Family in Washington state awarded National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year for Habitat Restoration Efforts

The American Tree Farm System awards the New family the highest honor for conservation impact on critical habitat.

Today, the American Tree Farm System awarded the New family of Bellingham, Washington the National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year honor from among more than 70,000 certified Tree Farmers nationwide, thanks to their efforts to restore a portion of a critical watershed to help a threatened species in their state.

“The New family embody what it means to make a positive conservation impact on our forests,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation, the nonprofit conservation organization that oversees the American Tree Farm System. “Owning and caring for forestland in today’s age is not an easy task. A lack of resources, cumbersome processes and the rising costs of forest management are all significant barriers that can keep landowners from active forest management. Yet, the New family took on these challenges and were able to restore an important piece of habitat for the threatened salmon species. It was an incredible task, and we commend them for their passion and dedication to conservation.”

The New family, David and Dar New, and their daughter’s family, Jennifer and Jeff Parker and their sons, are owners of the Nourse Family Tree Farm in Bellingham, Washington. The 165-acre property has been in Dar’s family for three generations.

The New family began their stewardship journey with no formal forestry background or extensive financial resources, yet they knew they wanted to care for the land sustainably. Diving in head first, they hired a forester to help them write a forest management plan, took landowner education classes and spent nearly all their weekends at their property. Their hard work paid off. In 2015, the News were certified by the Washington state Tree Farm Program.

One fall, the News noticed a run of Coho salmon that had become stranded in a field. During the 1950s, one of the tributaries on the property had been ditched to create pastureland. Over time, the lower section silted in, causing the flow to disappear into the grass. Heavy rain had caused the run of salmon to end up in the field.

Being natives of the Pacific Northwest, the News were familiar with the heritage of the salmon species. Factors like habitat loss, fragmentation and development have put stress on the species, causing it to be listed as threatened or endangered in nearly three-fourths of Washington state.

The New family decided they wanted to restore the stream, knowing they would need to overcome costs, time and expertise to complete the work.


The News sought out resources to assist them, reaching out to their local conservation district. When at first they did not receive a response, they persisted, following up for almost two years before they formally began working together.

With the Snohomish Conservation District (SCD), David leveraged his engineering background to design the channel through the pasture field. The SCD helped the News apply for a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) easement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect the area along the stream from development and harvesting, in return giving the News an annual rental fee to help cover forest management costs.

The channel was constructed in August 2016, followed by the planting of 3,000 trees along the 30 acres of stream bank to help prevent erosion and filter and clean the water. The SCD, Washington Conservation Corps crews, community volunteers, and school groups helped to complete the work.

Today, the News are able to walk the stream and watch the salmon navigate through the channel successfully. To help encourage other landowners to take on similar conservation projects, David and Dar have hosted university extension forestry events, tours, and schools and community groups to see their Tree Farm.

Across the U.S., family forest owners like the News care for the largest portion, more than one-third, of America’s forests. Their efforts are crucial to the sustainability of our country’s natural resources, such as clean water, wildlife habitat, carbon storage and a wood supply for the products Americans use every day.

The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) is an internationally-recognized education and certification program designed specifically for family forest owners. The program provides enrolled landowners with tools, community and support to keep their forests healthy. Enrolled Tree Farmers, in return, care for their land, meeting rigorous Standards of Sustainability. Collectively, there are nearly 19 million forested acres within the ATFS program nationwide.

To be considered for the Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award, individuals must exhibit exceptional forest stewardship to protect and improve our forest resources, and must promote forest stewardship within their communities.

The New family was selected from among this year’s Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Years, which also included from the South: Stan and Suzanne Wood of Bremen, Alabama; from the Northeast: Bill and Tina Buckel of Bittinger, Maryland; and from the North Central: Mike Trail of Columbia, Missouri.

About the American Forest Foundation and American Tree Farm System: 
The American Forest Foundation (AFF), a forest conservation organization, works on the ground with families, partners and elected officials to promote stewardship and keep our forests healthy. America’s family forests are vital for producing clean water and air, wildlife habitat and sustainable wood supplies. AFF’s signature program, the American Tree Farm System® is the country’s largest sustainable woodland program with a network of more than 70,000 family forest owners managing nearly 19 million acres of forestland.

The New family gathered together on their Tree Farm in Washington

The New family of Washington, the 2019 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

“The New family embody what it means to make a positive conservation impact on our forests,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation, the nonprofit conservation organization that oversees the American Tree Farm System