Award is 'a culmination of 35 to 40 years of effort on this land'
By CRAIG REED
For the Capital Press
ELKTON, Ore. -- Bill and Joan Arsenault will tell you they've been living in paradise for the past 35 years.
Their home is the 277 acres of the Paradise Creek Ranch eight miles west of here. They've managed the land -- its trees, wildlife, fish, water and pasture -- since purchasing it in 1971.
Their management plan and effort to follow through with it earned the couple the Oregon Tree Farmer of the Year honor for 2012.
The selection is made by the Oregon Tree Farm System, a nonprofit group that promotes the conservation and growing of forest resources in a sustainable manner on family forests. The organization also promotes the conservation of water and wildlife.
"I'm very flattered," Bill Arsenault said. "I look at (the award) as a culmination of 35 to 40 years of effort on this land."
The Arsenaults are the first Douglas County landowners to earn the state award that has been presented annually for more than 40 years.
The couple have spent years managing and maintaining the land and its resources since moving from Southern California to their property in 1976. Bill Arsenault worked as the chief electronics engineer for Roseburg Lumber for 15 years before retiring in 1992 and focusing all of his time and effort on the Paradise Creek Ranch.
Even before retiring to the ranch full time, Arsenault was involved in small woodlands activities. He and his wife were honored as the Douglas Small Woodlands Association's 1989 Tree Farmers of the Year. They were also members of the American Tree Farm System.
After leaving Roseburg Lumber, Arsenault gave even more of his time to forestry-related activities. He is president of the Douglas Small Woodlands Association, past president of the Douglas Forest Protective Association's board and a founding member of the Committee for Family Forestlands. He's also a member of the Douglas County Woodlands Advisory Committee, the Forest Practices Advisory Committee on Salmon and Watersheds and the Umpqua Basin Watershed Council.
In addition to managing their trees, the Arsenaults have also fenced their pasture off from the creeks to keep livestock out of the riparian areas and to protect plantings along the banks. Boulders have been placed in the creeks to help slow the flow during high-water seasons and to provide habitat for fish.
Bob Young, a forester in the Roseburg Oregon Department of Forestry office who worked with the Arsenaults on their ranch's management plan, said nobody has been more involved politically in the small woodlands industry than Bill Arsenault.
"Bill promotes a stewardship mentality that takes care of all the resources on the land -- the timber, the water, the fish, the wildlife," Young said. "What Bill is about is a real balanced approach to management. He understands sustainability ... that it's not just for wildlife, but for human beings, for society as a whole."
Over the years, the couple have had about 17,000 Douglas fir trees logged off their land. But the Arsenaults estimate they've had 38,000 seedlings planted on their property. They said trees on their land grow about 4 feet a year. The ranch has trees that range in age from 4 to 70 years.
"There's more timber on here today than 10, 15 years ago," said Bill Arsenault. "Across the board, we don't want all old growth.
"Old growth is fairly dead as far as animal growth is concerned. Young stands provide habitat. Five- to 10-year-old stands are alive with wildlife."
Joan Arsenault said living on the land and improving it is "a tremendous opportunity to make a difference."