That winter in 1908, he joined the U.S. Forest Service, scaling logs and marking timber in Seeley Lake, Montana for what became the largest timber sale the U.S. Forest Service had made at the time, 50-million board feet. The sale was so vast that foresters from schools like Yale and Michigan State went to gain experience in timber sale work. Girard trained many of the forestry students who arrived.
After the Big Blackfoot Timber Sale, Girard became a forest guard on the Lewis and Clark National Forest. He advanced quickly through the U.S. Forest Service ranks, becoming a forest ranger and in 1915, a logging engineer. Because of his knowledge in timber cruising, Girard was given special assignments throughout the Pacific Northwest.
It was while on assignment in Washington, D.C. in 1921, that he rewrote the U.S. Forest Service Timber Appraisal Manual, which set guidelines for timber sales on national forests. Having worked in the private industry, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, Girard was able to use his expertise in calculating log production, including felling trees, skidding, disposing of slash and other operations on national forests. He created a points system that is still used today to assess a trees size.
Girard took a break from the Forest Service between 1923 and 1929, becoming vice president and general manager for the Herrick Lumber Company in Burns, Oregon. But he quickly returned as a senior logging engineer in Washington, D.C.
In 1939, Girard co-authored the book Timber Cruising, which became the best and most practical book on standing timber measurements for its time.
In his new job as Chief of Forest Surveys, Girard was tasked to determine the timber volume of the whole United States – its harvest, growth and projected demand. To this end, he developed new sample methods and procedures and over the course of 12-years prepared volume tables for a large number of tree species throughout the country. In 1939, he co-authored the book Timber Cruising, which became the best and most practical book on standing timber measurements for its time.
Then in 1942, as the United States prepared to enter World War II, the U.S. War Production Board asked Girard to go to Alaska and find suitable trees for making high-grade aircraft lumber. Again, Girard established sampling methods and procedures to find suitable wood. By the end of the war, the Forest Service had provided 85-million board feet for production from Alaska’s national forests. During this time Girard also surveyed the Dominican Republic for possible wartime forest resources.
Jim Girard retired in 1945 after 35-years in the U.S. Forest Service and joined the prestigious forestry consulting firm Mason and Bruce in Portland, Oregon – becoming Mason, Bruce and Girard. In 1948, at the age of 71, the Chilean government asked him to survey their forest resources. A year later he wrote a short 35-page autobiography called The Man Who Knew Trees: The Autobiography of James W. Girard.
Girard died in 1952 at the age of 75 in Portland, Oregon. His years of service were recognized by the U.S. Forest Service with a 60-acre memorial grove near Seeley Lake, Montana where he had begun his Forest Service career. Today, he is regarded as the patriarch of national forest timber cruising and his techniques and theories have been adapted to modern technology.
||Wyoming, Idaho, Indiana and North Dakota
||Anaconda Copper Mining Company
||Seeley Lake, Montana
||Vice-President & General Manager
||Herrick Lumber Company
||Chief of Forest Surveys
||Sitka Spruce Program
||U.S. War Production Board
||Mason, Bruce & Girard