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.