FourTee Acres

Connecting the Generations

Tyrone Williams squinted into the sun as he looked toward the newly planted tract of loblolly pines on his 62-acre property in Enfield, NC. The air was fragrant with the trees’ scent. He thought about his ancestors and how they surely stood in this very same spot. He hoped that someday his children would inherit the land and stand here too, feeling that long thread of ownership connecting the generations.

Getting to this point – healthy stands of native pine, abundant wildlife, and a plan for the future – didn’t happen overnight. It took finding someone Tyrone could trust and who had the forestry knowledge and resources he needed.

Oral history traces the Williams family land back to the late 1800s, but paper documentation of ownership dates only to the 1930s. Landownership was historically a struggle for African-Americans. Discrimination and exploitation were common, and many people lost their land when loved ones died without proper wills.

Fourtee Acres

Tyrone, his wife Edna, and their three sons – Trevelyn, Tremaine, and Tyron – were fortunate enough to acquire this portion of the family farm. In 1994, they named it Fourtee Acres – a play on their names and the “40 acres and a mule” promised to African-Americans after the end of slavery. While the Williams family called Fourtee Acres home for many years, it wasn’t until he retired that Tyrone turned his full attention to the land.

He knew he wanted to restore the woodlands, use the property somehow as an income source, and ensure he could pass the land on to his sons. But like a lot of family landowners, Tyrone’s forestry knowledge was limited. He quickly recognized a need for expert guidance in what to do, when and how to do it, and how to afford all the work. Still, he was also wary about who to trust – many of those decades-old issues for African-American landowners are still present today, and he did not want to risk making irreversible mistakes.

Then, in 2013, Tyrone and Edna attended the Minority Landowner Farmers and Landowners Conference in South Carolina. They were shocked to meet so many others who had also inherited or bought land – some with forestry experience, but many with none.

4tee aerial

During this event they met Alton Perry, from the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Project, a program that helps African-American landowners care for their forestland and pass it on to the next generation. Perry was helping people like the Williams’ navigate the complexities of forest management.

Tyrone and Edna, though interested, wanted time to think through all they had learned at the conference. Perry continued to follow up over the next several months, taking the time to listen to the Williams’ needs and vision and answer their questions. Perry knew he needed to reassure the Williams family and gain their trust for them to take the next step. It took nearly a year for Tyrone and Edna to join the program.

Tyrone&Edna Stewardship

Finally ready to get started, the couple began meeting regularly with Perry, along with their county forester and other forestry professionals, to plan their restoration activities. They also contacted the Natural Resources Conservation Service to arrange financial help, and they met with a lawyer to set up a trust that will eventually transfer the land to their children. It was exactly the broad range of support the Williams’ needed to get started in forest stewardship.

In time, Fourtee Acres began to change. First, they harvested 37 acres of mature loblolly pines. The following year, 14 acres were reforested, with the remaining 23 acres taking another two years – along with extensive spraying, shearing and bedding. The family also planted low-lying shrubs and berry bushes and began honing their green thumbs by gardening and crop farming.

Bobwhite quail soon returned to the property, thanks to those newly planted loblollies. Then more birds, rabbits, and deer started to call Fourtee Acres home as well.

Along with their healthy woodland, Tyrone’s passion and interest for managing the land was growing. The more he learned about caring for his land, the more he wanted to expand his education. Perry suggested he and Edna join the American Tree Farm System and take their stewardship to the next level: meeting high standards of sustainability, getting to know a wider and more diverse network of landowners, and continuing to advance their forestry knowledge.

At his first Tree Farm event, Tyrone was energized by the passion in the room. He quickly began making connections and hearing new ideas to help wildlife and better utilize the timber on his property.

All the support Tyrone and Edna received prompted them to pay it forward and begin to help others. Today, they host other minority landowners on their property, speak at events, and lead seminars on how to keep land in the family. They often tell others, “It doesn’t matter what your kids or grandkids do with the land. What’s important is that you set up the framework, so that they can.”

This piece was originally published as part of the Spring 2019 edition of AFF's quarterly magazine, Woodland Magazine.
Reimagining Our Cities
Cities, Forest Products, Innovation, Mass Timber

Cities have a climate problem

As our cities continue to grow, so do the challenges they face. Reimagine the way society lives, works, and plays by moving our cities from climate problems, to climate solutions.

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North Country Calling

Meet the young professionals who call the Northern Forest home


The Northern Forest Center and Northern Woodlands magazine collaborated to produce North Country Calling, a video series profiling young professionals who have chosen the Northern Forest as their home.

"The future of our region hinges on young people like these — individuals who have sought and found a satisfying blend of work, community, fun and friends in rural communities. We’re energized to see the rewarding lives that Sierra, John, Rachel and Helon have created for themselves and hope their stories will inspire other young people to make their homes in the Northern Forest." - Center President Rob Riley.


Here’s a glimpse of the people you’ll meet:

  • Sierra Giraud, a forester in Lancaster, NH, feels a strong connection to the woods through her work and her exploration of the natural world on the weekends.
  • John Moses traded high-priced, West Coast city living for a rewarding job in a sawmill and a home of his own near the mountains of northern New Hampshire.
  • Rachel Freierman has put down roots in the White Mountains, where she works as an outdoor educator and runs a small farm in Bartlett, NH.
  • Helon Hoffer hikes to his work as a trail manager for the US Forest Service. He is passionate about skiing, biking and taking his young children outside to explore.
  • Jesse Wright appreciates the sense of community that has formed around farming and forest stewardship in northern New Hampshire. She has worked at the intersection of land conservation and agriculture, supporting local growers in the Mount Washington Valley.
  • Eli Smith divides his year between creative arts and backcountry skiing. He draws inspiration from nature and expresses it in the pottery he creates at his wheel.


The filmmaker, Asher Brown of Lyme, NH, is a recent graduate of Middlebury College. He spent a day with each of these subjects and has captured their enthusiasm for challenging careers related to the region’s working landscape.

The Northern Forest Center believes in the potential of the region’s communities, people and landscape to support a New Forest Future. Take a look at these short films to see the New Forest Future in action.

Original article posted on 06/11/2020

Surfer on Grain Surfboards board.
Reconnecting People and Forests
Careers, Forest Management, Innovation, People, Products

FOREST TO OCEAN | Grain Surfboards

Grain Surfboards has been crafting one-of-a-kind wooden surfboards from sustainably managed Maine forests since 2005. With an emphasis on quality and sincere commitment to sustainable practices, each board is made one at a time, by hand, to create a product that has a soul and tells a story.

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Community, Forest Management, Forest Products, Innovation

New Technology for Vermont’s Oldest Industry

Start-Up Whiteout Solutions Piloting Forest Inventory and Mapping Technology in Northeast Kingdom

Vermont’s first sawmill opened in 1738, nearly a century before the first chainsaw was invented, not to mention cars or telephones. And it was at least 150 years before that sawmill had electric lighting. Technological solutions have been slow in coming to the forest products industry, but a Northeast Kingdom start-up is hoping to change that.

Whiteout Solutions, based out of the DO NORTH Coworking Space in Lyndonville, Vermont, has developed a new forest mapping technology using LIDAR sensors attached to drones. According to co-founder Matt Clark, their system hits a sweet spot between manual surveying and LIDAR sensing on airplanes, providing highly detailed, digital information in real-time.

“Good data informs good decision-making,” said Clark, who ultimately envisions a statewide digital forest database. “Our technology captures detailed data about a forest, including tree species, diameter, understory characteristics, wetland locations, and emerging forest health issues—information that can be used for multiple scenarios.”

Clark and co-founder Christine Heinrich believe that data can be used to inform important decisions about Vermont’s most prized natural resource: its forested landscape. A real-time digital inventory could help inform everything from the timing of a timber harvest to quantifying carbon sequestration. The company is also working on a pilot program in Burke to inventory roadside ash trees, as town planners prepare for the arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer.

“Advancements in forest inventory, specifically the measurement of trees and characterization of forest stocking, has not made any great strides since the early 1950s,” said Calendonia/Essex county forester Matt Langlais, “and still requires individual trees to be measured by a forester on site. While I don’t see this technology replacing the work of foresters, I do see it empowering us with better information and ultimately better decision making capabilities.”

Age-Old Problems, New Technologies

With backgrounds in Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping and software development, Clark and his business partner, Christine Heinrich, founded Whiteout Solutions with the goal of “solving age-old problems with new technologies.” The pair worked closely with 911 in the early 2000s as landlines were replaced with cell phones. “People still assumed that a 911 operator would know their location when they called,” said Heinrich, “so we had to build a solution for that transition.”

Christine Heinrich and Matt Clark, Whiteout Solutions
Christine Heinrich and Matt Clark founded Whiteout Solutions at their office in the DO NORTH Coworking Space in Lyndonville, VT. Photo by Erica Houskeeper.

Using what they had learned about mapping technology, Heinrich and Clark began talking with loggers and foresters in the Northeast Kingdom where they live and quickly realized that a similar solution could have applicability for the forest industry.

“Building an accurate forest model is very labor intensive,” said Clark. “Foresters are essentially gathering information visually and recording data manually on a sample set of maybe 10 to 30 percent of a parcel and then making assumptions about the remaining 70 percent. The only other technology previously available was a sensor attached to an airplane, which provides broad swaths of information from high altitude, and that tends to be cost-prohibitive for most landowners.”

Clark and Heinrich began building a new model from the ground up. They developed a remote sensing technology that could be used on slower, low-flying drones to capture detailed data on parcels anywhere from 50 to 5,000 acres. Then they set about creating a software that would instantly translate those data points into a 3D model of the parcel.

Christine Heinrich and Matt Clark, Whiteout Solutions
Christine Heinrich and Matt Clark, co-founders of Whiteout Solutions in Lyndonville, developed a new forest mapping technology using LIDAR sensors attached to drones. Photo by Erica Houskeeper.

“We can survey a 200-acre parcel in 30 minutes and capture 99% of the information available,” said Clark, “and we can do that for $5 to $15 per acre depending on the final reporting needed.” The kinds of data points they are able to collect include individual tree diameter and species, watershed runoff, slope and grade of the earth, whether the understory is made up of soft bedding, road, rock or wetland, and any evidence of disease.

“Once we have the data, we can run multiple scenarios to answer a wide variety of questions,” said Clark. “Is there a harvestable stand? What is the best location for a road in order to have the least impact on the environment? What is the real value of the land?”

A Tool for Foresters, Not a Replacement.

“It sounds cool. I want to use it,” said Mike Snyder, commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation. “In the tradition of technology allowing people to do their jobs better and faster, I’m all for it. However, there is no substitute for having a knowledgeable forester in the woods integrating all the variables. We don’t just identify vegetation as bird habitat, we stop and listen for the birds too.”

Clark and Heinrich are quick to agree. “The idea of using LIDAR sensors to assist with forest inventory is not new and was never intended to replace the work of professional foresters. We are simply making that tool more approachable, applicable and affordable.”

They point out that, currently, forest planning relies on manually recorded data submitted in static reports. Armed with LIDAR sensors attached to drones, and real-time 3D modeling, foresters are able to capture more data faster and use the reporting to support the ongoing, big picture goal of maintaining healthy and productive forests.

“Better data, better dialogue, better decisions,” said Snyder. “It’s one of our mantras at the department and I can definitely see applications for this kind of technology, as long as we remember that forests are diverse and dynamic, and reporting will always be more complete with human eyes on the ground.”

Case Study: Burke Emerald Ash Borer Inventory

Last fall, Langlais gave a presentation to the Town of Burke Conservation Commission on preparing for the Emerald Ash Borer. Municipalities are responsible for ensuring public safety within the public rights of way, and many Vermont roadways are lined with ash trees likely to become hazardous as disease sets in. The first step in planning and budgeting, Langlais informed the commissioners, is a roadside ash inventory. Traditionally, that kind of survey would be done by volunteers recording data tree by tree.

Clark, who was in the audience, offered to use Burke as a pilot project to conduct the inventory using their new technology, which was quickly accepted.

“Volunteer data collection is a tall order when you consider that Vermont has almost 16,000 miles of roads,” said Langlais. “A drone fitted with LIDAR, GPS and thermal imaging that can quickly determine which trees are in the town’s right of way, which are ash trees, and the diameters of those trees for budgeting removals offers a very efficient and effective means to cover that 16,000 miles, so I think Whiteout is definitely on to something that can have a big impact.”

Presently, less than 30 of Vermont’s 255 towns have done roadside ash tree inventories.

“There is technology to be applied in forests and some interesting problems to be solved,” said Clark. “Since we built this technology from scratch, we can custom create data collection to answer very specific questions.”

For more information about Whiteout Solutions, please visit or call (800) 388-0935.

See original post and learn more about Vermont Forest Industry Network.

Original article by Christine McGowan, Forest Products Program Director at Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.


Surfer on Grain Surfboards board.
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FOREST TO OCEAN | Grain Surfboards

Grain Surfboards has been crafting one-of-a-kind wooden surfboards from sustainably managed Maine forests since 2005. With an emphasis on quality and sincere commitment to sustainable practices, each board is made one at a time, by hand, to create a product that has a soul and tells a story.

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Urban Forests

Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives

Take care of the forest, and it will take care of you.

Healthy trees = healthy lives.

Every generation has a big question that they have to answer. Fundamentally, our generation has to answer 'what is our carbon future going to look like?'" This is especially true for cities. Long known as concrete jungles, it’s on us to fundamentally reimagine our cities, growing them into climate solutions, not part of the problem. While there is no single silver bullet for solving climate change, urban forests offer powerful carbon benefits and climate solutions.

Urban forests put trees to work for our cities, filtering air and water, storing carbon, supporting a circular urban wood economy, connecting people with outdoor spaces, sheltering wildlife and humans alike, lowering urban temperatures, and driving climate resilience.

In addition to helping keep our planet healthy, urban trees have a huge positive impact on human health.

Click on over to the Southern Group of State Foresters' Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives website for an interactive experience - click on each of the icons to explore how urban forests can improve our physical and mental health and promote healing. This research is increasing our collective understanding of how our health can be connected to the trees in our communities.

Reimagining Our Cities
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We have a lot to be proud of in this industry. Here are the top five reasons I’m #ForestProud:

Hampton Lumber employee Jacob Vail is #forestproud. Safety first!

#1 – Timber keeps the Pacific Northwest green - in more ways than one!  Roughly one-third of all forestland in Oregon and Washington is privately owned. The decision to keep these forests as forests decade after decade is thanks in no small part to the global market for sustainable wood products. Here in Oregon, roughly 92% of the land that was forested in the mid-19th century is still forested today despite significant population growth and increased demand for residential and agricultural development. Keeping these forests as forests is good for wildlife, water quality, and overall quality of life here in the Pacific Northwest.  The forest sector also just happens to be one of the oldest renewable industries in the region, helping society meet a variety of needs from housing and energy to paper and packaging in a sustainable way.

#2 – Timber helps combat climate change.  Our industry helps fight climate change in two main ways. First, we plant 3-4 trees for each one we harvest and as those trees grow, they draw CO2 out of the atmosphere. When those trees are harvested decades later and made into lumber, much of that carbon is stored and kept from re-entering the atmosphere. Secondly, new engineered wood products, including cross-laminated timber (CLT), allow us to safely build high-rise buildings from wood, instead of iron, steel and concrete, products that account for some of the largest sources of industrial CO2 emissions in the U.S. Substituting renewable wood products for these traditional building materials means less harmful CO2 entering the atmosphere in the first place.

#3 – We grow local, make local, and build local. At a time when it seems we’re getting further and further removed from the production systems that support our lifestyles, timber is keeping it local. While much of our food travels hundreds even thousands of miles to fill grocery shelves and so much domestic manufacturing is being sent overseas, our forests are still here, supporting local wood manufacturing jobs that create the products that stock home stores and lumber yards throughout the region.  Walk into just about any home in the Pacific Northwest and you can be assured local forests framed it.

#4 – We’ve come a long way.  As modern descendants of one of the oldest industries in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve learned a lot and grown with the times and with the science and technology. Many timber and wood products companies, like Hampton, have been in business for generations. It is through continual learning, improvement, and adaptation that we have found resilience.

#5 – Timber helped make the Pacific Northwest what it is today and continues to influence its economy and its culture. You see it in the Portland Timbers soccer club, the lumberjack on your beer coaster, and at any one of the rural logging festivals that take place each summer. Timber is part of what makes the Pacific Northwest unique.

What makes you #ForestProud?  

Reconnecting People and Forests
Conservation, Forest Management

Growing Trees at Hill Nurseries

Every year, more than 1 billion trees are planted in the U.S. But who grows the baby trees?

All these millions of seedlings have to come from somewhere. Take a look behind the scenes - meet the people who grow and care for tiny baby trees at Hill Nurseries.

Reconnecting People and Forests
Forest Products, Products

Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop

The "Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop" partnership project is an innovative collaboration between Sustana and three other supply chain partners, working together to demonstrate that Starbucks cups could be recycled and turned into new cups.

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Fast Facts, Forest Management

Fast Facts | Who is part of the forest community?

Who is part of the forest community?

HINT: It's more people than you think, and probably includes you!

Reconnecting People and Forests
Carbon + Climate Change, Conservation, Forest Benefits, Forest Management, Forest Products, Products

Reimagine. Rethink. Reconnect.

"Every generation has a big question that they have to answer. I think, fundamentally, our generation has to answer 'what is our carbon future going to look like?'"

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