Stewardship dedication pays off for the Blockers

By: 
Walter Sprague

Photo by Walter Sprague/NLJ

Delbert and LaRae Blocker are the recipients of the 2021 Wyoming Tree Farmers of the Year award. The family promotes good forestry methods, and even their grandson, Corbin, has become involved by installing a bat house next to their forest.

Walter Sprague

Art and Culture Reporter

 

For 30 years, Delbert and LaRae Blocker have been Wyoming Forest Stewardship/Tree Farm Landowners. Instrumental in the creation of “Forest Stewardship – The Conservation of Wyoming’s Forest Inheritance” brochure, which has promoted the management of Wyoming forests, the Blockers have worked with the Wyoming Forestry Division in developing and educating others in programs to assist with forestry management and stewardship. They have now been officially recognized for their efforts and honored as the 2021 Wyoming Tree Farmers of the Year.

For years, the family has used the recommended thinning practices of their ponderosa pine timber stand to help maintain the health of the forest. 

“This involved picking out good, healthy trees,” Delbert said,  “And thinning out smaller, scrubby ones.”

LaRae said that thinning helped them maintain the growth of trees by ensuring a distance of 10 to 12 feet between the healthy trees.

“This promotes a healthy tree stand,” she said, “By allowing more sunlight to get in.”

The couple indicated that the increase in sunlight promotes the growth of grasses, which in turn provides grazing for more wildlife. It also allows for better utilization of the water resources while reducing the amount of fuel that can increase fire danger. Another benefit of the increased sunlight is that the trees become more resistant to infestations of such invasive species as bark beetles.

While the trees they harvest are presently used only for firewood, the trees will one day be large enough to be used for lumber. Although many years in the future, such a harvest will benefit their children and grandchildren. In the meantime, the Blockers have been busy creating diversity on the ranch by planting a small orchard. They have produced a small apple crop through the years. However, the occasional spring frost damage to blossoms
can make this a hit-and-miss project, because nature does not always cooperate with ideal growing conditions.

Another project the Blockers have participated in is the creation of more than a thousand Howdy signs that can be seen all over town. Not only does this Western greeting attract local shopping and support local businesses, it also promotes Wyoming wood. They also have recently helped
the Wyoming Tree Farm committee create timber sale ticket books used by the Wyoming Tree Farm landowner’s timber harvest. Plus, they have gone to great effort for several years by coordinating with local
tree farm programs for the education programs in forestry stewardship.

The Blockers’ grandson, Corbin, has installed a bat house next to their forest. This habitat enhancement provides a warmer protected area for the pups. Having these bats around helps control insect populations, and the thinning of the woods to their current healthy levels offers openings in the bat flight routes.

While assisting their collaborators in forest management in creating the brochure “Forest Stewardship” when they first became Wyoming Forest Stewardship/Tree Farm Landowners, the Blockers quoted Brenda Wilkins: 

“For those whose steps will follow mine

on this forest path one day;

I’ll manage the resource to ensure,

And someone will know I passed this way.”

The brochure also supported private forest landowners programs, such as the National Forest Stewardship/American Tree Farm: “As you share your skills and knowledge with other landowners and with professional foresters, it will produce a flood of knowledge about forest land management which could not happen if management of our forest were left only to foresters.”

Proud of their family’s work and dedication to help ensure their forest resources, the Blockers enjoy sharing their ranch with family and friends, building memories that will be close to their hearts for a long time. This dedication to Wyoming Tree Farmers and Forest Stewardship has worked well for the Blockers, and it comes as no surprise to many that they are the 2021 recipients of the Wyoming Tree Farmers of the Year award.

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