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Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame inducts two new members

MADISON -- Increase A. Lapham, an early forest conservationist, and Eugene Schmit, a long-time leader in county forestry, have been selected as 2003 inductees in the Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame.

Increase A. Lapham, 1811 – 1875, has been called the “father of forest conservation in Wisconsin.” According to an article in the September 1921 issue of Wisconsin Magazine of History published by the Wisconsin Historical Society, he began to “agitate for the preservation of our forest wealth far in advance of anyone else.”

Lapham was born in New York and came to Wisconsin in 1836. Early in his career as chief engineer and secretary of the Milwaukee and Rock River Canal Company, he witnessed the flooding and silting of rivers in southern Wisconsin and was urging farmers to plant trees.

An 1855 article written by Lapham stated, “Though we have at present in almost every part of Wisconsin an abundant supply of wood for all our present purposes, the time is not far distant when, owing to increased population and increased demand from neighboring states, a scarcity will begin to be felt.”

Lapham chaired a special forestry commission formed by the legislature in 1867 and issued a 100-page report titled, “On the Disastrous Effects of the Destruction of Forest Trees, Now Going On So Rapidly in the State of Wisconsin.”

In 1916, the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest was named to honor Lapham for his work in the field of science. Lapham Peak was one of the first sites picked by the U.S. Signal Corps to transmit weather information and it is believed that Increase Lapham, in his role as founder of the U.S. Weather Bureau, recorded and collected weather data on top of this hill.

The 1921 Wisconsin Magazine of History article concluded, “To Increase A. Lapham, the state’s first great scientist, belongs the credit of seeing the need of forest conservation a generation in advance of his fellows, and of doing his utmost to direct their attention to the problem.”

Eugene J. Schmit, born in 1928, is a life-long advocate of forestry in Wisconsin. He was elected to the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors and appointed to the Lincoln County Forestry Committee in 1961. After only two short years as a leader in the county, he was elected chair of the Forestry Committee and served in that capacity until April of 2000.

During the early 1960s, Schmit was a key leader in the development of the Wisconsin County Forests Association (WCFA). He served as president of the WCFA from 1978 to 2000. His foresight during this 22-year tenure enabled twenty-eight counties to become a single voice in forging a permanent program for the management of 2.3 million acres of county forest lands.

Over the past thirty years Schmit has been an active consultant to the DNR forestry program on forestry-related activities and has served on numerous committees and advisory teams. Schmit’s leadership helped develop a strong partnership between the Wisconsin County Forests Association, Wisconsin DNR Division of Forestry and the Wisconsin Legislature.

In addition to his public service to Wisconsin forestry, Schmit’s sustainable forestry philosophy is reflected on the 300 acres of well-managed woodlands he owns.

The Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame was founded in 1984 by a group of public and private forestry organizations to recognize individuals, living or deceased, who have contributed significantly to the practice and progress of forestry in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin DNR Division of Forestry is one of the ten partner organizations that administer the Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame. An exhibit displaying plaques of all inductees is housed in the College of Natural Resources building on the UW-Stevens Point campus and is open for public viewing during school hours.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kirsten Held - (608) 264-6036




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