John Heckmann named 2011 Missouri Tree Farmer of the Year

HERMANN, Mo – John Heckmann of Bear Valley Tree Farm near Hermann was recently named the Missouri Tree Farm Program’s 2011 Tree Farmer of the Year. The Tree Farm Program provides help to landowners on woodland management for wildlife and timber production, and helps connect participating landowners to others with similar interests.

A member of the program for four years, Heckmann has a sign at the entrance to his family’s 800-acre farm that displays the four cornerstones of the American Tree Farm System: Wood, Water, Wildlife and Recreation. He said the sign exemplifies his reasons for owning and managing his tree farm.

“It is important that we can have forests for wildlife, wood products and recreation,” Heckmann said. “This combination of recreation and investment really drew me to the Tree Farm Program.”

Heckmann and his wife, Stacy, are among the approximately 359,000 private woodland landowners in Missouri who manage 83 percent of all woodlands in Missouri. Management practices take many forms from letting woodlands grow naturally to thinning trees for improved growth and better conditions for wildlife.

Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Forestry and Private Land Services staff assist many Missouri landowners, such as the Heckmanns, with developing and implementing management plans for their woodlands to improve wildlife habitat and timber production and harvest. Staff also help landowners with obtaining financial help through cost-share assistance.

Former MDC Resource Forester Josh Stevens helped Heckmann develop and implement a forest and wildlife management plan in 2008 to create more browse, cover and acorn production to benefit wildlife at the farm.

“The plan includes selective tree thinning to improve forest growth and the quality of remaining trees,” said Stevens, who is now a private consulting forester. “The thinning allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor, stimulating understory plant growth for browse. The thinning also helps remaining oak trees produce more acorns for the deer, turkey and wood ducks that call Bear Valley Tree Farm home.”

The plan also calls for glade restoration through the removal of invasive cedars and maples and prescribed burning to encourage native grasses and forbs for wildlife food and cover.

MDC Forestry and Private Land Services staff also assisted Heckmann in getting cost-share help through various state and federal government programs such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).

Bear Valley is also enrolled in a conservation easement held by the National Wild Turkey Federation that protects the farm from being subdivided and restricts the land to certain conservation-related uses. The easement provides a perpetual plan that will help guide his children, Grant, Megan and Trevor, when it comes time for them to inherit the tree farm.

Heckmann also received technical advice for habitat work and restoration from the Quality Deer Management Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Forever and the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation.

Landowners invited to Tree Farm Conference June 2 in Hermann

Woodland landowners can learn more about the Heckmann’s successes during the upcoming annual Missouri Tree Farm Conference June 2 at Bear Valley Tree Farm. Attendees can see benefits of forest and wildlife management practices, take a self-guided tour along a tree identification trail, learn about Missouri’s wood products industry and interact with other woodland owners. For more information on the conference, contact the Forest and Woodland Association of Missouri (FWAM) at (573) 875-0584, or email fwam.trees@gmail.com. Visit FWAM online at forestandwoodland.org.