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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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