Press release from EcoForesters:
(Asheville, NC)—EcoForesters’ Annual Awards, celebrating achievement in ecological forestry, were announced on November 17th, at their Annual Event held at The Wedge Foundation. This year’s awards highlighted important issues that face our region’s forests and the great people that are making a difference in forestry.
The three winners are:
Doug Tallamy, author, and conservationist was awarded the 2022 Root Cause Award his commitment to natural communities and the benefits they provide. Healthy oak trees play a vital role in maintaining insect populations and are a root cause for sustaining wildlife populations. His writings and approach help the public better understand the connection between active stewardship and the ecosystem services that are taken for granted.
John Ager, longtime conservation landowner and NC State Representative was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement award. This award recognizes John Ager for his commitment to conservation and natural communities. His efforts to permanently protect farmland and his commitment to community service have benefited Western North Carolina and beyond. His faith, shown through his works and the example he has set over a lifetime is why we honor him this award.
Mark Yeager and his wife Lisa were awarded the 2022 EcoForester of the Year award for their demonstration of ecologically beneficial forestry. This award recognizes Mark Yeager for improving his family’s land in Tuckaseegee through active stewardship. Converting a white pine plantation into a stand of mixed hardwoods by planting oaks will transform a monoculture into a more desirable and diverse wildlife habitat. His devotion and planning are exemplary of what is needed to restore and sustain healthy, vibrant forests.
There once was a time when doing no harm was considered enough. This usually meant, not cutting any trees, or developing your forest. But the time for doing nothing has passed and we must be intentional in how we steward the land. EcoForesters is a non-profit forest management group in Asheville whose mission is to conserve and restore Appalachian forests through education and stewardship. Almost 70% of the forests of Western North Carolina are privately owned, yet less than 25% have a management plan. In the absence of planning, forests are subjected to invasive species, development pressures and weather extremes as a result of climate change.
The absence of planning has created a situation where forests are losing their resiliency and ability to provide clean water, wildlife habitat and the quality of life attributed to them. Given healthy forests ability to offset climate change through carbon sequestration, EcoForesters is driven to improve awareness and the number of forested acres being managed. These awards lift people and partners that are committed to that cause.
BACKGROUND ON RECIPIENTS AND WHY THEY WERE CHOSEN
This year’s group of award winners were chosen because they best exemplified our mission and approach to forest stewardship. Efforts must be taken to create awareness about the current state of our forests and what can be done to help restore them. We must encourage forestland owners to manage their land in a way that supports their values and legacy. Each forestland owner that protects forest resiliency through wise management is an unsung hero as everyone in our region benefits from the clean water, wildlife habitat and quality of life that come from healthy forests.
2022 Root Cause Award
Communicating the need for active forest stewardship can be difficult due to many factors including the decades over which forests grow and age. Impacts due to mismanagement or environmental threats often go unnoticed until the problem has degraded forest health. So, it is important that we effectively communicate these threats and the possible solutions.
When native ecosystems are degraded, every species, plant and animal that live in that ecosystem are stressed, some more than others. When one species falters, others that are living symbiotically with it are also prone to negative impacts. These relationships often go unnoticed by the public eye unless someone can educate them in a meaningful way. When science is communicated in a positive manner, the need to pay closer attention to the natural world is highlighted and action is more likely to happen.
This year’s Root Cause award winner is an author and conservationist with a story to tell. His books Nature’s Best Hope and The Nature of Oaks call attention to the relationship between insects, plants and the services provided by nature. Not only does his approach make learning about insects interesting, the call to action in his initiative Homegrown National Park is helping provide habitat for native species.
This award recognizes Doug Tallamy for his commitment to natural communities and the benefits they provide. Healthy oak trees play a vital role in maintaining insect populations and are a root cause for sustaining wildlife populations. His writings and approach help the public better understand the connection between active stewardship and the ecosystem services that are taken for granted.
2022 Lifetime Achievement Award
Managing the land is a lifelong pursuit and few people get to see the results of stewardship and planning past one generation. But when your family is rooted in the land with a commitment to managing it for the next generation, you gain the perspective of how past decisions have impacted current conditions and a greater appreciation for your role in preservation for the next generation. This mindset is seen through this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
John Ager is dedicated to not just his families land, but the entire landscape that sets Western North Carolina (WNC) apart from other parts of the world. His works can be seen not only through his children and grandchildren’s management of Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, but also through his actions as a NC State Representative for the 115th district of WNC. He represented his constituency like he farmed, by considering the future and sacrificing short term gains for long term success.
This award recognizes John Ager for his commitment to conservation and natural communities. His efforts to permanently protect farmland and his commitment to community service have benefited Western North Carolina and beyond. His faith, shown through his works and the example he has set over a lifetime is why we honor him this award.
2022 EcoForester of the Year Award
Perhaps the biggest challenge for EcoForesters as leaders in ecologically beneficial forestry is reaching the many private landowners that control over two thirds of our region’s forests. So, when a landowner exhibits model behavior as a forest steward, we feel the need to lift them up and support the behavior we hope to see in other landowners.
The threats facing forests are common across ownership. What is less common is the understanding that nature cannot always take care of itself. But by planning and actively engaging in forest stewardship, natural systems and native species can be strengthened. When a landowner engages with their land, they gain a better understanding of how forestry unfolds over decades and how adaptive management can help overcome past mistakes. Active landowners do exist and they should be honored for managing their forest in a manner that improves ecological health.
A common forestry practice was to reforest abandoned farmland with white pines, helping stabilize and rebuild their soils. From the 1960 well into the 80’s, the government recommended and funded planting easy to grow white pines in the mountains. Now many of these trees are overgrown and in need of thinning. However, selling small tracts of low-quality timber is very difficult in the mountains. After trying for a more than a year, Evergreen Packaging, the paper mill in Canton, agreed to put this tract into their FSC certified sustainable wood program. Thanks to the landowner’s commitment and incentives provided by local industry, this forest will be restored to its original mixed hardwood composition.
This award recognizes Mark Yeager for improving his family’s land in Tuckaseegee through active stewardship. Converting a white pine plantation into a stand of mixed hardwoods by planting oaks will transform a monoculture into a more desirable and diverse wildlife habitat. His devotion and planning are exemplary of what is needed to restore and sustain healthy, vibrant forests.