Key members of the Niagara Frontier Chapter of NYFOA, Bob and Dave Preston make an incredible father and son duo. As the acting director of the NFC, which includes the Erie, Niagara, and Wyoming counties, Bob helps to promote sustainable woodland practices with the help of his son, Dave. While they were instrumental in the establishment of the chapter, Bob and Dave now aid others with the management of privately owned woodlands. For their many efforts, Bob and Dave were honored with a Special Recognition Award from the president of NYFOA in February of this year. When not working on the woodlots of others, Bob and Dave still manage to spend time working on their own property.

In the late 40’s and early 50’s, farmland was widespread in upstate New York, while there was a lack of wooded area. At around that time Bob’s father was helping to care for a 70 acre expanse of farmland in Holland, NY. Bob’s father was given 8 acres of the property as his own, but when the original owner passed away, the entire property was left to the Preston family. Although the property had been only pasture and crop land when it was passed on to the Preston family, Bob and his father took on the difficult task of restoring the property back to its original state.

To begin the process, the family acquired trees from the state, mainly pines such as Scotch, white and red pine plus American larch. As time progressed, however, hardwood trees began to dominate the forest and overwhelm the pines. Along with trees, the state also provided various shrubs to help transform the property back to a forest where wildlife could thrive. The groundcover produced was intended as a hideaway for all types of birds and animals. As Bob stated, “[Groundcover] was one of the most important pieces to reverting the property back to forest.” Unfortunately, the multi-flora rose plant, which had also been added to the land, became hard to control and ended up as an invasive plant instead of a beneficial one.

In spite of some of the difficulties the Preston family faced while transforming the property, they have been quite successful. As a retired accountant, Bob visits his property quite frequently, though he and his wife actually reside elsewhere. On the property there is a modernized farm house, as well as a renovated cottage with a garden. To bring added revenue to the property, the Preston family rents out both homes. With children in various parts of the country, Bob and his wife also use the property for family gatherings.

Among his other activities on the property, Bob grows black walnut trees, which are fairly unusual, but have a high timber value. Though Bob began growing the black walnuts as a hobby, they have now become a long term investment, which he hopes to pass on to son Dave and his family. As for the other types of trees on their property, Bob and Dave strive toward the goal of enhancing their growth and improving the trees to high quality lumber.

As with all endeavors, Bob and Dave have had to face problems. In their case, the obstacle came in the form of a beech tree, which has the potential to become invasive and to overwhelm the maple or cherry trees on the property. Working hard to save the other hardwoods, Bob and Dave began by cutting back the braches of the beech trees about two and half years ago. With the help of others, a portion of the beech trees were cut down to the ground and were treated with chemicals. More recently, Bob has decided to discontinue the use of chemicals. Fortunately, the beech trees are now under control and the other hardwoods have had a chance to flourish.

As members of NYFOA, the training Bob and Dave have received is what allows them to maintain a prosperous forest. According to Bob, the training they received through NYFOA on how to improve/enhance the value of the timber was extremely beneficial. Now, as a Master Forest Owner, Bob is able to put the training he has received to work helping others. As far as father and son teams are concerned, Bob and Dave are not only a pair of skilled woodsmen, but they also provide invaluable assistance to those with privately owned woodland properties.

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