Across the U.S, a dedicated group of 70,000 family forest owners are caring for their land - improving wildlife habitat, lowering risk of catastrophic wildfires, protecting clean water, increasing carbon sequestration, and fostering their own connections to the land. These are the members of the American Tree Farm System, a nearly 80-year old program that represents the largest, most engaged network of landowners managing 19 million acres of forestland, meeting a rigorous set of sustainability standards.
Each year, ATFS, which falls under the American Forest Foundation, celebrates the work being done by ATFS-certified landowners with the Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year (OTFY) award. This award recognizes landowners that have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to caring for their forests and leadership in educating communities about the importance of conservation on family-owned forests.
Like many other organizations, AFF and ATFS had to adapt to the challenges of the global pandemic. The health and safety of our Tree Farmers and OTFY selection committee is the number one concern. After having identified eight regional Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year finalists early in 2020, for everyone’s safety we elected to defer the selection process to 2021.
And So It Continues...
With improved conditions, the OTFY committee was able to resume the selection process and completed 8 site visits this summer. These Tree Farmers waited patiently for over a year to participate in the process, and we were glad to be able to finally recognize their hard work and exemplary stewardship in person.
After careful consideration, the eight nominees have been assessed and ATFS is pleased to announce the four regional finalists for the 2021 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year.
Please join us in congratulating the four regional finalists while you learn a bit more about them through excerpts from the nominations submitted on their behalf by their state Tree Farm programs:
Foots and Allene Parnell for the Southern Region
The Parnells are passionate about good stewardship and leaving their property better than they found it. Their philosophy is that we only occupy this land on a temporary basis and we should protect and improve our natural resources. Their forest, Foothills, is a perfect example of what can be done to improve and enhance mother nature’s gift of land. Foothills farm has been in this family for six generations, over 175 years, and if his ancestors could see this property now, they would be proud of what the Foots and Allene have accomplished. Read More.
Clifton Taylor for the Northcentral Region
Clifton Taylor and his wife Barbara first purchased a 287-acre forested tract in Casey County, Kentucky in 1959. It became the starting point for the Taylors’ mission of establishing new forests, tending young timber stands, and harvesting sustainable forest products from mature trees. His life-long appreciation of forests and the many values they provide is evident when touring his tree farm.
Today, the Taylors own 1,076 acres of certified hardwood forestland near the community of Forkland. Three generations of Taylors actively manage the forest, sharing their forestry knowledge with others and energetically participating in forestry outreach. Read More.
Don and Patricia Newell for the Northeast Region
In the words of their United States Senator, the Newells "epitomize what Tree Farmers do in Maine. They actively steward their woodlands not only for timber income, but to promote wildlife and overall forest health. They manage in a way that will provide not only for Don and Patricia, who purchased the property in 1978 but for their children and grandchildren. Beyond this, they welcome the public to utilize their forest for enjoyment and recreation. They have installed many signs that educate and assist public users on the property”. Read More.
Mary LaHood and Bob Burns for the Western Region
Bob Burns and Mary LaHood have been and continue to be conscientious, proactive, hands-on stewards of their forested land. They have been a certified Tree Farm for over 20 years and have operated under an approved management plan since 1994. Their management of the land is focused on multiple uses that includes a comprehensive array of management activities occurring over past years and planned for the future. Read More.
December 15, 2021
Mary LaHood and Bob Burns: 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year
The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) has named Mary LaHood and Bob Burns the 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. Mary and Bob manage the 320-acre LaHood-Burns Family Forest with their children in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
December 15, 2021
Black Hills Family Named National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year
The American Forest Foundation and the American Tree Farm System are excited to announce the 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year, Mary LaHood and Bob Burns of South Dakota.
July 6, 2021
ATFS Recognizes Outstanding National Volunteers
Each year the American Tree Farm System recognizes a number of individuals for their invaluable contributions of time and energy to their communities.