2011 Distinguished Alumnus

Richard N. Smith received a B.S. in Forest Management from the University of Maine in 1979.  He began his career at Smith Timberlands in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine where he was responsible for all forest management activities. In 1980, he joined the Agricultural Investment Group at John Hancock Financial Services in Boston, Massachusetts where he served as an investment officer responsible primarily for analyzing and underwriting loans to the forest industry. Rick conceptualized and developed John Hancock’s institutional forestland investment business, which began as a novel pilot program in 1984 and became the Hancock Timber Resource Group (HTRG) in 1986. Under Rick’s leadership and management the HTRG became the largest organization managing forestland investments for institutional investors, ultimately transforming the ownership and management of commercial forestland in the U.S. and beyond. At the time of his departure in 1997, the firm held a 65 percent share of the global forestland investment market.

In 1998 Rick established Forest Systems, LLC which became highly regarded for its leadership in the development of innovative financing structures for forest ownership. Forest Systems has advised numerous forest product companies, private equity firms, investment banks and institutional investors in the acquisition and financing of corporations and several million acres of forestland including Boise Cascade, Packaging Corporation of America and others.

Throughout his career, Rick has been recognized as a visionary for his pioneering efforts in the transformation of forest ownership and management by embracing a holistic strategy to the forest system. He was early to understand and develop the use of conservation easements as a valuable tool for forest finance and was an early advocate for transparency in forest certification. Rick has received many honors and awards for his work. He continues to seek ways to advance the science and art of forest management through his advocacy for forest-based renewable energy production and avoided deforestation programs in Latin America.

Rick’s distinguished career in developing and promoting innovative financial solutions for making investments in private forestlands around the world is a wonderful example of the unexpected and diverse paths that UMaine forestry graduates can take in their careers, as well as testimony to how our undergraduate program prepares people to make contributions in advancing forest management in a wide variety of ways. It is for this reason that we are honored to recognize Richard N. Smith as the 2011 School of Forest Resources Distinguished Alumnus.