Western PA Tree Farm Receives 2015 Regional American Tree Farm System Award

The American Tree Farm System Monday announced the four Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year from among more than 82,000 certified Tree Farmers: John and Ann Boutwell and Peggy Boutwell Autrey of Plattville, Alabama; Duke and Naomi Hoiland of Poleridge, Montana; Raul Chiesa and Janet Sredy of Elizabeth, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; and Merlin and Georgie Becker of Manawa, Wisconsin.

Of these exceptional woodland owners, one will be chosen for the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award. Votes can be cast on the ATFS website.

ATFS, which celebrates its 75th anniversary next year, has honored more than 150 exceptional Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers since the award’s inception in 1976. These individuals are considered the top tier of woodland owners for forest stewardship and the promotion of good land management within their communities.

Woodland owners considered for the award must demonstrate exceptional efforts to preserve and enhance their woodlands, and thus the clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreational activities, and the wood for homes and paper products that come from their land, all of which are exemplified on the ATFS sign.

“Our Tree Farmers are contributing environmental, social and economic goods significantly beyond their own property boundaries,” said Tom Martin, President of American Forest Foundation (AFF), the organization who runs ATFS. “Recognizing and honoring these top individuals who help all Americans realize the everyday needs from forests, like clean water and air, is the least we can do to thank them.”

Northeastern Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year, Raul Chiesa and Janet Sredy, managers of Beckets Run Woodlands, is an exceptional example of a restoration project to a severely damaged urban-wildland interface, just miles from a major metropolitan area.

Resting 20 miles outside Pittsburgh, PA, Beckets Run Woodlands, is a piece of vital property that suffered over a 50-year period from poor agriculture practices, vandalism, invasive species, fractured ownership and more.

Taking over ownership rights in 2007, Raul and Janet set on a path to restore the native forest ecosystem, enhancing the health of trees and protecting the wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

Working with their state service forester, Raul and Janet created a forest management plan, taking part in the U.S. Forest Service “Forest Stewardship Program” and becoming ATFS certified. Today, with Beckets Run thriving, Raul and Janet have taken the lead in their community to help neighboring landowners in stewardship as well.

They have developed agreements to combat invasive plant species, established partnerships for hunting and improving wildlife among bordering properties, and have formed an educational partnership with neighbors, the local university and DCNR to protect and study rare plant species.

ATFS, the signature program of the American Forest Foundation, facilitates, recognizes and certifies that family woodland owners are doing right by their land, meeting the highest standards of sustainability and practicing good stewardship for the future.

The program encourages woodland owners to establish goals and a plan that meets their and their families’ needs, while also ensuring that their woodlands are providing for the greater needs of all Americans such as clean water, wood for products, recreation space and home for wildlife. Today, ATFS includes more than 24 million acres of certified forestland.


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