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Cedar Creek Plantation owners finalists for national forestry award

The owners of Cedar Creek Plantation have been named one of four Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year.

John and Ann Boutwell of Prattville and Peggy Boutwell Autrey of Enterprise own the farm, which is located northwest of Greenville. The trio was selected from the Southern Region by the America Tree Farm System (ATFS). They will compete with the three other regional winners for the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award. They were selected from more than 82,000 certified tree farmers.

ATFS, which celebrates its 75th anniversary next year, has honored more than 150 exceptional Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers since the award’s inception in 1976.

These individuals are considered the top tier of woodland owners for forest stewardship and the promotion of good land management within their communities.

Woodland owners considered for the award must demonstrate exceptional efforts to preserve and enhance their woodlands, and thus the clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreational activities, and the wood for homes and paper products that come from their land, all of which are exemplified on the ATFS sign.

“Our Tree Farmers are contributing environmental, social and economic goods significantly beyond their own property boundaries,” said Tom Martin, president of American Forest Foundation, the organization that runs the America Tree Farm System. “Recognizing and honoring these top individuals who help all Americans realize the everyday needs from forests, like clean water and air, is the least we can do to thank them.”

ATFS, the signature program of the American Forest Foundation (AFF), facilitates, recognizes and certifies that family woodland owners are doing right by their land, meeting the highest standards of sustainability and practicing good stewardship for the future. The program encourages woodland owners to establish goals and a plan that meets their and their families’ needs, while also ensuring that their woodlands are providing for the greater needs of all Americans such as clean water, wood for products, recreation space and home for wildlife. Today, ATFS includes more than 24 million acres of certified forestland.

Unlike most landowners, John Boutwell or his family perform most of the hard work and sweat equity on their land.

Throughout the years, they have overcome challenges such as a severe pine beetle infestation and a hurricane (Ivan) that left damaging effects, working through each event with sustainable management in mind and finding solutions that enhanced their woods afterwards. But what’s more, the lessons they have learned from these challenges have not stopped on their doorstep.

The Boutwells focus much of their time teaching and sharing the information they have gained with others; they often host Boy Scout Troops, large community groups, or individual landowners, all to demonstrate various good management practices. Because of their dedication to the local community, many others in Alabama have purchased land and are on the path to becoming certified as well, according to the America Tree Farm System.

The winner of the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award will be decided by an online vote. Votes can be cast at treefarmsystem.org.