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Tree Farmers

Black Hills Family Named National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year

Today, the American Forest Foundation, a national conservation organization that empowers family forest owners to make a positive impact through their woodlands, announced Bob Burns and Mary LaHood of Piedmont, South Dakota as the American Tree Farm System’s (ATFS) 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year. The LaHood-Burns family was selected from among more than 70,000 certified Tree Farmers nationwide, and are being recognized for their decades of dedicated, proactive stewardship of their 320 acres of forestland. 

“I am privileged to know Mary and Bob personally and can attest to their commitment to building community among forest landowners, in addition to caring for their land in a way that would make past and future generations proud,” said Angela Wells, Director of the ATFS. “Their efforts to empower their neighbors to protect themselves and their forests from wildfire, while tirelessly advocating for the rights of South Dakota’s family forest owners, are an embodiment of what makes the ATFS network so special.”

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Tree Farmers

Mary LaHood and Bob Burns: 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

In the mid 1870’s, there were two ways to enter the Black Hills of South Dakota, on foot or on the back of a horse. By 1887, the effort to construct the first railroad into a piece of Lakota treaty land that settlers called the Piedmont Valley brought John Murray to the area. In July of that year, Murray purchased a large acreage, including the wooded slopes above the red dirt valley floor, for $675.

One hundred and thirty-four years later, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), a program administered by the American Forest Foundation, has named Murray’s descendants as the 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. Mary LaHood and Bob Burns, who manage the LaHood-Burns Family Forest with their children, were selected by an independent selection committee made up of ATFS partners, landowners, and past Regional and Outstanding Tree Farmer of the year finalists.

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Tree Farmers

Meet the Jacksons of Pennsylvania

Mountain Meadows and its many acres of forests were part of Laura Jackson’s beloved childhood home. As a young adult, she moved away from the family farm in Everett, Pennsylvania and met her husband Mike, who also grew up on a farm. They are both retired schoolteachers. In 1983, when her parents asked, “Why don’t you move back?” the answer was “Yes.” Her parents gifted Laura and Mike 113 mostly forested acres from the farm, and five years later, the Jacksons built a house on the property and started their journey as first-time landowners and forest stewards.

Their property was a wildlife oasis. The Jacksons were thrilled to watch bobcats, deer, bears, and birds that called their property home. They spent time in the woods documenting their sightings, became amateur nature photographers, and Mike became an avid hunter.

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Tree Farmers

Putting Our Best Digital Foot Forward

Friends, I am thrilled to share that we have just launched a newly designed website—the first large-scale representation of a comprehensive strategic branding exercise we began last year.

I am proud of the end result. With the help of our amazing staff and partners, we were able to identify our most powerful assets as an organization, delve into the many strengths of our programs and hone our unique contribution to the conservation space.

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Tree Farmers

Empowering Rural American Forest Owners to Take Climate Action

In the U.S., forests serve as the nation’s largest terrestrial carbon sink, offsetting 15 percent of our nation’s annual emissions. More importantly, studies suggest this could be nearly doubled – through reforestation (planting trees) and improved forest management of our existing woodlands.

To unlock the carbon potential in our forests, lawmakers should look no further than family forest owners. Families and individuals, with properties varying from 20 to 2,000 acres, collectively care for the largest portion of forests in America. Some are generations of families, others are farmers who also own trees, others are wildlife enthusiasts, and some are simply people who own forestland as part of their home. While they may all be different, they all care for land that contributes to clean water, wildlife habitat, wood supplies, and our carbon sink.

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Tree Farmers

Announcing the 2021 Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

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. 

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Tree Farmers

Loan Guarantees to Help Scale Carbon Projects for Small Forest Holders

Capitol Hill has been buzzing with conversations, hearings, and round tables on how rural America can help address climate change. One such opportunity is via carbon markets for small forest holders.

Across the U.S., the largest portion of forests are owned by families and individuals in small parcels between 20 and 1,000 acres. For these small forest owners, carbon markets provide a voluntary avenue for action, rather than a regulatory approach. And, like timber markets, signal the value in keeping their forests as forests.

More importantly, carbon markets help landowners overcome cost barriers, allowing them to bring in income from their land that helps them implement improved management practices that they would normally not be able to afford.

The good news is that carbon markets are growing. Mark Carney, chief of the private sector Taskforce for Scaling Carbon Markets, has pointed out that voluntary carbon markets will need to scale 15-fold to meet growing demand fueled by net-zero pledges made by companies. This demand and the dollars associated with carbon credits could be channeled to family and individual forest owners.

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Climate Change Tree Farmers

Launching an Innovative Collaboration Between Landowners and Consumers for Climate Change

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) and IvyCo, a financial technology startup, are launching an innovative collaboration to fight climate change by bringing together family forest owners and individual consumers through the Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP). This Program was co-created by AFF and The Nature Conservancy to bring together rural family forest owners and companies to address climate change. Together, IvyCo and the FFCP are working to address challenges in scaling the voluntary carbon markets to increase the potential of family forests as a critical natural climate solution.

IvyCo creates products to empower individuals to fight climate change with their everyday purchases. By connecting to an individual’s bank accounts through secure Open Banking technology, IvyCo analyzes spending patterns to help users understand their largest areas of climate impact. More than just educating about carbon intensive spending, IvyCo lets users round up their spare change to fund decarbonization efforts, including the FFCP. These micro-transaction round ups lead to a significant impact over time—every $11 raised for the FFCP leads to improved management of an acre of family-owned forests.

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Tree Farmers

Encouraging Lifelong Learning

Written by Nick Fortuna

When a German word enters the parlance of our times, it tends to be memorable. Think of “fahrvergnügen,” which means the pleasure of driving, or “schadenfreude,” the satisfaction we sometimes derive from another person’s misfortune.

For Al Robertson, the German word that has stuck with him the most is “Dauerwald,” meaning permanent or perpetual, and as a certified Tree Farmer in the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), he lives that concept every day. Dauerwald refers to continuous-cover forestry (CCF), the practice of sustainably managing forests by selectively harvesting individual trees.

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Tree Farmers Vermont

“Slow the Spread” Efforts Ongoing in Vermont Despite End to Federal Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine

On January 14th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) ended the Federal Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) quarantine to place more emphasis on management and biological controls to combat the pest. In Vermont, while we continue to find new areas of infestation, our forests support overwhelmingly healthy populations of ash to protect as long as possible. Bearing that in mind, we urge Vermonters to continue to follow the “Slow the Spread” recommendations, which can be found on VTinvasives.orgInformation regarding the Federal deregulation of EAB

  • Compliance Agreements to Move Ash Wood: Compliance agreements will no longer be needed to move ash wood unless the receiving state quarantine requires them. As of now, in our area, Maine is the only state that has a state EAB quarantine. A compliance agreement is required to move any regulated ash material from any out-of-state location into non-quarantined portions of the State of Maine. These agreements will be handled by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM). Learn more about Maine’s quarantine. If you need an agreement or have questions, contact Judy Rosovsky at 802-279-2212.
  • Firewood Kiln Certification: Kiln certifications will continue to be handled by the VAAFM. Certification is required every two years. If you need a kiln certification or have questions, contact Judy Rosovsky at 802-279-2212.
  • Ash Wood Exports: The removal of the Federal EAB quarantine in the United States will only impact domestic activities. USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine will continue to issue Phytosanitary Certificates for plants and plant products to meet an importing country’s phytosanitary requirements. Contact the Vermont Export Certification Specialist (ECS) or ECS from the state of export for more information. 

ResourcesWe have updated the following Vermont EAB resources on VTinvasives.org to reflect the federal deregulation of EAB:

The federal deregulation of EAB does not influence state regulations. Transporting wood visibly infested with EAB and importing untreated firewood from outside Vermont is not allowed. Following “Slow the Spread” recommendations is required if wood is visibly infested. Slowing the spread of EAB in Vermont will mean many more years of enjoying ash trees for their beauty, ecological, and commercial attributes. We thank you for your ongoing commitment to this effort.