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Beltrami Soil & Water Conservation District: Solway rancher plants historic tree

From left are Beltrami Soil and Water Conservation District Chairman Jay Backstrom; Wayne Wilde, owner of Wilde Angus Farms in Solway; and SWCD Stewardship Forester Jerry Stensing. Wilde was honored Thursday for planting the two-millionth SWCD tree. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

The Beltrami Soil & Water Conservation District provides services to prevent erosion and to protect lakes and streams. But the organization is widely known for its forestation projects.

When the tree sales began 20 years ago, 12,000 trees were distributed. Now, the count is 100,000 trees per year, said Jerry Stensing, SWCD stewardship forester.

This year's sale days will be held from noon-6 p.m. Friday, May 6, and 7 a.m.-noon, Saturday, May 7. Although most of the trees have been preordered, Stensing said, "We still have some that don't have homes yet."

The distribution sites are the green buildings at the old Beltrami County Fairgrounds behind Target.

This spring, SWCD sold its two millionth tree to Wayne Wilde, owner of Wilde Angus Farms in Solway. At the SWCD meeting Thursday, Stensing and SWCD Chairman Jay Backstrom presented Wilde with a certificate honoring his reforestation efforts and his luck in buying the historic tree.

"We've been at it for a long time and we just crossed that milestone," Stensing said. "A lot of people planting trees."

However, neither Wilde nor Stensing know exactly which tree the historic sapling is, just that it was part of his order.

"We ordered some pine and spruce and oak," Wilde.

He said he and his family have planted trees for wildlife corridors and live windbreaks on their property in Beltrami and Clearwater counties. The practice is also a family tradition, he said, as a spring never went by without his late father, Milo Wilde, planting trees.

"After a few years, you see the results of your efforts," Stensing said. "It's leaving a legacy."

Wilde agreed saying, "I hope my grandkids enjoy it."

He added that a row of baby spruce trees his brother, Jim Wilde, gave him about 15 years ago are now a handsome 20-foot-tall row along his driveway.

Stensing said the tree storage facility when he started with the SWCD 18 years ago was in a little log building behind the county garage. To keep the trees cool, he and his helpers would shovel snow into the building all winter long.

"Now, we crank up the cooler in the spring and shut it down when we're done," he said.