Oklahoma Youth Forestry & Wildlife Camp. Smith’s positive impacts on southeastern Oklahoma, and the people who benefit from the region’s healthy and productive forests, are a result of his dedication to forest protection, resource management and education of the public, especially our young people.

Friend of the Forest Award recipient Bill Bohlmann, Jr. bought his first tract of Oklahoma land in 1962 with dreams of being a cattleman. However, as an absentee landowner, he discovered it was difficult to keep track of his supplies and livestock. This led to the realization that tree farming was to be his destiny. Over the last fifty years, Bohlmann and his wife, Mildred, have expanded their timber land holdings and are still enjoying life as true tree farmers.

The Southeast Oklahoma Woodturners, also a Friend of the Forest Award recipient, have been active supporters of the Forest Heritage Center Museum and its mission of “sustaining our forest heritage through history, education and wood art.”

As a major partner, the Southeast Oklahoma Woodturners have played an essential role in educating and promoting wood art as another valuable forest product, engaging youth in woodturning programs and raising awareness of the importance of Oklahoma’s invaluable forest resources. Their ongoing involvement with the beginning woodturning classes at local high schools, woodturning competitions in the fall, multiple exhibitions, forestry camps during the summer, festivals such as Owa-Chito and the Folk Festival and the untold number of people that have been introduced to the practice of woodturning and the history of wood as an art form reflect their dedication to the museum and the advancement of our forests.

This year’s guest speaker will be Kerry Dooley. Minnesota-born, Dooley earned her bachelor’s degree in Forestry from the University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point’s College of Natural Resources and her master’s degree in Forest Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, where she conducted research in Mali, Africa. She has worked for the Colorado State Forest Service doing insect and disease data collection, served as a state coordinator for Oklahoma Forestry Services’ Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program and is currently working as the West Texas Quality Assurance Forester for the USDA Forest Service’s FIA Program. She will involve the audience in an upbeat discussion as she addresses the progress and goals of the FIA Program as well as the overall forest health in the Oklahoma-Texas region.

Tickets for the luncheon are $20 per person and can be purchased at the door or in advance from the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce or any Forest Heritage Center board member. For additional information or to reserve a luncheon spot, call the Forest Heritage Center at 580-494-6497 or email hannah.anderson@ag.ok.gov.