Meet the 2016 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) announced this week that the Defrees family of Oregon are the 2016 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year.

Father and son duo, Lyle and Dean Defrees, along with their family have been protecting their forested land, the wildlife habitat it provides, and the water supply that runs through it, for more than 100 years.

“We’re truly honored to be chosen as the National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year,” said Lyle Defrees. “Our family has had a passion for our land and conservation for generations. Most everything we do is to protect our land from fire so it can continue to provide for us, the wildlife in our region, and our fellow Oregonians. We joined ATFS in 1980 because we wanted to be a part of a community of other forest owners that share our interest, where we could learn from them, as well as share our own experiences and help others.”

The Defrees Tree Farm is located in northeast Oregon, a region of the state prone to intense wildfires that have consumed both forest and homes, and affected the watersheds that supply the communities of the state with their drinking water. The Defrees experienced ones of these wildfires firsthand when the Huckleberry Forest Fire of 1986 burned 500 acres of their 2,000-acre Tree Farm. Devastated by the effects, the Defrees committed to protecting their forest and all that it provides from future loss.

Annually, the Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year (OTFY) award recognizes private landowners that have done an exceptional job of forest management on their property and are also actively promoting sustainable forestry.  Through this award program, these individuals are honored as leaders in good forestry while their land demonstrates the benefits of good forest management.

Each year, ATFS, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary, recognizes four Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers out of the 74,000 Tree Farmers nationwide. This year’s regional awardees include Bobby Watkins of Mississippi; Jug Kann of Wisconsin; and the Eve-Cowles family, of Massachusetts, in addition to the Defrees family.

Learn more at

Accessibility Toolbar

WE'RE HIRING! NASF is hiring an in-house Grants & Contracts Manager.