Local tree farmers honored

Sean C. Morgan

Dr. Henry Wolthuis and Mollie Wolthuis were named Linn County Tree Farmer of the Year by the Linn County Chapter of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association for their 120-acre Wiley Creek tree farm.

The award recognizes the Wolthuis’ outstanding management of their forested property, said Joe Holmberg, president of the Oregon Tree Farm System.

“Wolthuis,” translated from Dutch, means “Little House in the Woods,” Holmberg said. “Consequently, it seems natural that they feel drawn to owning woodlands and managing them like they do their own home.”

As with many small woodland owners, economics is not always the main consideration when making management decisions, Holmberg said. When asked why he has done something to his forest, Wolthuis will respond, “It just looks good,” or “It should happen.”

The Wolthuis tree farm, Pebble Springs Tree Farm, is located off Wiley Creek Drive near Whiskey Butte Drive. They purchased it in 1975, and Cascade Timber Consulting has worked on the property seven times since 1979.

In 2004, Milt Moran of CTC asked Wolthuis, a dentist, whether he wanted to maximize revenue, Moran said, and Wolthuis told him he “just wanted to do the right thing.”

Last week Melcher Logging started thinning a nearly 40-acre section, a 25-year-old stand thinned 10 years ago. Scott Melcher demonstrated a mechanical harvester he is using on the thin during a tour of the property on Saturday.

Every few years, every tree farm that is part of the Oregon Tree Farm System is visited by an inspector, Holmberg said. A couple of years ago, he visited Pebble Springs.

“I was really impressed by Henry’s attitude” Holmberg said. The tree farm exemplifies everything the association values, wood production, protection of water resources and wildlife and recreational use.

The tree farm includes a camp area, including a covered dining area, grills, swing sets, a permanent campfire ring with benches and a cabin, all of which have been used by family, churches and organizations such as the Rotary Club. Wolthuis also has preserved a three-plot cemetery, the final resting place of Sweet Home pioneer Andrew Wiley.

The award “came as a surprise,” Wolthuis said. “And I’m grateful to lot of people who have brought it to pass.”

Among them, he said, are Moran and Larry Blem of CTC, family members, Scott Melcher and Melcher Logging.

Pebble Springs will next be considered for 2011 Oregon Tree Farm of the Year. The winner will be anounced at the Oregon Tree Farm System’s annual meeting in Portland on Nov. 1.

The OTFS is the Oregon affiliate of the American Tree Farm System, a national community of 95,000 Tree Farmers managing 27 million acres of family forestlands.

Wolthuis, a longtime local dentist, wasn’t a tree farmer when he purchased the property.

“I just wanted to buy a piece of property, and trees fit this one,” Wolthuis said. It’s been a lot of hard work, and it’s been fun and good for the family.

It was a new experience, he said, and he has derived a great deal of personal satisfaction from the tree farm.

“We’ve had our failures,” Wolthuis said. Through trial and error, planting two or three times in a couple of areas, he has learned what to do and what not to do.