Forestry alumnus to receive 2020 Sir William Schlich Memorial Award

Kelly Jedrzejewski
August 11, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Richard Guldin, a 1970 graduate in forest science from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has been selected as the 2020 winner of the Sir William Schlich Memorial Award. The Schlich award recognizes outstanding contributions to the field of forestry with emphasis on policy and national or international activities.

The award is presented at the Society of American Foresters National Convention and will be presented this year on Oct. 29. The oldest award given by the society to a member of the forestry profession in the United States, the inaugural Schlich award was given to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. The second award was given to the society’s founder and two-time Pennsylvania governor, Gifford Pinchot.

Richard Guldin

Richard Guldin, a 1970 graduate in forestry science from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. 

IMAGE: Richard Guldin

Guldin is the second Penn State graduate to receive the prestigious award, following B. Frank Heintzleman in 1958, who graduated from the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy in 1907. 

Since 1998, Guldin has been at the forefront of representing the interests of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the U.S. Department of State on global forest inventory, assessment and reporting processes, many of which led to new or revised national and global policies. According to nominators, Guldin has “demonstrated vision and leadership in advancing forestry science, policy and practice — literally worldwide.”

One of Guldin’s many accomplishments is his work updating the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program. Begun in the 1930s, the program — known as FIA — is the nation’s forest census, and data from the program are the foundation for all regional, national and international reports on forest conditions and trends. By the mid-1990s, regional differences in survey techniques had emerged and made state-to-state data incomparable. Combined with constrained funding, FIA was not as effective as it could be.

When Guldin became responsible for FIA in 1996, he led the campaign to update the program with what nominators called “visionary leadership.” This included creating and implementing new sampling design, field procedures, information management software and analytical procedures. He started publishing annual reports documenting the changes to establish a policy of openness and transparency that forged new partnerships with state foresters and boosted support.

With accurate reports on forest health and productivity, states were able to set priorities in wildlife and forest-action plans. Corporate forest managers and investors benefited as current reports decreased uncertainties in evaluating investment options for land purchases and mill operations.

A second highlight of Guldin’s distinguished career is his work advancing global reporting on forest sustainability. In 1998, a dozen countries from around the world formed the Montreal Process Working Group for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests and issued comprehensive criteria and indicators designed to track progress towards sustainability and better inform policy-makers, stakeholders and the general public about conditions and trends.

In 2003, Guldin organized and led a team of experts who prepared the first “National Report on Sustainable Forests.” He was named as the United States’ delegation head to the working group in 2008 and during his tenure, led events that elevated the participating countries as world leaders in sustainability reporting. Guldin began outreach to groups around the world that report on forest conditions with the goal of building consensus on a core set of statistics and indicators with consistent definitions.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations is the premier global network of research groups. From 2000 to 2005, Guldin led one of its task forces, Forest Science-Policy Interface. The task force’s mission was to better understand the ways that forest research results had influenced development and implementation of policies to protect, manage, and use forest resources as well as create a set of guidelines that could help future research better inform policy decisions.

Of Guldin’s work for the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, one nominator wrote, “His success in sharing scientific improvements and experiences has helped many other researchers and their institutions improve their inventory and reporting programs.”

Guldin noted that receiving this award gives him a deeper sense of both humility and satisfaction about his career.

“A stone mason isn’t rewarded or remembered for every stone shaped and laid,” he said. “What ultimately determines a stone mason’s reputation is the strength of the foundation that enables others to build something great upon it. Like Schlich, I spent my career creating sturdy foundations for others to build upon, and I’m encouraged when I see what they are building.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Penn State, Guldin obtained a master of forest science in silviculture and forest management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He completed his doctorate in forest economics and policy at Yale University.

The Schlich award is named for 19th-century forester Sir William Schlich, known for his efforts to advance forestry practices and education. He was a member of the Royal Indian Forest Service and helped establish British timber reserves in its colonial possessions. Schlich also established the forestry department of the Royal Indian Engineering College at Coopers Hill and the School of Forestry at Oxford. He was the author of a five-volume ‘Manual of Forestry,” which became a standard text for forestry students at the beginning of the 20th century.

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Last Updated August 12, 2020