Almost every weekend, Tom Faubion leaves his Lakewood law office, saddles up and heads into the hills of eastern Pierce County for volunteer duty. That makes him a hero to state officials and fellow wilderness horse riders.
Faubion’s 25-year commitment to developing the horse trails in Elbe Hills State Forest near Mount Rainier has earned undying appreciation and recognition from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which recently presented him with one of its Volunteer Hero awards.
The honor was presented by state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, who heads DNR, during a recreation leadership meeting Dec. 6 in Seattle. Faubion, who lives in Kapowsin, and Bob Langley of Everett were the lone volunteers statewide who received the annual award for what Goldmark called their “sustained service, superior performance, leadership and commitment” to DNR’s volunteer program.
“These Volunteer Heroes inspire the best in all of us. Not only do their actions directly influence the success of the program, but their dedication and sense of service inspire those who have the opportunity to work with them,” Goldmark said.
From Faubion’s perspective, “DNR has been very supportive of all the volunteers and the work we do,” he said.
A member of the Backcountry Horsemen since the 1970s, Faubion and other club members have developed and maintained a horse trail system at Elbe Hills. During thousands of volunteer hours, they have produced “the finest trailhead and trail system in Washington,” he said. “It’s a showplace for anyone wanting to see what can be done through the cooperation of volunteers and the state.”
DNR officials said Faubion is often one of the first to help clear trails of downed trees and debris after storms. On one of his most recent regular visits to the trails, he packed in material for an interpretive center that volunteers are helping build.
Faubion is senior partner in the Lakewood law firm of Faubion, Reeder, Fraley and Cook. He said he always looks forward to his regular weekend forays at Elbe Hills.
DNR picked Langley as a Volunteer Hero for his work on trails in Capitol State Forest, Tahuya State Forest, and Walker Valley. His efforts have included rerouting trails to protect streams and reopening them after storms.
In the first nine months of 2012, volunteers donatd more than 49,000 hours of labor statewide, according to DNR. Goldmark said their effort enhances environmental protection, public safety and overall quality of life for fellow Washingtonians and users of state recreation land.
DNR manages about 3 million acres of state-owned trust lands for revenue to trust beneficiaries, including public schools and universities, as well as public services in several counties. The agency also manages approximately 2.6 million acres of aquatic area, including parts of Puget Sound. Goldmark is the elected head of the department.
Back Country Horsemen of WashingtonÂ is a non-profit organization with 35 chapters across the state dedicated to keeping trails open for all users. The group educates horse users in â€œleave no tracesâ€ for trail use, and is an advocate of volunteer service to government agencies.
The group is networked with Backcountry Horsemen of America, which has members in 25 other states.