BY JULIE NOLTA
This last November, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) named the Defrees Tree Farm of Oregon the 2016 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year. The tree farm has been in the family for more than 100 years and is now run by father and son team, Lyle and Dean Defrees, along with their wives and children. “Our family has had a passion for our land and conservation for generations,” said Lyle. They call their grandparents the original environmentalists for their work in maintaining the land over the years.
Their farm, located in Baker county in northeastern Oregon, covers 2,000 acres where they primarily grow and harvest Ponderosa pines. The trees are harvested for pulp, chip wood, and firewood in the winter (when other work slows down and when the ground is frozen to lessen the impact on the site).
In addition to farming, they raise beef cattle on the property to the highest environmental and compassionate standards. They like to think that their cows live happier lives since they are free to roam the land.
One of their main concerns is protecting the forested land from wildfires, which can be intense and devastating in that region of the state. The methods they use for harvesting and managing the land and water are all practiced with that in mind.
The Defreeses are active in their community, mentoring and educating other landowners about natural resource management, advocating for small businesses and ranchers at the state legislature, and hosting recreational groups on their property.
“For over a century they have practiced sustainable forest and cattle management,” stated the ATFS in their announcement. “Their storybook tale is about pioneering the West, with a foundation built on family and land. They truly are National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year.”
The Defrees family was honored in December 2016, at a reception on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.