Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) says good-bye to esteemed station director, Dr. Christopher Risbrudt, and dearly regarded community member.
From September 2001 to April 2011, Dr. Risbrudt served as FPL’s director. Passionate about his work and the future of the lab, he explained during a 2011 interview that the ten years he spent as FPL director were “among the most rewarding of my career, and while there is probably never a good time to retire, this feels like the right time because FPL seems well-positioned to move forward.”
Risbrudt’s leadership left FPL with a strong legacy. Under his direction, research at FPL focused on the sustainability of wood and wood products development and improving forest health. He also streamlined the laboratory’s work into five broad future-oriented areas: (biorefining, nanotechnology, advanced structures, advanced composites, and underutilized woody biomass) and encouraged collaborative research efforts and technology transfer activities.
Additionally, Risbrudt changed FPL’s campus and positively impacted how research would be conducted at the lab. Under his visionary direction, FPL’s Centennial Research Facility (CRF), a vibrant 87,000-square-foot facility that was designed to foster an innovative and collaborative research work space between scientists and outside partners, was built in 2010.
Risbrudt had an unwavering belief in the Forest Service mission. He made an indelible, fundamental contribution to the future successes of Forest Service research and its employees, from his development of legislation that allowed start-ups to rent space and equipment at FPL—creating a dynamic, pioneering environment for new forest products development—to the creation of the Natural Resource Information System (NRIS), which is a collection of databases that contain biological, social, and economic information and are a vital tool for forest planning and other analyses in the National Forest System.
His tireless dedication was recognized in 2004 when he was named Laboratory Director of the Year by the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.
After 35 years in the USDA Forest service, Risbrudt retired—however, retirement didn’t diminish his passion for the environment, conservation, the outdoors, and his work with FPL. Risbrudt was an avid outdoorsman—he loved spending time outdoors with his family and friends. And he was actively involved with many conservation organizations, including Trout Unlimited, Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and notably, the Boone and Crocket Club. He served in a variety of leadership positions, at local and national levels, for many conservation groups.
“Chris was a conservationist in the finest sense of the word. He was passionate about the outdoors, and the Forest Service. He called last week to congratulate me on a recent news story about FPL, and to plan for our next fishing adventure!,” remembers FPL’s Research General Engineer Bob Ross, Risbrudt’s long-time colleague and friend.
Risbrudt was a staunch supporter of and contributor to FPL until the very end.
His love of the outdoors took him to many places in the United States and abroad fly fishing, bird hunting and big game hunting. Some of his favorite trips were to fly fish for trout on the Bighorn River in Montana and his annual trip to Rainy Lake in Minnesota with friends to fish for smallmouth bass and Northern pike. He had a deep love for bird hunting with his cherished dogs—he spent many beautiful autumn days afield chasing ruffed grouse, woodcock, pheasants and waterfowl.
Risbrudt passed on January 17, 2022. His absence will be deeply felt by his family and friends, colleagues and professional community. Yet, his service and dedication will live on through the many conservation organizations he was a member of, the Forest Service, and the Forest Products Laboratory mission.