Gary and Jill Amel Win Tree Farm Award

Gary and Jill Amel of Green Bay, Wisconsin, did not expect to receive recognition for the hard work and dedication they have put into managing their forest land. The Amels were honored to learn they had not only been nominated, but were named the 2022 Tree Farmers of the Year for Brown Oconto County, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Tree Farm Committee bestows the award. Tree farmers are evaluated on forest management activities they pursue on their property, such as sustainable timber harvests, tree planting initiatives, environmental protection efforts, wildlife habitat enhancements, and efforts to promote sustainable forestry. The term “Tree Farm” can be a bit misleading as these are natural forests managed for multiple uses. While the property provides an area for family recreation and enjoyment, it serves as wildlife habitat as well. Their forestland also helps contribute to clean air, clean water and soil protection while also providing sustainably harvested forest products. The property is remote and is surrounded by National Forest. The Amels enrolled the property into Wisconsin’s Managed Forest Law program in 2012, extending a 25 year enrollment started by the previous owners, and have actively managed the land for improved wildlife habitat.

Gary and Jill obtained the 160 acres of forestland in Oconto County 20 years ago, but the property had been in their family since 1960. Gary was 7 years old when his parents bought the land. Gary knew friends and relatives who had cottages, so he was a little shocked when he first visited the remote property.  He quickly discovered that it wasn’t what he envisioned as a typical cottage.  It was remote, no neighbors or adjacent homes.  It had no beach; it had no power boat; in fact, it had no power at all!  Gary learned to redefine how a person can enjoy a place in the woods.  Swimming is replaced by hiking.

Boating is replaced by fishing and hunting.  Television is replaced by card games, board games, picking blackberries, and searching for mushrooms.  Snowmobiling is replaced by snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.  Rather than circling a lake in a pontoon boat, Gary and Jill find satisfaction in cutting firewood, clearing paths, and completing wildlife projects.

Gary and Jill have worked with DNR Foresters and DNR Fisheries biologists to help manage the property.  The property has a small lake on it as well as trout streams. They worked with the DNR to improve the streams for trout as well as monitor trout populations. Gary and Jill worked with DNR foresters to complete sustainable timber harvests following their forest management plan. They have specifically managed for better deer and grouse habitat by creating young forests full of cover and browse. Gary and his father also planted trees to reforest 12 acres of the property. Gary and Jill are great examples of land stewards as they focus on keeping the forests and the habitat it provides healthy for future generations. Passing this passion for the land onto others is very important to Garyand Jill and they share this passion with membership ina a woodland owner organization called the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association.

For landowners interested in working with a professional forester to help manage their forest lands, contact your local DNR forester or visit the DNR’s forestry website at Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association, an organization which aims to increase landowner knowledge of their forest through educational workshops and connecting landowners with resource professionals, provides resources and information on their website at


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