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Sanders Receives 2017 Governor's Award for Excellence


November 16, 2017

Donna Love

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director John Tubbs presents the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Use and Promotion of Montana Wood to Gordy Sanders at the Forestry Pioneers Ceremony Oct. 17.

HELENA – Resource Manager Gordy Sanders of Pyramid Mountain Lumber received the 2017 Governor's Award for Excellence in the Use and Promotion of Montana Wood. While Sanders was surprised by the recognition and appreciates that the Governor and others that recognized the work he has been involved with, he said the greatest success has been the various groups accomplishing their objectives while ensuring that the forest products industry remains fully integrated with outlets for all Pyramid products and remains as successful as they can, given the challenges.

Sanders worked for Champion International for 23 years. He then worked for Plum Creek for two years before becoming the resource manager for Pyramid 21 years ago.

It is the people that Sanders enjoys the most and producing quality raw materials. These raw materials provide Pyramid the opportunity to produce quality, value-added lumber that they can get the greatest return on while implementing the right work on the ground from a stewardship perspective and managing those efforts to achieve the landowner's overall objectives on their land.

Sanders believes that Pyramid's involvement with collaboratives makes them more visible as a small company and is a way to get more of their interests on the ground. Pyramid's flexibility with the products they make and the logs they use has also made them more resilient.

"Everyone helps everyone else," said Sanders. "It is perfectly natural for Pyramid since we own none of our own land; we are totally dependent on other land owners. Long-term relationships are huge in terms of our long term survival and it is key to why we are still here since 1949."

Sanders co-founded the Montana Forest Restoration Committee and currently chairs the Montana Forest Products Retention Roundtable, the Montana Forest Collaboration Network, the Montana Wood Products Association Resource Committee and the Montana Forest Council. His involvement is not for recognition but rather because he feels it is the right thing to do as a professional.

"Every one of these [groups] you take on there is some level of risk but there is an opportunity to learn, broaden your perspective, interact with more individuals, get a better picture of where fertile ground is going forward," said Sanders.

Sanders appreciates the opportunity to interact with folks that have different values, interests and maintain an appreciation for what the values and interest are to see how to create a bigger middle of common thinking that satisfies more people.

"It really is all about balance," said Sanders. "Whether it is a political perspective or just a value perspective, in Montana we have everything."

Sanders feels these groups have more in common than differences. With the media always focusing and elaborating on the differences, it gives an untrue representation of the efforts.

"We can really work together and get a lot of things done," said Sanders.

The Governor's Award for Excellence in Use and Promotion of Montana Wood was established by Executive Order No. 12-2014 to promote use of Montana wood products. It is part of a greater effort to foster economic growth, community enhancement and conservation in the state of Montana. At the ceremony Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director John Tubbs added, "The award was for excellence in leadership, advancing active forest management and stewardship while always looking out for the best interest of the company."

Sanders was one of four nominees for this year's award. The other nominees included: Marks Lumber/Marks Miller Post and Pole from Clancy, Mont.; Brian Caldwell and Erik Nelson for THINKTANK Design Group, Inc. of Bozeman and Sustainable Lumber Co. of Missoula.

Brian Kahn of Artemis Common Ground nominated Sanders for his work as the Chair of the Montana Forest Products Roundtable. Originally formed after the closure of Smurfit Stone in 2010, Sanders said he and Dale Harris, Director of the Great Burn Study Group, hand-picked a group of people to join the Roundtable. Those chosen were well-networked and had the opportunity to influence things that would be helpful to generate activities for logging contractors and to provide access to outlets for their non-saw log material.

Under Sander's leadership, the purpose of the Roundtable expanded to foster a network of contacts and initiatives to promote the use of wood products. Numerous wood products businesses seeking assistance or guidance in business ventures have developed or expanded through the efforts and opportunity provided by the Roundtable, including Willis Enterprises, Blue Marble Biomaterials and the Sustainable Lumber Company.

"The Roundtable is a meeting where things get shared that you cannot hear anywhere else," said Sanders.

Kahn also recognized Sanders for being a tireless advocate and participant in conservation collaboratives in western Montana. Kahn wrote in his nomination, "In his work, Gordy has earned a reputation for fairness, steadiness and perseverance in support of collaboration as the business model of forestry in Montana."

Tubbs said Sanders was chosen for this year's award because of his "Continued leadership in the area of forest products, working with collaboratives, and leading not just his mill forward but a discussion statewide on healthy forests and forest practices."

Sanders attributes his ability to be focused, efficient, willingness to be out front and an active listener to his leadership success.

"All the time you are talking you are not listening," said Sanders. "I always try to be thoughtful, respectful and empathizing with individuals. Doesn't mean you need to agree, but you do have to appreciate where they are coming from and recognize that. We are in the people business that is why we all do what we do."

Sanders said agency transition is one of biggest challenges with the collaborative efforts. When a new agency representative joins the group, they have to invest a lot of time and energy getting them back up to speed and rebuilding relationships.

"We have to help everyone be successful," said Sanders. "If we can help the agencies be successful it translates to more good work being done on the ground, more acres treated and more opportunity to acquire raw materials. That is what makes me tick."


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