Lifetime Service Award - 2008

Richard Thompson
Richard Thompson

RICHARD THOMPSON received his degree in Forestry from the University of California in 1953.  He then started his career with the Bureau of Land Management in the dense O & C forest lands of the Roseburg District.  He had already served in World War II within the confined spaces of a submarine.

Dick’s tenure in BLM encompassed a major transition and adjustment period for BLM.  During his era, the Bureau had to develop more comprehensive planning and budgeting systems, public input processes, address new programs such as wilderness and conservation areas, wild horses, endangered species, and much more.

With this never ending tide of emerging interests, orientation and management of employees also had to become more sophisticated. Richard became one of those leaders from the very beginning with the talent and foresight to help BLM grow with the times, even with such limited budget and staffing.

At his very start, while hacking logging road survey lines through O & C mountain jungles or posting timber sale boundaries on precipitous slopes, he had the BLM vision.  He was soon a Unit Forester managing the heavy quotas for sustained timber harvest in the Coastal Ranges of the Roseburg District.  He did this with the same special thoughtfulness that would stamp the rest of his career.

Richard is one forester that could walk again through those mountainous areas these 60 years later and still be proud of his conservation practices. Richard has that unique package of loyalty, integrity, intelligence, character, interpersonal skills, foresight, vision, insight and decision making ability that not only served the Bureau in time of need, but the demanding public.  Even in the tough conflict situations that are often a part of public land management, he always enjoyed the respect of the public, his staff and his peers.  His outstanding ability in that respect allowed him to make hard decisions while keeping everything on even keel.   Richard was an employee who went wherever and whenever he was needed to support the BLM mission.

He started as a brush ape, a term of endearment in western Oregon, soon became a Unit Forester, went to Alaska to serve the Fire Program, honed his Bureau-wide outlook on the Resource Staff under Ed “Moose” Zaidlicz in Washington, D.C., became Redding District Manager, then Boise District Manager, onward to Associate State Director Of Alaska and finally served as the Denver Service Center Director.  Richard was universally known by the Management Team as a person who consistently did an outstanding job on every assignment no matter how difficult or complex.

As Alaska Associate State Director in the early 70’s,   Richard was assigned the lead to coordinate a key State Selection transfer involving critical future land use.  The conveyance included the 2,000-acre Campbell Creek Tract that buffered the Chugach State Park and the Municipality of Anchorage.  Without his skillful coordination with the public, Local Government and the State of Alaska, these lands might now well be the sites of housing developments.  Instead, these thirty years later, the tract still lies in natural state enhanced by the BLM’s Science Center serving both the Park and Municipality.

Richard served on the Cauldron team, BLM’s new employee orientation program, at the time.  His contact and work with new employees provided the understanding, vision and motivation to be the best they could be.  In him, they saw a role model for public land Management in changing times. Richard Thompson came into the BLM at time when resource interests were less complex.  His skills and abilities were embedded, just waiting of the era when his special talents would be sorely needed. By the mid-sixties, multiple-use conflicts and user demands on the public lands were fast accelerating. As his management responsibilities increased, he was well equipped to help the Bureau meet increasing challenges.

As he moved ever upward, he became even more instrumental in keeping BLM abreast with the times.  He did this in a way that served both the public and BLM.  Richard has few equals in his ability to enhance BLM’s image, even while dealing with controversial matters in complex times.

The award was presented to Dick Thompson in a special ceremony in the BLM Nevada State Office in Reno, Nevada in July, 2008.