A Maine family-owned lumber company that has made outstanding contributions to forest management and stewardship was honored Thursday, Sept. 8 by the Maine Department of Conservation and the Maine TREE Foundation with the eighth annual Austin H. Wilkins Forest Stewardship Award.

Praising the Robbins family and their commitment to excellent forest stewardship, Governor Paul LePage made the presentation to James L. Robbins, president of Robbins Lumber Company of Searsmont, a long-standing Maine company that owns and manages 30,000 acres of its own forests and operates an extensive sawmill complex and warehouse.

The presentation ceremony, attended by a large crowd of state natural resources, forest industry and conservation representatives, was held at the Blaine House.

“The Robbins family is a testament to forest stewardship,” LePage said. “They have demonstrated that Maine family businesses can compete in a global economy, protect wildlife, conserve resources, and of course, be successful.”

In a side note, LePage also congratulated the family on the birth one day earlier of two twin girls, James Robbins’ latest grandchildren. The governor pointed out that the company president was accepting the award for “all six generations of his family — past, present and future.”

Calling them “an iconic Maine family,” Commissioner Bill Beardsley of the Maine Department of Conservation, described the Robbins family as “outspoken champions for the University, their community, the local land trust, private property, Maine’s forest industry, conservation and the free enterprise system.”

The Austin H. Wilkins Forest Stewardship Award is the major recognition for landowners and individuals who are outstanding examples of managing the working forest of Maine in an exemplary and sustainable way. It is the only award that recognizes stewardship of the working forest.

During the morning presentation, Sherry Huber, Maine TREE Foundation executive director, described the award, its history, and the extraordinary career of Austin Wilkins, who was employed by the Maine Forest Service for 40 years and served 13 governors as commissioner of forestry. Also present for the ceremony was Priscilla Wilkins, daughter of the legendary forest commissioner.

Established in 2004, the Wilkins Award is named after Dr. Austin Wilkins for his lifelong leadership in being a steward of Maine’s forests. The award recipient is chosen periodically by the MDOC commissioner and the Maine TREE Foundation, but not more often than annually.

“Robbins Lumber, a fifth-generation, family-owned lumber company, started in 1881, is a most fitting recipient of the eighth Austin Wilkins Forest Stewardship Award,” said Huber. “Robbins Lumber owns and manages 30,000 acres of its own forests, manufactures more than 26 million board feet of quality white pine lumber and other manufactured products, and in 1997, put a conservation easement on an entire township around Nicatous Lake, conserving the ecological, recreational and economic values of the land in perpetuity.

“It’s a pleasure to recognize Jim Robbins and his family for their outstanding management of the working forest of Maine in an exemplary and sustainable way,” Huber said.

Also acknowledging Jim Robbins and his family were Doug Denico, current Maine Forest Service director, who recalled their being at the University of Maine together, and Carol Woodcock, state office representative for U.S. Sen. Collins. Collins is a family friend, and Woodcock read a congratulatory letter from the senator.

Joined by family members and business staff, Jim Robbins thanked the governor, MDOC and Maine TREE Foundation and reaffirmed the commitment of his family and the business to preserving Maine’s forest resources. He shared the company scrapbook, which contains photographs of the family being honored by Wilkins for the being the 400th Maine tree family and a letter from Red Sox legend Tend Williams, for whom the company made customs bat out of Maine ash.

Robbins Lumber Company is a vertically integrated forest products firm producing Eastern white pine lumber and byproducts in its mill, while at the same time caring for and growing forest products on its superbly managed woodlands.

Maine craftsmen and women at the Robbins mill produce approximately 26 million board feet of top-quality, white pine lumber. Another 1 million board feet are made into pre-cut parts and secondary-manufactured products, including 45,000 wooden ice cream freezer buckets annually, in the cutup shop.

The company produces 15,000 Christmas trees for sale in Maine and out of state. Robbins Lumber also has a landowner assistance program that manages about 5,000 acres for other landowners. The company buys logs from more than 150 independent loggers and employs 115 people.

Past Wilkins Award recipients have included: Dr. Austin Wilkins; Seven Islands Land Co. and Pingree Heirs; Sherry Huber and John Hagen of the Manomet Center for Conservation Science; Roger Milliken Jr. and the Baskahegan Timberlands Co.; Baxter State Park Director Jensen Bissell for his handling of the Scientific Forest Management Area; and Prentiss & Carlisle, a Bangor-based forest-resource management company, for its commitment to long-term, sustained-yield management of Maine’s forestlands.

Wilkins graduated from the University of Maine in 1926 and joined the Maine Forest Service in 1928. He went on to serve as Commissioner of Forestry from 1958 to 1972. He served 13 governors during his career and was a leader in the victory over the great forest fires of 1947.

Wilkins received his master’s degree in forestry from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and an honorary doctorate from the University of Maine, Augusta, in 2002. Wilkins, who died in 2005 at the age of 102, also was instrumental in the development of the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission.

For more information on the Maine Department of Conservation, go to: maine.gov/doc

For more information on the Maine TREE Foundation, go to: mainetreefoundation.org/index.htm

For more information on Robbins Lumber Company, go to: rlco.com