WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) on Wednesday announced four Tree Farmer families from among more than 70,000 certified Tree Farmers as this year’s Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year.
- South: Stan and Suzanne Wood of Bremen, Alabama
- Northeast: Bill and Tina Buckel of Bittinger, Maryland
- North Central: Mike Trail of Columbia, Missouri
- West: David and Dar New of Bellingham, Washington
Across the U.S., there are more than 21 million family forest owners. Collectively, these individuals care for the largest portion, more than one-third, of America’s forests. Their efforts provide essential resources, such as clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreation spaces and a sustainable wood supply for the products Americans use every day.
ATFS is an internationally-recognized education and certification program designed specifically for family forest owners. The program provides enrolled landowners with tools, community and support to keep their forests healthy. In return, Tree Farmers care for their land, meeting rigorous Standards of Sustainability, and take part in a third-party assessment to certify their land management practices. Collectively, there are 19 million forested acres within the ATFS program nationwide.
“Owning forestland in today’s age is not an easy task due to disasters such as hurricanes and catastrophic wildfires, as well as insects, invasive species, the rising costs of forest management and more. Yet, we’re fortunate that families and individuals across the country care so much about doing right by the land that they take on these challenges and work incredibly hard every day as terrific stewards of their land,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation, the nonprofit conservation organization that oversees ATFS. “Our Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year showcase this passion for stewardship. They not only have outstanding properties to show for it, but they also are passionate about spreading the word in their communities about the benefits of good forest management. We are proud to honor them and share their stories and accomplishments.”
To be considered for the Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award, individuals must exhibit exceptional forest stewardship to protect and improve our forest resources, and must promote forest stewardship within their communities.
About the 2019 Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year:
Southern Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year, Stan and Suzanne Wood of Alabama: Stan and Suzanne Wood showcase how hard work and sweat equity can produce incredible results, even in a short amount of time. Purchasing more than 2,000 acres of an old industrial fiber plantation in 2006, the Wood family set out to practice sustainable forestry for timber and wildlife habitat. In just 13 years, together they have planted more than 900 acres of loblolly and longleaf pine, developed an advanced road system throughout the property, built a bridge out of an old tractor trailer bed, improved the hardwood stands along their three mile stretch of the Black Warrior River, developed an annual prescribed burn program and controlled the ever-spreading invasive Chinese Privet. The Wood family places a great deal of effort on wildlife as well, improving habitat for both game and non-game species. They plant food plots annually, have several dozen bird boxes throughout the site, and are proud to say that seven native species of woodpeckers call their property home. In addition to their efforts, Stan and Suzanne have made spreading the good word of stewardship a priority for their Tree Farm. They host 12 to 15 tours a year for school groups, local non-profits, forestry professionals, policymakers and more. Using their forest as a demonstration site, they showcase the benefits of sustainable management, even leaving a small area unmanaged so that visitors can see the difference. Read more about Stan and Suzanne Wood.
Northeast Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year, Bill and Tina Buckel of Maryland: Bill and Tina Buckel are the true definition of a forest-owning family. Growing up on a farm, Bill developed a deep passion for forestry by working in the woods with his father and uncle. Over the years, Bill and Tina have inherited and purchased land, now collectively managing 134 woodland acres known as Rocky Resolve Tree Farm in Bittinger, Maryland. They share a love of stewardship, working their land themselves and instilling that love of the forest in their children and extended family. Along with their daughter Karla and son Derek, they have enjoyed hiking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing through the road systems on each of their Tree Farms. They have faced many challenges brought on by Mother Nature – invasive pests such as the Emerald ash borer and the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, and severe storms, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which caused widespread damage to their trees. Despite all of this, Bill and Tina, with help from their son, have improved their tree stands through thinning and planting, built and maintained roads, created wildlife and bird habitat with field mowing, bird boxes and more, operated a small portable sawmill to produce lumber for the farm, and set up a sugar maple system, capable of collecting sap from 450 trees. They impart their love of sustainable forestry to their community, offering tours to local forestry groups and schools, especially through the Cub Scouts program for Bill, and through the Adult Learnings program for Tina. The Buckels proudly display Tree Farm signs along public highways on all three of their Tree Farms. Read more about the Buckels.
North Central Regional Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year, Mike Trial of Missouri: Mike Trial has a deep passion and wide knowledge about tree farming that dates back to planting his first seedlings with his father in 1967. Just a year later, they joined the American Tree Farm System, and began planting more seedlings, specifically black walnut across their 55-acre Tree Farm. Over the years, he has battled invasive species, conducted thinnings to give room to the quality trees, and replanted to produce high quality lumber, always keeping meticulous records of his efforts. In more recent years, Mike, like many others has struggled with how to operate a sustainable tree farm operation on small acreage. To solve this, he purchased a small sawmill to mill his own logs. Like his dad, Mike is a lifetime member of the Missouri and National Walnut Council. He received his 50th anniversary American Tree Farm recognition in 2018. He enjoys spreading his knowledge of tree farming with others by working with the University of Missouri School of Forestry students, and by hosting pruning and tree planting workshops on his property. Read more about Mike Trial.
Western Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year, David and Dar New of Washington: David and Dar New are an incredible example of conservation for the greater ecosystem. Their 165-acre property, located in Snohomish County, Washington, was almost lost when an uncle passed away and the land was put up for sale. Now third-generation owners of the Nourse Tree Farm, David, Dar and Dar’s mother, were fortunate to purchase the property, saving it from development. While they had no forestry background, they knew they wanted to care for this family legacy in a sustainable manner. They immediately had a forest management plan created and began a decade long journey to learn about forest management. Early in their ownership, while on a family outing to the property, they noticed a run of Coho salmon that had stranded due to a destroyed tributary channel off the Pilchuck Creek. Working with a wildlife biologist and their local conservation district, the New family worked to restore the flow of the river by building a channel through a pasture field, installing large woody debris and doing extensive planting along the riparian areas. Today, they are able to walk the river in the fall and watch the salmon navigate through the streams successfully. In addition, the New family has harvested 65 acres of the over-mature red alder and replanted with alder, Douglas fir, pine and hemlock for diversity, added an extensive fruit orchard, and set up an LLC for the Tree Farm so that their children do not experience the same difficulties with succession planning. Sharing their story with the community, David and Dar have hosted university extension forestry events, evening events, tours and schools and community groups to see their Tree Farm. Read more about the New family.
One of these Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers, based on judging from AFF’s governance, will be selected as the American Tree Farm System National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year, which will be announced later this year.
The American Forest Foundation (AFF), a forest conservation organization, works on the ground with families, partners and elected officials to promote stewardship and keep our forests healthy. America’s family forests are vital for producing clean water and air, wildlife habitat and sustainable wood supplies. AFF’s signature program, the American Tree Farm System® is the country’s largest sustainable woodland program with a network of more than 70,000 family forest owners managing 19 million acres of forestland.