WASHINGTON, D.C. — Judy and Dwight Batts of Macclesfield, North Carolina, have been named 2014 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year by the American Tree Farm System® (ATFS), a program of the American Forest Foundation (AFF). The couple are the fifth generation to manage their family-owned Tree Farm, Batts Tree Farm. They received their award at the ATFS Tree Farmer Convention in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Friday, July 18. The Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award is sponsored by STIHL, Inc. AFF President and CEO Tom Martin joined Kenneth Stewart Jr., Chair of AFF's Board of Trustees and Brad Sorgen of STIHL in presenting the Batts’s with a trophy and $1,000 in STIHL product certificates.

The Batts’s, their children and grandchildren manage their 375 ATFS-certified acres of woodland for timber (mostly loblolly and longleaf pine), water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation. Through perseverance and hard work they have established 60 acres of longleaf pines, a native species that once covered much of the Southeast U.S. but which has declined dramatically over the past century.

The couple raises and releases quail on their property and maintains nest boxes for mallard, pintail and wood ducks. The nest boxes they provide for bluebirds produce between 200 and 250 chicks every year. More than seven acres of wildflowers, grasses and clovers support bees and other pollinating insects. Educating others about forest stewardship is important too. Since 2001, Dwight and Judy have hosted more than 1,500 visitors on their farm, including other Tree Farmers from across the U.S., scouts, school groups, forestry students and professionals, and delegates from Mexico and China.

“Dwight and Judy Batts not only represent the highest standards of forest stewardship, but also the ideal of keeping forests as forest, to be managed sustainably for future generations,” said AFF President Martin. “They are the fifth generation to steward their land, and they have made sure their work will continue. They have demonstrated their leadership among America’s family forest owners by making their Batts Tree Farm a model of forest management, a place for conservation of water and wildlife, and a place where children and adults alike can learn about and enjoy the outdoors.”

“The sustainable production and conservation that Dwight and Judy have created on their family homestead is an inspiration to natural resource professionals, other landowners, visiting school children and anyone else who is lucky enough to pay a visit,” said Sean Brogan of the North Carolina Forest Service. The couple, he says, “embodies the spirit of the Tree Farm Program.”

Every year, ATFS inspecting foresters and state committees nominate Certified Tree Farmers whose conservation efforts, outreach efforts to their community and advocacy for sustainable forest management exceed expectations.

“Privately owned woodlands are vital to our country's clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreational activities and producing the jobs, wood and paper products we all need. These benefits wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding stewardship and hard work of dedicated landowners across the country, and the American Tree Farm System is proud to recognize our outstanding Tree Farmers every year,” said Rita Hite, Executive Vice President for Woodlands and Policy with the American Forest Foundation.

In addition to National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year Judy and Dwight Batts, regional honorees celebrated on July 18 include: Northeast Region - Bambi Jones and David (“Tracy”) Moskovitz, Whitefield, ME; North Central Region - Kim and Dennis Schoeneck, Pelican Lake, WI; and Western Region – Audrey and Rick Barnes, Roseburg, OR.

The Regional and National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year awards are sponsored by STIHL Inc., manufacturer of the number-one-selling brand of handheld outdoor power equipment in America. STIHL is proud to support the accomplishments of hard-working Tree Farmers from across the country.

The American Tree Farm System® is a network of 82,000 family forest owners sustainably managing 24 million acres of forestland. ATFS is the largest and oldest sustainable woodland system in the United States, internationally recognized, meeting strict third-party certification standards. The American Tree Farm System® is a program of the American Forest Foundation. Learn more at www.treefarmsystem.org/awards-recognition.

Source: American Forest Foundation

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