Eugene J. Schmit
Inducted June 26, 2003
In recognition of leadership as president of Wisconsin County Forests Association for twenty- two years (1978-2000), Gene’s foresight enabled twenty-eight counties to become a single voice in forging a permanent program for the management of 2.34 million acres of county forest lands. His leadership aided in the development of a strong partnership between the WCFA, Wisconsin’s Division of Forestry and the State Legislature.
More about Eugene J. Schmit:
Gene Schmit 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 chairman of the Forestry Committee, and continued to serve in that capacity until April, 2000.
During his tenure, and largely due to his keen leadership and knowledge of the forestry business, the county’s gross timber sale revenues grew from $4,000 to more than $1,000,000 by FY 2000.
During the early 1960’s Gene served as a key leader in the development of the Wisconsin County Forests Association. He and his colleagues felt a need for such an association because the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was unaccustomed to listening to the critical voices of county committees regarding forestry issues in Wisconsin.
While serving as President of the WCFA, Gene encouraged a better working relationship between county and state forestry personnel, and the DNR as a whole. During his term as President of the WCFA, this once contentious relationship became a model cooperative partnership between county and state entities.
Gene also served on one of the original Best Management Practices teams, investigating logging projects. Presently he is involved in updating the Best Management Practices for Water Quality publication distributed by the DNR.
One of the WCFA’s greatest accomplishments was to enter into the Timber Treaty Rights lawsuit with Native American tribes over the rights to harvest the timber on 1.9 million acres of public forests on ceded territory in Wisconsin.
Gene played an integral part in encouraging the WCFA to become a party to the lawsuit. Then, for more than four weeks he assisted in the Federal Court proceedings, helping to educate the attorneys, who in turn were able to educate the judge by asking the proper questions of witnesses. As he explains it, “We had to literally train the judge in forestry management and the issues.”
As chairman of the WCFA Litigation Steering Committee, he was instrumental in developing the funding and spending of approximately $900,000 in litigation expenses. Although costly at the time, each county involved in the litigation has since earned much more in timber sales, and can safely look forward to future income from their forests.
The WCFA was successful in retaining timber rights for the county. This work was seen as setting precedence for state obtaining their timber rights. It was because for the tenacity, cooperative leadership and knowledge Gene brought to this process that timber rights in Wisconsin will be preserved.
Gene was a member of the Wisconsin Tree Farmers Association, and a past member of the Timber Producers Association. He was also a member of the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association.