SCIO, Ore. – Two years ago, when American Tree Farm System members from all over the United States visited the Blue Den Ranch in Scio, they were amazed at the scope and beauty of the Bentz family’s privately owned and operated tree farm. The ranch, is located at the edge of Willamette Valley farmland where it blends with the Cascades Mountains. It is one of many well managed Oregon tree farms that provides employment, recreation and wild life habitat.
The late Ron Bentz, bought the cut-over stump ranch in 1964 and turned into a 600-acre thriving forestland. To provide needed income quickly, he created and stocked five lakes with trout and started a private fishing club. Today, the hatchery (Oregon’s oldest private one) is an important part of the operation. Bentz also developed an early-life pioneer museum of farm machinery, tools, memorabilia and a small sawmill.
The American Tree Farm System’s guided tour to the Bentz ranch, took them on back-roads through French Prairie farmland and Linn County covered bridges and returned them to Portland for their convention’s opening ceremonies. K.C. VanNatta, a native Oregonian and part owner and operator of his own family’s tree-farm and logging operation, helped organize the tour and was on board as a guide.
“Most of the people were from the east coast and they were very impressed with the size and the variety of our trees,” VanNatta said. “Since, they only grow five or six species of hardwoods plus a couple of 80-foot plantation pines, our conifer forests with 165- foot trees are new to them. Forests like the Bentz’s with a variety of Douglas firs, hemlocks, white firs, grand firs, cedar, spruce and redwoods, just isn’t something you would see outside of our part of the country.”
In 2002, Ron and Barbara Bentz were named National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year at the National Tree Farmer convention in Asheville, North Carolina. Though Ron Bentz suffered a fatal heart at his home shortly after the convention, his family has continued to be actively involved with the tree farm operations and management. The Bentz’s were selected from among 65,000 other Certified Tree Farmers because their tree farm is a shining example of sustainable forest management.
The American Tree System members will not only remember the valley’s beautiful fertile farmland, the small towns an villages, the quaint covered bridges but the kind of difference the Bentz family of Scio can make.