Funks eager to show public their land, custom mill
By MATTHEW WEAVER
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- Steve and Janet Funk are firm believers in the spirit of the woods.
The couple owns Edgecreek Tree Farm, 369 acres that reaches an elevation of 882 feet near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Trees they raise include ponderosa pine, white pine, Douglas fir and larch.
"There's something about the woods that speaks to our soul," Janet said. "There's just an aliveness that's there."
Outreach is important to the Funks. It took them time to learn about the importance of the forest, they say, and they want to be sure others learn sooner how to tend to the land.
The farm hosts school field trips, Arbor Day events and tours for teachers and decision makers, using a curriculum they designed.
The American Tree Farm System last month named the Funks the 2011 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year during the National Tree Farmer Convention in Albuquerque, N.M.
According to ATFS, the Funks' advocacy of responsible management, forest restoration and environmental education dates back to the early 1970s, when an oil pipeline rupture contaminated Wolf Lodge Creek, which runs through their property. A community watershed effort worked to restore the creek.
Steve works as a part-time anesthetist and Janet is a registered nurse. Steve plans to retire from medical work in December, with an eye toward getting involved in national politics and outreach.
They agree that it's good that they've had day jobs to supplement their income. Most small landowners need a job to support the land, Janet said.
They are dependent upon price like other commodity growers, with one key difference.
"Those people are year to year," Steve said. "If I sell off a big load of logs off 200 acres, that won't come back into production for another 25 to 30 years."
They've been impacted by the closures of nearby regional sawmills. Transportation costs rose to the degree that Steve now runs his own small mill on their property. The bulk of his business is custom sawing for private contractors.
Chris Schnepf, University of Idaho Extension forester, said the Funks have boundless energy for managing their forest and providing outreach. Schnepf said the Funks embody the importance of family forests and of passing their values on to future generations.
"The Funk family personifies how to do that, as well as or better than anyone I can think of," he said.
The couple plans to keep working to improve the health of their land, and say their children and grandchildren will continue their efforts.
"If you take care of your land, that land will take care of you," Steve said.
American Tree Farm System:www.treefarmsystem.org