Family Forest Blog

Planting Seeds for the Future of Family Forestry

American Forest Foundation

December 14, 2020

Redwood Forest-CA

Pride of ownership. That’s the driving force for Lois Kaufman and Dave McNamara as they steward their 53-acre property in Oak Run, California, about 30 miles northeast of Redding. They’ve both enjoyed long careers as foresters and mentored countless Tree Farmers. Now, Lois and Dave are supporting family landowners through their planned gift to the Seedling Society.

In early 2019, a group of American Forest Foundation (AFF) supporters, board members, and Tree Farm committee participants gathered together to begin crafting personal solutions for landowners and conservationists who share a strong belief in the stewardship of healthy forests for generations to come. It was from this meeting that the Seedling Society was born. This approach to legacy planning by AFF welcomes individuals and families wishing to explore simple but profound planned gift solutions.

Lois and Dave were active in those early brainstorming sessions and decided the Seedling Society aligned with their legacy planning goals.

A Lifetime Among the Trees

Dave and Lois both knew from an early age that they wanted a career in forestry. For Dave, the spark came from camping trips in the Sierra Nevada as a Boy Scout. He earned his forestry degree at Humboldt State College in 1971, then spent 29 years with California’s state forest system.

“Eventually I got to manage the LaTour Demonstration Forest. In fact, that’s where I met Lois,” he says. LaTour, in Shasta County, is home to an actively managed forest and a number of volcanic and glacial features. “I was at LaTour for just over 13 years,” Dave recalls. “I essentially spent half my time managing the state forest, with the rest of my time in the forest practice program, enforcing the rules and regulations for private logging.”

Lois grew up outside Detroit. A childhood spent outdoors led her naturally into a forestry career. She attended Michigan State in the 1970s—one of seven women among 300 forestry students. She worked on fire crews in California during summers and returned after graduation, marking salvage timber, working five seasons at LaTour, among other jobs. In 2010, Lois became executive director of the California State Tree Farm Committee.

“Lois has been a pioneer and a role model for women in forestry in California, having pursued a successful career in forestry spanning many years at CAL FIRE and in the private sector,” says AFF Western Strategic Partnerships Manager Bethany Mueller. “Lois also has been an outstanding leader with the California Tree Farm Committee.”

The Transition to Tree Farming

Lois and Dave bought their first eight acres in 2006, and another 45 in 2013. Dave retired about 20 years ago, but he hasn’t stopped working. “That first eight acres, I have to admit, I cleaned it up like a park,” he says. “I enjoy doing it. The bottom line is it’s just pride of ownership. We get a lot of nice compliments from people. They see what we’ve done, and then they want to do it to their land.”

Living in wildfire country informs much of their labor. “We built our house with fire in mind,” Lois says. The house and outbuildings are built with fire-resistant Hardie board and metal roofing. They logged and did a biomass thinning on the surrounding eight acres, and they maintain a 150-foot perimeter.

Dave loves big trees, so you’ll find lots of sizable specimens on their land. “Because of our large-diameter trees, we have a lot of pileated woodpeckers,” Dave says. “We see them around the house all the time. And if a tree does die, they’ll nest in it.”

Lois has a fondness for trees that add what she calls “architectural interest.” “I like the narrow old nasty things that have been around forever,” she says.

Lois Kaufman and Dave McNamara (Landowners, CA)-Forest Landowners of CA Field Day

Lois Kaufman and Dave McNamara at a Forest Landowners of California Field Day event.

“Lois and Dave take great pride and joy in managing their forest in the foothills of the Sierra,” Bethany Mueller says. “I’ve had the pleasure of visiting them on their property several times, and I have learned so much during my time with them about managing forests for wildfire resilience. Their enthusiasm for managing their land is contagious. I wish every landowner could take a walk in the woods with Lois and Dave! California is so fortunate to be the beneficiary of Lois and Dave’s service.”

Planting a Legacy: The Seedling Society

“We’ve been more successful than we ever thought we would be,” Lois says. “We started talking about how we should spread this around a little bit. That coincided with the Seedling Society that AFF has been putting together. AFF has a great track record of learning from history. They don’t live in the past—they learn from it, apply those lessons, and look to the future. We were thinking about how many places we’ve enjoyed that had been donated by a group or an individual who paid it forward. We don’t have millions of dollars, but we can combine what we have with a group like AFF. It’s a way to give back to something that’s given us so much.”

“When you walk Lois and Dave’s property with them and hear them talk about their family, their forestry careers, how much they believe in ATFS and AFF and the legacy they want to leave, they epitomize what the Seedling Society is about,” says AFF Director of Philanthropy Beth Riley. “The Seedling Society is meant to be a group of people who have made a commitment not only to give to AFF, but also to be a part of the conversation about how to advance the organization’s work long into the future. These are true stakeholders in our work, and we value their commitment—and their expertise and longevity—tremendously.”

Whatever happens to their property, Lois and Dave’s legacy will live on through their planned gift to the Seedling Society. “We don’t know what path our family will take in life,” Lois says. “But we do have the peace of mind that something we have will live on in the forestry community through our gift to AFF. It might not be the land, but it is one way we can pay it forward.”

Find out more about planned gift solutions and the Seedling Society by contacting gift planning expert Beth Riley at briley@forestfoundation.org or 402-983-0655.

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