Love and Passion Lead to National Tree Farm Award

Love and passion are the words that are repeated in virtually every conversation, newspaper article, or speech about the story behind our clients’ Steve and Janet Funk’s recent recognition as 2011 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year by the American Tree Farm System—the first ever winners from the State of Idaho in the Tree Farm Program’s 70 year history! Steve and Janet Funk, managers of Edgecreek Properties, LLC, received this prestigious award in August. They were selected from more than 95,000 Tree Farm members who manage over 26 million acres of family forestland nationwide.

One of my greatest joys as a consulting forester is working with and getting to know people like Steve and Janet. I believe the best way to shed light on how they have been able to accomplish so much leading to this award is by exploring the relationship between passion and love.

According to Webster, Passion is defined as a strong liking: an object of desire or deep interest: intense driving or overmastering feeling or conviction. In turn, Webster defines love as strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties: Unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: brotherly concern for others. It seems that love takes passion to the next level.

There is no doubt in the minds of people who know Steve and Janet Funk that one of their greatest passions is caring for their 324 forested acres just north of Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Wolf Lodge Bay. Although they may not have realized it at the time, the seeds of this passion were sown in the 1970s when they purchased a dilapidated house and 135 acres of floodplain and forest. Ten years later, the growing passion coaxed them into purchasing another 240 acres of heavily logged and degraded forestland adjacent to their fledgling Tree Farm.

A passion for their land enabled the Funks to overcome many challenges, the biggest of which included restoration of a stream and rehabilitation of the despoiled 240 acres. Passion drove Steve to take the first forestry short course offered by the University of Idaho Extension so he could learn about proper forest management. In the meantime, Janet not only worked to restore the stream, but became active in organizations and activities involving the entire Wolf Lodge Creek Watershed.

Under their stewardship, many trees have been planted, roads repaired, erosion controlled and riparian areas enhanced. These acres have also seen many small timber harvests (oftentimes accomplished personally by Steve), all designed to improve the forest condition and to utilize material that would otherwise be lost. Utilization is very important to the Funks, so Steve custom cuts some of their logs with his own sawmill.

Their forest improvement efforts are ongoing and the list of accomplishments seemingly endless (Steve Funk has even gone through the Master Forest Steward program and is now certified, much like a Master Gardener, to assist other forest owners), but to live on this land and raise a family while actively managing the forest for more than 35 years takes more than passion.

It takes more than passion to realize the importance of inspiring others and then spreading what you have learned by offering your property as a classroom for students and teachers. It takes more than passion to host tours for opinion leaders and chamber of commerce members so they can make informed decisions concerning our forests. It takes more than passion to be actively involved with organizations such as the Idaho Forest Landowner’s Association and the Tree Farm Program. It takes more than passion to instill within family members the desire to carry the torch so that, when the time comes, there will be people to assure that this land will continue to be managed sustainably. (And then to back it up with estate planning and the formation of a Limited Liability Corporation.) It takes more than passion to recognize and teach that the value of our forests goes beyond the forests’ ability to provide clean water, pure air, wildlife habitat, forest products, and jobs. As Janet puts it, “there is a Spirit in the Woods” and this spirit provides hope and helps to heal the soul.

This kind of commitment takes more than just an intense passion for forest stewardship. It takes a love for family, a love for people and a love for the land they are connected to. This combination of love and passion is what makes the Funk family so deserving of this award.

Thank you Steve and Janet for all you and your family have done. And congratulations on your well-deserved recognition!!
— Steven V. Bloedel, ACF, CF

“Our best hope for the future of sustainable forestry lies not just in how many people we or our children or grandchildren can reach. Rather, it is in how many people we can motivate enough to inspire them to pass these values on.”
— Janet Funk

American Tree Farm System

The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) is a program of the American Forest Foundation. ATFS works to enhance the quality of America’s woodlands by giving private forest owners tools to keep their forests healthy and productive. The green and white diamond shaped Tree Farm signs are widely recognized across the country. Water. Wildlife. Recreation. Wood. The four sides of the Tree Farm sign tell the story of sustainable forestry. Benefits of joining the Tree Farm Program include networking and support, group forest certification, a magazine, a sign, and forester visits and advice. Visit for more information.