The Arkansas Forestry Commission named a local couple the 2017 Arkansas Forest Stewards of the Year for managing their 195-acre tract of mixed forestland, pasture, and bottomland near Cadron Creek.
Michael and Tamera Rossi of Conway received a plaque and a sign, which is visible at the property's entrance, for the recognition.
“We were pretty excited,” Michael told the Log Cabin Democrat on Monday. “Everybody has come out and checked out the sign."
The couple moved back from Colorado in 1995 to help Tamera's family with their farm after her dad died. A couple of years later, they bought 23,000 trees that they planted themselves.
Michael said that at the time, his wife worked for the state forestry commission and his job required quite a bit of travel so it wasn't ideal for them to have livestock.
"I needed to do something with the acreage," he said, adding that they borrowed a tree planter and went to work. "They’re pretty good size now.”
The Forest Stewardship Program recognizes and rewards landowners that are managing privately owned forestland with a multi-use concept, which could include enhancement of wildlife through habitat protection and improvements, protection against soil erosion, protection of water quality, restoration and management of wetlands, and others, forestry officials said in a news release.
County Forester Scottie Youngblood notified the couple they had received the honor.
"The Rossi family has always made good forest management a priority and because of that, they have enjoyed a valuable timber harvest and a healthy landscape," he said. "Even through several setbacks including a devastating ice storm, Mike and Tamera invested planning and time into their management decisions. It's a pleasure to have landowners who actively engage in a Forest Management Plan, and in implementing established goals."
Michael sad they were excited when they heard the news.
“It was pretty awesome," he said. "The forestry has great people to work with.”
He and his wife both have full-time jobs in addition to maintaining the property.
“It’s a pretty good hobby but it’s a lot of work," Michael said of maintaining the property.
Arkansas is home to over 1,200 certified forest stewardship landowners.
Find more information, including Stewardship Program Applications, at www.agriculture.arkansas.gov/forest-stewardship.