William "Brad" Smith Receives Certificate of Distinction Alumni Award
William “Brad” Smith, who retired in 2017 after 40 years with the USDA Forest Service, was recognized as a 2020 Purdue Ag Alumni Association Certificate of Distinction recipient at the annual Fish Fry on Feb. 1.
Smith is the eighth Purdue Forestry & Natural Resources alumnus to receive the award since 2012. The Certificate of Distinction is the highest award of the Purdue Agriculture Alumni Association. It is intended to recognize those who have contributed significantly to agriculture, forestry or natural resources through professional accomplishments, activity in professional organizations, community service work and other activities that make the nominee a credit to his/her profession.
“I have a wall full of Agency Awards, but that doesn’t begin to compare to the value of this award because it is from a grateful university and public, although I have to say my thank you letter from President Reagan and community service award from President Clinton were a close second,” Smith said.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in forestry in 1975 and master’s degree in forestry in 1977, Smith became a research forester for the U.S. Forest Service, beginning in forest inventory and analysis (FIA) at the North Central Forest Experiment Station in St. Paul, Minnesota, a position he would serve in until 1989. He then became the Timber Products Research Group Leader, a position he occupied until 1991. For the final 26 years of his time with the Forest Service, Smith acted as Associate National Program Manager doing FIA research in Washington D.C.
The FIA monitors 800 million acres of forests and woodlands across the United States and its Atlantic and Pacific island territories. Smith had a major impact in the way inventories were conducted during his time with the Forest Service. In his role as research forester, he was instrumental in implementing the congressional mandate to change inventory methods from periodic state inventories (repeated every 5 to 10 years) to on-going inventories for every state simultaneously with annual reporting of forest resource conditions.
As the Timber Products Research Group leader, Smith and his team of scientists and technicians were responsible for collecting data and reporting on the timber product outputs for all primary wood product industries in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States. This data helped monitor economic activity in the forest products industries as well as the changes in demand for industrial wood.
As the Associate National Program Manager for FIA, Smith coordinated forest inventories nationwide, including national reporting of forest conditions, analysis of forest sustainability and coordination of global forest inventory reporting. In 1992, Smith co-authored the “Blueprint for Forest Inventory and Analysis and Vision for the Future,” which provided the first strategic vision for the FIA since 1967. He also was part of the creation of the first FIA national database to be shared online (1994), led the implementation of FIA’s second national forest cover map for the National Atlas of the United States (2000) and devised a national system to produce accurate biomass and carbon estimates across regions using FIA data (2007).
In addition, Smith was appointed as a U.S. representative to the Team of Specialists on Monitoring Sustainable Forest Management for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) in Geneva, Switzerland, and as the U.S. national correspondent to the Global Forest Resource Assessments section of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) in Rome, Italy.
His work garnered Smith the Presidential Management Improvement Award from Ronald Reagan in 1986 for setting “a shining example for others demonstrating that federal employees can make a critical difference in how well government meets the needs of the nation.” He later served on the White House Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources (1995), an initiative to integrate U.S. resource monitoring, and coordinated two congressionally mandated forest inventory and analysis strategic plans (2007, 2014).
Over his career, Smith was part of more than 200 scientific and technical publications describing forest inventory methods and the state of forests and forest industries at the state, region, national and global levels. His work covered topics ranging from forest modelling and forest products to biomass estimation, forest sustainability and national program accountability. He also made more than 100 presentations at conventions, workshops and national and international meetings and was an active participant in the Society of American Foresters.
Smith returned to West Lafayette 10 times between 1997 and 2010 to enlighten students about forest resources and the emerging commercial and environmental issues surrounding forest ecosystems. He also aimed to make students active participants in managing and caring for the nation’s natural resources.
Smith has been involved in many local and national charities throughout his life and currently volunteers at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Volunteerism in 1993.