Defrees Ranch in Baker County honored as Oregon’s Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year

The Defrees Ranch, LLC of Baker County has been recognized as Oregon’s Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year. The 1,227-acre property is managed for timber and cattle and has been in the family for 107 years. The ranch is a model of forest and livestock stewardship.

Lyle Defrees and his son Dean have provided through their management an excellent example of what a healthy forest looks like in an area where lack of management has been one cause of catastrophic wildfires.

The Defreeses manage their mixed-use property for a wide range of ecological as well as economic values, and have made it a “land lab” for students from grade school through college, other landowners, state regulatory agencies and the public.

“The Defreeses can always be counted on to provide woodland owners, ranchers and anyone else in the community with thoughtful, insightful, well-reasoned and knowledgeable input on any of a host of land management interests or concerns,” said Bob Parker, the Baker County Oregon State University (OSU) Forestry Extension Agent.

Parker added, “Lyle is a meticulous record-keeper, which has given him insights into the costs and benefits of managing livestock and forests. The Defreeses share this information with tree farmers, ranchers and the general public through countless tours and classroom settings.”

Lyle and Dean are continually educating themselves in the scientific knowledge and on-the-ground management of tree farming and ranching. Their forest stands are continuously being improved through thinning, promoting a diverse conifer species mix appropriate for the stand and site conditions.

Their thinning of overstocked stands and slash disposal minimizes tree stress, reducing the risks of insect and disease problems and loss through wildfires.

Their efforts are also include improving wildlife habitats and restoring aspen, a species in decline in eastern and central Oregon.

They are active members of their Oregon Small Woodlands Association Chapter, the Blue Mountain Forest Cooperative, Eastern Oregon Forest Protective Association, and OSU’s Tree School East Planning Committee.