By Ann Allen
The Baker-Solano Forest, located on a 240-acre tract in Seward Township, Kosciusko County, received the coveted 2011 Charles Deam Forestry Stewardship Award during the Indiana Forestry and Woodland Owners Association’s November 4-5 conference in Jasper.
It’s a forest of many names. Owners Dean and Suzie Baker, Akron, operating as Baker Forest Company, refer to it as Silver Creek Forest, but, because their children are heavily invested in maintaining it, the award specified it as the Baker-Solano Forest
“All but eight of the 240 acres is forestland,” Dean Baker said. Those eight acres are filled with wildlife and prairie grass plantings.”
The Bakers and their children, Chris and Darleen Baker, and Sarah and Rich Solano, worked together to create 90 acres of afforestation—converting highly erodible crop fields into sustainable forestland.
“We’ve been working on the forest consistently for 27 years,” Baker said. Past president of Pike Lumber Company, a firm operating sawmills in Akron, Carbon and Milan, he stressed that the award-winning forest is family-operated and not part of Pike’s holdings.
“Sarah controls invasive species, such as garlic mustard,” he said. “Chris manages the logging operation when we make selective harvests. Rich and his boys (Dan, Adam and Tom) cut firewood from the tops and sell it.”
The fact that it is a family-owned forest prompted Pat Walker, an industry forester and wildlife biologist, to nominate it for the Deam Award, named in honor of Indiana’s first state forester. According to contest rules, the award is given to the forest landowner carrying out the best forest stewardship program within that ownership. The owner must have 10 acres or more of woodland property within the state of Indiana and have owned it for no less than one full year. In addition, the owner must have a written forest management plan that has been approved by a professional forester.
“The Bakers’ practices show environmental consciousness,” Walker said. “They have a great history of planting and selective harvesting. They have created a forest that will continue to produce for future generations.”
“Silver Creek Forest is considered a ‘working forest,’ Walker noted on the nomination form. “The woodland’s management objectives include financial, wildlife, timber, recreation and legacy. It’s a professional operation that has employed timber stand improvement practices along with erosion control and woodland management leadership.”