Forest2Market would like congratulate our own Gordon Culbertson and his wife Gail as finalists for the 2020 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award from the American Tree Farm System. The award is the highest honor that is bestowed on private timberland owners in the United States. The American Forest Foundation (AFF) is the nonprofit conservation organization that oversees the American Tree Farm System.
The Culbertsons formed Whitewater Forests in 2001 with their first 43 acres in Douglas County, Oregon, eventually adding two more parcels for a total of 151 acres, 111 of which are ATFS certified. They sustainably produce premium sawmill and veneer logs from Douglas fir, Western red cedar, and white fir, while promoting healthy habitats and recreational opportunities.
The three Whitewater tree farms are managed as a single entity, and their management strategy supports a 50-to-60-year rotation complemented by commercial thinning to remove inferior stems and encourage growth of premium quality sawmill and veneer logs.
Gail and Gordon both grew up working and playing on family farms, which nurtured their appreciation of heritage and stewarding the land. Gordon’s long career in the timber industry, including a degree in forest technology, gave him a solid foundation for owning and managing his forestland.
The Culbertsons are also strong advocates for family-owned forests at the local and state levels. “Our family is proud of our efforts to manage for healthy forests, recreation, wildlife, and clean water,” they said. “We take every opportunity to share what we do and learn what others have done to protect and care for their forest. We each have different objectives but have much to learn from others. Tree Farm membership and participation offers that unique forum.”
Salmon and steelhead trout populate three streams, including the headwaters of Wildcat Creek, a 16-mile tributary of the Siuslaw River, making erosion control and buffering a priority, especially during harvests. Surplus shade and down logs aid aquatic health while supporting economic harvests. Large woody debris and snags are left on-site to support the abundant wildlife, including black-tail deer, Roosevelt elk, black bear, coyote, bobcat, and the songbirds Gail and Gordon particularly enjoy.
Gail and Gordon have documented the history of their tree farm back to around 1880. You can still find remnants of the springboard stumps that early loggers cut by hand. In their downtime, the family relaxes around the historic Phillipps house, near an old sawmill site, and along their extensive trail system.
The Culbertsons take the long view as Tree Farmers. Their goal is to leave a positive cultural, economic, and environmental legacy that will last for generations.
America’s family forests—like those owned by Gordon and Gail—are vital for clean water and air, wildlife habitat, and sustainable wood supplies. 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 19 million acres of forestland.