At the 2014 Georgia Forestry Association Annual Conference in Hilton Head Island, SC, the Association recognized a group of individuals who have made a significant impact on the forestry community and success of the Association and the Foundation through their advocacy and educational efforts.
This year, for the first time in the history of the Association, two people were presented the Association’s highest honor, the Wise Owl Award. Landowners and forestry professionals Earl and Wanda Barrs of Cochran, Ga., were presented the award and recognized for their extraordinary contributions to the forestry community through their advocacy and educational efforts.
In presenting the award, State Representative Chuck Williams and David Foil of Forest Resource Consultants said this of the Barrs: “There is not a more dynamic duo in Georgia’s forestry community than Earl and Wanda Barrs. Collectively, their involvement and support of forestry-related organizations and endeavors could fill volumes. And, they are always willing to share their knowledge, their insight and their beloved Gully Branch Tree Farm with others.”
In looking at the couple’s track record, it is apparent that each individual could have been presented the award solely based on their own efforts.
Earl, a native of Cochran, has more than 35 years of experience in wildlife and land conservation projects, timber management and land acquisitions, and he has committed years of leadership in the forest sector both public and private. As a Professional Forester, Real Estate Broker and Certified Appraiser, Earl currently owns and manages several companies focusing on forestry and real estate investments in the Southeast.
Wanda currently serves the community and state as a parent, trained educator, small business associate and volunteer leader. After serving as a middle school educator for eight years and a local school board member for 12 years – six years as Chair, she was appointed in 2003 to the Georgia State Board of Education where she served as chair from 2003 to 2013. In this capacity, Wanda worked with local, state and national leaders to challenge educators, communities and policy makers to enhance education.
Gully Branch Tree Farm has merged the passions of education and forestry for Earl and Wanda. Along with their family, they have collaborated with communities, schools and the industry to educate the public on how to use trees as a sustainable, renewable, natural resource. Earl and Wanda have hosted more than 7,000 students and adults at Gully Branch Tree Farm since 1994 for the purpose of environmental education, wildlife observation and field events.
As a team, Wanda and Earl have received numerous awards and recognitions. In 2006, the couple was recognized with The BASF Outstanding Achievements in Sustainable Forestry Award, a cooperative, national-level award between BASF Corp. and the American Tree Farm System. In 2009, The American Tree Farm Association named the Barrs National Tree Farmers of the Year and in 2010 they received the Governor’s Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Award.
The Association also recognized several other individuals at the Annual Conference including 2014 Georgia Tree Farmer of the Year, Henry Walker, McRae, Ga.; GFA Chairman’s Award recipients, Bill Guthrie of Weyerhaeuser; Becky Watson of MeadWestvaco and Lee Rhodes of Rhodes Timber Company. Also, Georgia Project Learning Tree recognized PLT Outstanding Facilitator of the Year, Lauren Johnson, Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center; PLT Outstanding Service Award recipient, James Kent, Department of Defense, Ft. Benning; and PLT Outstanding Educator of the Year, Barbara Boler, The Langdale Company.