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DNRC Headquarters
1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
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Bob Sandman

Forestry Pioneer

Bob SandmanBob is a second generation Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (DNRC) employee, whose father, Richard, was the Fire and Aviation Management Bureau Chief for many years, and is himself a Forestry Pioneer.

Bob received a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources Management from the University of Montana. He began his firefighting career as a seasonal with the Department of State Lands (DSL) the night of his 18th birthday in the 1977 on the Pattee Canyon Fire in Missoula.  In 1984, Bob was hired permanently by the DSL as the first Libby Unit Fire Technician when the State completed a block exchange of fire protection with the United State Forest Service.  In 1985, he transferred to the Stillwater Unit as their Fire Forester.  In 1993, his job was changed to include the Lands Program.  While living at Olney, Bob also served on the Olney Fire Department and eventually served as Assistant Fire Chief. 

From 1996 until 2005 he served as the Stillwater Unit Manager and concurrently managed the Swan Unit from 1998 to 2002.  In 2006 he was hired as the Northwestern Land Office Area Manager and held that position until his retirement at the end of 2011.

Bob fought wildland fires for 34 years.  He became qualified as a National (Type I) Incident Commander and Type I Operations Section Chief, and served on Interagency Incident Management Teams for 14 years.  He is believed to be the first DNRC employee to pass the Advanced Incident Management Course as an Incident Commander.  Bob championed efforts to improve relations between local governments and large fire organizations throughout Montana.  He encouraged and supported State employees becoming involved with interagency fire operations, including employees in other agencies.  He managed numerous difficult wildland fires in Montana and across the west. Perhaps his most challenging assignment was managing an evacuation center in San Antonio, Texas during the Hurricane Katrina and Rita Response in 2005 that housed approximately 16,000 evacuees.  Bob was also one of few DNRC employees to become qualified as a Type I Burn Boss, including the use of aerial ignition and he widely promoted the use of prescribed burning on State lands. He was the principle developer of Montana’s initial-attack engine squad training that included the use of a Department-developed Vision Tape and live fire exercises.  He was the principle developer of the DNRC’s Critical Incident Management Policy and was DNRC’s first Critical Incident-Management-Team Incident Commander. 

During his career, Bob was a Project Leader and Decisionmaker for unique and complex agency projects, including the Whitefish Neighborhood Plan, the Goguen Land Exchange, the Salish & Kootenai Tribal Land Exchange, rapid large-fire salvage efforts, and multiple residential and commercial land use activities including the transformation of Section 36 in Kalispell.  The Section 36 effort included a new DNRC Land Office, Flathead National Forest Headquarters, Kids Sports recreational fields, and extensive commercial, residential, and office developments.  He pushed DNRC to develop environmental analysis documents that were easily understood by any reader, yet still defendable to scientific/legal review. He wrote dozens of Positions Descriptions for positions around the State to improve employee classification relative to other State-agency employees, and he continually pushed the agency to improve personnel management, career development and succession planning.  He sat on the agency Career Development Task Force, and he was the inaugural Chairman of the Leadership DNRC Steering Committee.  He was an Agency Representative on the Flathead Basin Commission, the Crown of the Continent Committee, the North Fork Interlocal Group, and the Swift Creek Coalition Board.  He was an Agency Representative for multiple projects on State Trust Lands with Montana Department of Transportation and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.  He developed the first Agency field-level Strategic Plan and Business Plan; and, he was the Agency Representative for construction of the first LEED certified office complex by the State of Montana.

Bob served 8 years on the Leadership Flathead Board of Directors.  He currently serves as the ALERT Advisory Board Chairman (local emergency response aircraft).  He sits on the Kalispell Regional Medical Center Foundation Board and the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers Association Board.  He is Secretary/Treasurer of his Home Owner’s Association, President of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Whitefish, Montana, and directs the Church Choir.

During his career, Bob received 6 Certificates of Appreciation.  He was awarded the Richard J. Sandman Wildland Fire Trainer of the Year in 1994.  He received the 2002 Area Manager’s Award, the Governor’s Excellence in Performance Award in 2005, and the Trust Lands Division Administrator’s Award in 2007.

Bob and his wife Paula have 4 grown children, Stacia Fisher, Brandan Rohrer, Ashley Rohrer-Smith, and Logan Sandman; and, 2 grandchildren, Hamish and Liam Fisher.

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