Jerry Michael Honored with Heiberg Award at Annual Meeting

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NYFOA Board Member Stacey Kazacos presents Jerry Michael with the 2016 Heiberg Memorial Award


Each year, NYFOA presents the Heiberg Memorial Award to honor outstanding forestry and conservation contributions in New York State. This year’s recipient is Jerry Michael. Jerry richly deserves this award based on a lifetime of service to NYS woodlands and woodlot owners — individually, as a board member of NYFOA, and as an active member of several other organizations that promoteinterrelated forestry and conservation goals.

A little background on the namesake of the Heiberg Award. Dr. Svend Heiberg received advanced degrees in forestry in his home country of Denmark and from Yale University in the U.S. He became a professor at the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University and in 1959, Dr. Heiberg was appointed Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. Part of Dr. Heiberg’s legacy is a 3,900 acre forest, named in his honor, and located in Cortland and Onondaga Counties. This forest serves as a field laboratory for education, research and demonstration activities. Dr. Heiberg developed the initial proposal to establish an association of forest landowners in NYS. As a result, NYFOA was formally organized on April 27, 1963 with 212 members. Through his work, the remarkable Dr. Heiberg touched the lives of thousands of students, professors, professional foresters, and private landowners.

Similarly, Jerry Michael is a remarkable person. He graduated from Cornell University in 1959 and worked for 32 years with IBM in human resources and general management. Jerry joined NYFOA in 1989 and has held many leadership positions to include vice chair and newsletter editor of the Southern Tier Chapter, NYFOA treasurer, director at large, and secretary. He has been actively involved with the Master Forest Owner (MFO) program since 1995, conducting over 100 visits to landowners (and we’re still counting). Jerry regularly provides training to new MFOs and has worked closely with MFO Director Dr. Peter Smallidge and others to improve this important outreach effort. Jerry is the past president of the Broome County Cornell Cooperative Extension, a board member of the Waterman Conservation Education Center, member of the Broome County Environmental Management Council, and a volunteer on a horticulture hotline in Broome County. Most recently, Jerry treated over 1,000 hemlock trees for the hemlock wooly adelgid in natural areas, cemeteries, and the Ross Park Zoo in the Binghamton area.

Working with Peter Smallidge, Jerry researched and wrote much of the content comprising the Restore NY Woodlands (RNYW) initiative which is the centerpiece of NYFOA’s agenda. His sustained input and wise council is evident in the NYFOA website which was recently updated and rolled out. Jerry organized the 2015 RNYW Symposium at ESF which brought together professionals, academics, and interested woodlot owners to discuss the key issues necessary for forest regeneration. He put together guidelines for leading woodswalks to include a forest regeneration theme. It is not unusual for Jerry to drive 2+ hours to deliver the RNYW message to interested groups. Directly related to Jerry’s efforts on RNYW, he has worked tirelessly with NYS legislators to encourage passing legislation that would ‘incentivize’ private woodland owners to implement best management practices through grants and tax benefits. In 2016, Jerry developed NYFOA’s statewide approach to contact NYS legislators and explain NYFOA’s key positions. On March 6th of this year Jerry led NYFOA’s 5-person team to Albany and met with 19 NYS legislators and staffers in order to promote NYFOA’s agenda as part of Forestry Awareness Day.

On a personal level, Jerry is singularly knowledgeable, selfless, and upbeat. He has loved being in the woods from the time he was a young man and Eagle Scout in the Whitney Point area. Jerry actively manages a woodlot and former Christmas tree farm that has been in his family for three generations. He has used his woodlot to conduct experiments on various regeneration topics such as deer exclosures, tree tube use, timber stand improvement methods, and many more. Jerry has published several articles about these activities in NYFOA’s magazine, The New York Forest Owner.

Jerry Michael continues to play an integral role in guiding NYFOA into the future through his work on the board, the RNYW initiative, the MFO program, and legislative outreach. We thank him sincerely for his service to private woodlot owners and congratulate him heartily as the recipient of the 2016 Heiberg Memorial Award.


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