County has had two national winners and several western states honorees
Linn County is timber-rich and rich in timber growing efforts. Roughly 70 percent of Linn County is forested — in a verdant belt running from the Willamette River to the Cascade peaks.
The American Tree Farm System and Oregon Small Woodlands Association have added another Linn County family name to its honor roll.
Selection of the Merzenich families as Oregon Tree Farmers of the Year June 2023 continues a long run of recognition for Linn County private-property tree farmers.
“When you see the Tree Farm sign, it is the sign of good forestry,” said Joe Holmberg. “More than that, it is the sign that families, not corporations, are involved in sustainably providing wood, water, recreation and wildlife for future generations,” said Holmberg, who heads up the Linn County Tree Farmer of the Year selection committee.
Oregon has had five National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year since 1966. Two of the five were from Linn County.
Bert and Betty Udell of the Happy Valley Tree Farm along Bellinger Scale Road were national winners in 1982.
In 2002, Ron and Barbara Bentz gained the national honors.
The Bentz and Udell families were honored at the western states level ahead of their national honor.
In addition, the county has had three Western Regional Tree Farmers of the Year.
The American Tree Farm System is divided into four regions. There are 11 states in the western region.
For their Fun Forest project off Berlin Road, Jim Cota along with Scott and Robbie Melcher were the top western states tree farmers in 2010.
Linn and Linda Butts were named western states honorees in 1998.
Bob Mealey — the first president of the Linn County Small Woodlands Association — was the top western tree grower in 1990, at time when professional foresters were not allowed to win a national title.
OSWA is the largest organization in the state representing the interests of family forest landowners. It serves as their collective voice in legislative and policy matters, as well as communications with the general public, according to the group’s website. There are currently 16 Oregon chapters representing 21 counties, with 3,200 members who collectively own over 500,000 acres.
OSWA’s vision, according to the website, is to see privately owned family woodlands remain a thriving part of Oregon’s landscape. OSWA members are kept abreast of current forestry research. OSWA provides a forum for the exchange of ideas among the forestry community.
When traveling Oregon’s back roads, people may see green and white, diamond-shaped signs declaring “Certified Tree Farm, American Tree Farm System: Wood, Water, Wildlife, Recreation.”
As a national organization, the American Tree Farm System has been around since 1941, according to its website.
The American Tree Farm System — in conjunction with the Oregon Tree Farm System — also administers the “Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year” program at the county, state, regional and national levels.