Stewardship, love of trees motivates Lewis County Tree Farm

A family-run tree farm in Lewis County recently received high honors for its commitment to sustainable forest practices. The Washington Tree Farm Program named O’Neill Pine Company owners Debra and Richard Pine 2019 Tree Farmers of the Year at the annual Washington Farm and Forestry Association in May.

O’Neill Pine Company’s overstory consists of Douglas fir and red alder. But in partnership with other forestland owners, the 2,200-acre tree farm is working to reestablish ponderosa pine – once the dominant tree species in Washington state prior to Euro-American settlement and the namesake of O’Neill Pine Company.

O’Neill Pine Company’s commitment to being good land stewards also extends to its neighbors, providing the community access to trails for hiking and horseback riding, bow hunting, and foraging for mushrooms, salal or pine needles through special permitting and neighborhood registry programs.

Founded in 1946 and initially named Hemphill-O’Neill, the O’Neill Pine Company tree farm began as a partnership between Allen Hemphill and Harold O’Neill. Today, O’Neill Pine Company is in its fourth generation of ownership, with Harold O’Neill’s granddaughter, Debra Pine, and his great-granddaughters, Kylie and Kerry Pine, serving as owners. Debra Pine hopes that future generations will continue O’Neill Pine Company’s tradition of stewardship and appreciation for evergreens.

“I love trees and growing trees, and I have a passion for both,” said Debra Pine of O’Neill Pine Company. “With the arrival of our grandson, Owen, who represents the fifth generation, I hope to share that passion with him.”

The Washington State Tree Farmer of the Year honor is in partnership with the Washington Tree Farm Program, which administers certification of more than 400,000 acres of forestland under the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). The ATFS program, which is made possible by the American Forest Foundation, aims to support forestland owners’ stewardship efforts.

In addition to the O’Neill Pine Company, other state affiliates participating in the ATFS program also will recognize a tree farmer of the year in their state. A national tree farmer of the year is then selected among the state honorees during the American Forest Foundation’s annual leadership conference.

Congratulations to the Pine Family and O’Neill Pine Company for your leadership in forestland stewardship, community support and sustainable forestry practices.