Colter DeVries: 0:02
I’m Colter DeVries, owner of Ranch Investor Advisory and Brokerage Services. I’m an accredited land consultant with the Realtor Land Institute and proud member of ASFMRA.
Ranch Investor: 0:13
The Ranch Investor Podcast is the most downloaded and informative industry-specific content that intrigues while entertained.
Arnoud De Villegas: 0:22
Good morning morning Arnu. How are you? I’m well, I’m well, I love the hat.
Colter DeVries: 0:28
Well, thank you, I’ll have to send you one.
Arnoud De Villegas: 0:31
Well, I’d be proud to wear it.
Colter DeVries: 0:34
Well, thanks for coming on With great pleasure.
Arnoud De Villegas: 0:39
Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
Colter DeVries: 0:41
Okay, we are.
Arnoud De Villegas: 0:43
I’m digging your background there.
Colter DeVries: 0:45
Well, it’s not.
Arnoud De Villegas: 0:48
I mean the thing over your right shoulder.
Colter DeVries: 0:50
Yeah, yeah, I actually got that on my family’s place, did you? Yeah, and the funny story about that is I was 15, I think, and we had a landowner’s tag, yeah. And. I’m from Red Lodge, so the Beartooth Mountains, big, big plateau, and a lot of my friends and peers. They have these adventure stories of packing miles into the mountain with a string of horses and mules and they’ll get an elk down. I’ve done it. It’s, yeah, it’s no. Storm will come and they’re risking their life and a grizzly bear might be after their kill and they just have this Shakespearean odyssey. They have this adventure story and I’m like well, I drove two miles from my parents’ house, shot that one in the pasture on our place, went home and got the tractor and then came back out and loaded it up.
Arnoud De Villegas: 1:57
Listen, I’m sure you’re not sure. The story is also where you’ve had to put in a lot of grit and effort. So yeah, yeah, but I know that that’s hard work. Yeah, like you have a backhoe, backhoe is going to be helpful one way. Yeah, cheers.
Colter DeVries: 2:18
Well, arnoux, thank you for coming on to tell us a little bit about mast and drone seed. So I don’t know if you have any disclosures to give. I have a disclosure, just given our audience. I know that you’ve received funding to the sum of maybe 46 million and some of that has come from Davos, and some of my listeners or you were featured at Davos. I believe you’re going to have to correct my understanding, but what I’m getting at is a disclosure for me is my audience might take exception to the idea or notion that I am shilling for the global elites and their beliefs around climate change and global warming. I’m not having you on, arnoux, to promote or pitch Davos’ solutions to climate change, global warming. I see what you’re doing with mast and drone seed as a tool in the toolbox for landowners and, whether people like it or not, the potential for carbon markets that are not voluntary, maybe not compulsory, but maybe something a little more regulated and structured. I personally think that that potential is high and I want to be on the front end of that and I want my listeners to be on the front end of understanding some of the options. They have a lot of brokers, appraisers, real estate agents, ranchers, progressive ranchers and I think we do have a lot of ranching for profit minded listeners who would be receptive to saying I might not like it and where it’s come from, or maybe even who’s backed it. But I want to not get left behind. I want to see what this is all about. It’s a tool that could bring value and be life changing money. It could change my family tree. So, yeah, I just want to make that disclosure. Our new and I’m sure that it’s not the first time you’ve received a little pushback from most populous nationalist flyover state rural ranchers.
Arnoud De Villegas: 4:50
Well, we started our conversation talking about Elk hunting. So I think you should get a sense for how I feel about our Western way of life, and you’ll obviously gauge from my accent that I’m not originally from this country, but I am a proud American. I have two to. This country has given much to me, including two sons who also enjoy our Western way of life. We do not have money from Davos. Davos, of course, is an event in Switzerland that where, yes, the global elite, policymakers included, come together to talk about the big problems before us globally. I’ve never been, but I’m sure it’s an interesting conversation that’s had. We do have money from venture capitalists. We do have money from venture capitalists that are climate minded, who’ve made money in other industries but want to. They want their legacy to be having made an impact on our Western landscapes. Whether or not you agree or we agree about what may or may not be causing climate change, at the end of the day, the trajectory that we’re on is wholly unsustainable. We’ve lost 17.1 million acres to catastrophic wildfire in the West United States in the last decade alone, people’s lives and livelihoods and communities being decimated in the path of this destruction. We’re looking to fill a gap and needing to scale reforestation solutions. Chair, you started exactly right. Those are the need for scale and the need to make an impact. I think too often across the West we see our lifestyle impacted by outside influence factors, some of them good, some of them not. We see landowners forced to subdivide their branches for generation transitional reasons. We see rangelands and affected by infrastructure. We see communities suffer from the loss of capital not being invested anymore into things like the timber industry and the impact that has on a socioeconomic basis. I very much hope that our program can help make a difference by conserving landscapes and habitat and ecosystems and that Western way of life that we cherish, as well as create a market-driven impetus for renewed investments into our Western landscapes. Hopefully that answers any needed disclosures. I think we’re talking the same language.
Colter DeVries: 8:01
Thank you for opening with that, arnu. Let’s get into. What is MAST? What is MAST? Tell me about this case study where you and I have a little bit of commonality. There’s a fire, a burn scar on a ranch. I sold a small one in Cascade, central Montana. I know directly of a project that you have been on. What is MAST? What are you looking for? How can you benefit our audience, landowners, brokers? What is MAST in your own seed?
Arnoud De Villegas: 8:37
Why are you on yeah, it’s a small world, isn’t it? In Whitefellas, sulphys Springs is a beautiful place, sadly affected by fire to the east and to the west. Mast was actually and you mentioned, droneseed was the predecessor company. Droneseed was founded in 2016 with some backing from venture capitalists, as really proud of making continued investments in innovation to drive efficiencies in the reforestation supply chain. It started out as an aerial herbicide company, spraying for competing vegetation after wild fire, but also after harvest, after clear cuts. We’re very much pro-timber. We invested then into further into the supply chain by acquiring a company called Silver Seed in Washington, a 133-year-old company that is really the premier supplier of conifer reforestation seed globally. It has the largest seed extractory in the West United States and really moving the needle on cone collections, which we can chat about later perhaps then acquired a company called Calforest, a company that I used to run, a premier independent, now, on a consolidated basis, largest reforestation container stock producer in the West United States. Then we’ve fully consolidated, fully vertically integrated Excuse me site prep reforestation activities on the ground, as well as capital market solutions. So all of those things coming together mean that we’re able to move very quickly after fire. In fact, for cone collections, often we’re collecting during active wildfires to preserve that genetic seed stock that’s at risk of burning. And then, yeah, we engage with landowners affected by fire and who are often lost. And I can’t tell you how many times when I ran Cal Forest, that nursery business, how many phone calls I had from landowners who lost their grandfather’s forest and they were hoping to harvest that forest, maybe send their grandkids to university, and had very few options before them, so they had to. You know, if they didn’t have a consulting forest, that they didn’t know where to find when they didn’t have seed. More often than not, that country that you just mentioned, north of where you are, in white sulfur springs, there was no seed for reforestation after catastrophic wildfire until an effort that we undertook with the Montana Department of Natural Resources Conservation and the Bureau of Land Management in a first of its kind partnership last summer, where we collected cone seed for reforestation to help folks out and, as a consequence, I think, increased seed available for Montana lands by 10 or 15%. So anyway. So then we work with the landowner to understand what the forest looked like before fire. We take a, we make a detailed assessment of of through stratifying the landscape and getting a, getting a painting of sort of developing a mosaic, of what the, what the, what the forest would look like, and then develop a reforestation prescription that includes site prep, so the removal of as much of that plant material as possible, that biomass, and and then developing a reforestation prescription there, often, so you know, seed and seedlings, and then and then and then provide the capital to pay for all of it.
Colter DeVries: 12:53
And we’re talking wild, native, intact, once intact forests that have been burned out. So you can’t come in and do a plantation with me, right? If I’m, if I’m in the panhandle of Texas and it’s just flat and windy and low precip area, you’re not going to come in and just plant a bunch of fast growing. Well, there’s nothing that’s probably fast growing in the panhandle of Texas, but you’re not going to just come in and plant a bunch of species. You’re looking for native areas. You’re getting seeds from that locality. You can’t just bring in conifers from Washington, oregon and California to Colorado and Montana and Idaho. It has to be very localized and it has to be part of a kind of a regenerative program. Is that right?
Arnoud De Villegas: 13:48
Yeah, so we are able to migrate seed, you know, a certain distance, but not as far as you might think, certainly not from Washington to the panhandle of Texas. So we, yeah, we plant, we harvest seed from forests that that haven’t burnt, we process that seed, we store it for decades and then use that seed, as I said, either provide it for the timber industry or, in the case of wildfires. Generally speaking, that seed goes to within 500 foot elevation of where it was originally collected, within a specific, a broad seed zone.
Colter DeVries: 14:33
Yeah, that is, that is very specific, within 500 feet of elevation to match, to match suitability of the climate and the ecosystem.
Arnoud De Villegas: 14:44
Yeah, so we’re seeing. We’re seeing forests, you know, because of changing landscapes right, I’ll say climate change we see forest ecosystems changing. We’re seeing those lower elevation pine plantations that may have at some point held Douglas Farr in certain places convert to oak woodland or brush. So we have to be mindful of that and, and you know, plant plant more pine than we would for, but we wouldn’t. Yeah, we’re not in the we, you know we’re. We want to build resilient forests that will grow for generations and thrive.
Colter DeVries: 15:29
I want to do. I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds, but it’s just. It is a burning question. How about? Last time you and I spoke we talked about north of Billings, roundup bull mountains, a fire. There’s a burn scar from probably 30 years ago, maybe maybe 35, as old as I am, and it has never come back. And and you know you had mentioned that it probably burned so hot that it just killed the sterilized, the soil, killed any viable seed that was on the ground in the ground. Is that a burn scar, a three decade old burn scar that you could rehabilitate?
Arnoud De Villegas: 16:13
Yes. The short answer is yes, and we can also intervene in the case of beetle kills. We, just the the finest of the stubborn’s can include beetle killer and fire, but yes, there needs to have been a forest in the past. And and and you’re quite right, you know, like too many times yesterday I was driving down the through this year and about is within the Dixie fire footprint of a fire that burnt nearly a million acres. I mean, right, Like, just just the level of devastation is, is, it’s really catastrophic. There’s country that I drove through that will including that fire, that will never see forest again Because there hasn’t been, you know, because we haven’t made an investment into a sufficient amount of seed collection and because fires are burning at such severity that, as you say, they’re burning that old layer, that top layer of soil that has a natural seed bed in it. The only thing that comes back is brush. So we’re seeing the conversion for us into brush fields, which is terrible, right, which is terrible environmentally. It’s terrible for habitat for deer and elk, you know, for watersheds, for cutthroat trout, for salmon runs. It’s just devastating all around.
Colter DeVries: 17:50
Now, if I just tuned in, had no background frame of reference to mast or drone seed, I would, at this point in the podcast, are new. I’d be thinking, dang, this sounds pretty good. You’re going to come in, you’re going to not only clean up the fire damage, but you’re going to reseed it, and I’m just going to guess that mast is at that point. You guys are in it for eight, nine, 12 bucks an acre. Maybe 16 bucks an acre is your investment into it. That’s well, that sounds pretty good. You guys come in and improve my place. The deal is, though, is that you guys are taking the risk for a future carbon market. That is, at this point, voluntary, right? So you’re going to reseed it and you’re going to have the opportunity to market any carbon credits in the future. Is that right?
Arnoud De Villegas: 18:51
So that’s correct. The first thing I’ll say is the cost of undertaking reforestation end to end, from site prep, as much as the budgets will afford us, right. So if we can’t remove the material, we’ll fell trees across the face of the mountain to help with soil erosion, for example, right. But the cost of dealing with that material, spraying other sites when the landowner is immutable to it and we generally recommend it putting seedlings in the ground from our nurseries planted in the ground, that work costs many thousands of dollars per acre right and it is a staggering amount of money that’s required as exceedingly expensive, which is largely the reason why we think that the advent of these voluntary carbon markets and bringing private capital to provide a solution for funding upfront is so material, absent which, as I said, lands will be converted in turn to brush. Carbon projects are successful largely well, are influenced largely by the productivity of the ground and in that ground north of Billings that you mentioned, where productivity is lower per acre right, like the timber, the board feet that that ground could produce, and the ratio of carbon thereof is such that, relative to you know, like you mentioned, washington right, which is obviously, you know, very fertile grounds and, if anything by virtue of the amount of precipitation in Washington. That means that we often have to work in partnerships with the state to tap into some grant funding opportunities to help stand the forest back up. Just because otherwise it’s not economical, we can’t fund the work. But leaving that aside for a minute, yes, we are a for-profit entity, so we share in carbon with the landowners, having funded a long-term management endowment that will accrue interest to and go with the land. Stay with the land to allow landowners to afford a precommercial thin at year 70 in that country, right. So we really care about long-term resilience and giving the landowner every resource possible to manage that land successfully for generations to come.
Colter DeVries: 21:55
That must be incredibly difficult to model because your timing right now, I mean Canada is on fire and the US knows that, because New York City, you know, even New York City is being smoked out by fires in British Columbia and Alberta. This was one of the longer fire seasons I’ve witnessed in my life. I mean we had smoke down here in Billings from Canadian wildfires as early as May, which is very unusual. I mean we kind of expect a smoky August, a smoky September, which right now, as we record this, yeah, of course there’s definitely smoke in some areas, but as early as May, that’s quite unusual. And there’s millions and millions of acres in Canada burning right now. I don’t know how you get ahead of that. I do think some of our listeners are going to ask does that include grazing and thinning and forest management?
Arnoud De Villegas: 23:01
So on the first point about wildfire, smoke and folks on the East Coast, for years I’ve been my wife’s from the East Coast, so we spend a lot of time there and I have been telling friends and family over there about the severity of the problem of our forests on national treasures in the West of the United States. Too many people just didn’t believe me, right, I thought that I was being hyperbolic. So when we go to New York, amongst other places, to raise capital to fund our projects, I had a capital market. My colleague, wolsey McCunnon, was sitting in a boardroom on the 40th floor of a building and just pointed out the window and said you know, what more evidence do you need of the need for support for these landowners both you know as well as for public lands, but private landowners across the world, the West, that are just losing everything? Just, you know, as a partner of ours, the owner of the sheep pre-crunch in Cascade, montana, said you know, his dream went up in smoke and before we came along and started to work together, he just he didn’t have any options before. So, yeah, so it’s real and finally, hopefully, hopefully, with your help, coulter and others across the nation were able to kind of tell that story and amplify the need for investment. On the subject of grazing, you know yeah, you know there are plenty of examples of landowners who use their ranches on a multi-use basis, right, so they maybe they lease their land out to outfitters and they run cattle, and we’re supportive of that. You know, it’s our way of life in the West and it’s their land that they should do as they please with it. We do work, you know we do work across the landscape and try, and you know the seedlings do have to grow, so we have to. You know, maybe we have to put up some fences, virtual or otherwise, to keep the cows out for a period of time. But otherwise, you know, I’m personally very much in favor of multi-use, multi-use ranching and grazing and it keeps that vegetation down once the forest is mature. And then there’s plenty of examples of grazing being beneficial. When a forest is healthy and managed well and there aren’t too many trees per acre, cattle and otherwise can help to keep that vegetation down. It’s good.
Colter DeVries: 26:13
Well, what I really like hearing from our last conversation, arnu, is you can stack some of these benefits, some of these programs. So if I was enrolled in an NRCS program and maybe that’s even a conservation easement, I think you and I both share the value that we do not want to see these Western places chopped up and subdivided into 20s. That’s certainly not a value of mine. Development to rural subdivisions for a quick flip of the dollar, especially in high markets like the last three years, that was really easy to do. So you could start with a conservation easement, maybe an NRCS equip program or CSP program, and you can layer. Now, your program does not, it doesn’t kick out those other options, it layers it like a cake of benefits and revenue on top of other enterprises hunting, grazing, nrcs conservation easement it sounds like you can. You know mass reforestation and I think the appraisers listening and brokers as well would agree that yeah, you’re adding value when you reforest your burn scar. There’s probably not a. Currently in a hot market there wouldn’t be a huge difference between burned out places and a native, intact forested ranch. But as the market comes back to normal then there is. So if mass were to come in with a nice program and reforest it. That’s adding value to your principle, that’s adding value to the underlying asset and I like that. So you guys do not. You’re not prohibitive when it comes to other easements, correct?
Arnoud De Villegas: 28:23
We’re not. So it’s important to. Sometimes I struggle, you know, in chatting with landowners and my colleagues speak with landowners and in promoting the benefits of conservation easements. You know they’re kind of in some places you’ll get run out of town, tarred and feathered mentioning those words, but really at the end of the day they’re an instrument that a land and the landowner holds the pen. It’s their land, it’s their easement, it’s an instrument with which you commit to managing your land for the long term, for generations to come. That conforms with your vision. Right. And more often than not when you speak with landowners and certainly brokers and assessors should resonate whether the Californians or Texans moving to Montana or just people from Montana who have been there for generations they want to preserve that Western way of life. Right, so that easement helps to protect the land but allows you to manage it for a multitude of outcomes. Our program seeks to provide the capital to restore the forest and habitat and, yes, we can layer on additional in the future we believe will, as this carbon market comes out of its nascent sea. We’ll be able to layer on additional what we call natural capital revenue streams over and above our reforestation carbon program. But you’re conserving that land and allowing landowner to also continue to generate income from grazing and from hunting, leases and otherwise. It’s important to note that we do not preclude a landowner from being able to carve out in their easement potentially a home building site you know as part of on their property. In fact, the only easement that we need is on what we call the project area, so basically the forest that we have rehabilitated right. So outside of the project area, because, fortunately not all you know, more often than not the entirety of the project of the forest doesn’t burn. Well, sadly often that is the case, but in a lot of instances it is not, and so the easement would conserve the acre that we have restored but allow a landowner, should the timber markets come back and Livingston’s got a mill again right Should be able to generate income also from the forest, maybe from some green sales on the acres that haven’t burnt. So we want to offer flexibility, we want to offer, you know, we’ve really thought long and hard about developing this program to address as many of those pain points that the landowners have faced, that they face after an event like a catastrophic wildfire.
Colter DeVries: 31:55
So I get some questions on LinkedIn. I get a lot of pitches. People pitch me their ideas, which is awesome. Please, please, keep doing that. And actually we are moving the discussion to Discord. We’ve started a ranch investor Discord channel and it is anonymous. So those who have questions for our new or myself, please jump on Discord and you can post your questions or comments anonymously and we definitely want to hear your feedback. One of the things that keeps coming up is you know everyone, people who listen quite often are entrepreneurial and they’re entrepreneurial land investors. And when you get entrepreneurial, you kind of you’re always thinking arbitrage, right, we all want the quick flip arbitrage opportunity. And so, hearing you are new, I’m thinking how fast can you move? Because if I go out and I solicit a landowner right after a burn, can you give me, within 90 days you know a 60% confidence level that you can come in and do this project? Because then I’m going to start modeling that, okay, I’ve got 60 days, I got this thing under contract. Can I put a conservation easement on it to take 20% of the value back to my pocket right away? Can I put NRCS? Can I get an outfitter in there to lease out the hunting. I’m going to start trying to maximize the value of this, optimize it as quick as possible, and I really like what mass is pre, what mass is pitching? What’s your timeline? How long does it take?
Arnoud De Villegas: 33:46
That’s great. Arbitrage is not a word we often use in forestry, but having spent a lot of years in finance prior to being called back to the woods, I like it. So we try and get our forestry team on the ground as quickly as possible after fire. If a landowner and we urge landowners to get in touch with us as quickly as possible and some are getting in touch with us now as fires are burning, you know, trying to look ahead, trying to they understand the urgency. There’s a lack of seed, there’s a lack of edling growth space in us trees and they want to make sure they have that space that we’ll reserve for them and so, yeah, so there is a level of urgency in. The faster we do it, the better it is for everybody the faster we can get ahead of that competing vegetation and potentially reduce that cost of reforestation per acre. Anyway, we try and get on the landscape correct within 90 days after fire, but as soon as thereafter we need a period of time to get our foresters on the land and sometimes it’s our team. Sometimes we use local consulting foresters as well who we partner with, like Zach Bishore of Montana Forest Consultants in Adam Azul, who is a great partner, to go and make an assessment of the project’s potential and the costs of doing the work. And then we present those findings to the landowner and in some cases landowners who have a deep love of the land and maybe wanted to own their own, if they aren’t already existing landowners. They wanted to own their own corner of their own spot of the magic. The American West have used those to inform their desire to purchase some forest. Our evaluation reports do not, I hasten to say, should not be used as a way to underwrite investments into a forest. My alloys would be upset with me if I did say that. But we do provide a detailed evaluation of the land’s reforestation potential, which is to say it’s carbon carrying capacity.
Colter DeVries: 36:34
So another thought that just hit me, arnu, as I’m listening to my own podcast us sleazy salesman will sell anything, but we don’t pimp out our network for free. And I’m thinking, arnu, you have thousands of dollars per acre invested in this, which means the net present value of all future benefit must be I mean, it’s probably 1.6 times that. At least that could be a nice little commission. Are you guys doing any referral or any for my brokers and agents out there who have a network and can source leads for masks? Is there anything where I could get compensated for pimpin’ out my network? Definitely.
Arnoud De Villegas: 37:31
I mean that again. That’s another word that we don’t often use in forestry.
Colter DeVries: 37:35
Arnoud De Villegas: 37:39
But I should think twice about taking you. You look at my truck, you know at my ride and all that. Yeah, very much so. So the reason why we partner with real estate brokers and folks across the West is that they are the members of communities. They have the trust of the community members, right. So if I roll into some place in Idaho or Montana or wherever across the West with my funny accent, people may be, despite my love of recreation on landscape, people may be slightly suspicious. I mean, I have, and my colleagues have, a lot of experience in standing for us back up, but still right. So we like to work with folks across the West that can act as a bridge into communities, into regions, and we are happy to partner with them and incentivize them to bring us landowners with whom we can partner on restoring the landscapes. Absolutely, and we have those agreements in place and be happy to share them with your network.
Colter DeVries: 39:04
Okay, so now one reason people hate us sleazy brokers are new is because well, there’s many reasons, but the one I’m going to touch on is asymmetrical information. People generally do not like that, especially in non-disclosure states like Montana and Wyoming. People do not like that. Brokers hold the data, they hold the information. That’s gold. That’s how brokers run their business and that’s where they provide their brokers, provide their value. So you have this agency problem asymmetrical information. The broker knows more about the market, the marketability, the value of your place than the principal landowner. What I would see being an issue with MAST. If I’m in Northwest Montana and I’ve been there my whole, well, no, no, I haven’t been there my whole life, I’m brand new and I don’t know anything about forestry, but I know that I’ve got to do something about this burn scar. Is there an agency where someone would have my best interest in helping me understand what this carbon program entails, what the forestry I mean? This forester out of Missoula comes in and he’s talking about board feet and the growth rate and the diseases and the brush habitat, and I don’t know a damn thing about forestry, but I know that this is a good opportunity. Well, I suspect it could be a good opportunity, but I have no information. Is there someone who could advocate for me?
Arnoud De Villegas: 40:53
Yeah, so I think I’ve answered your question. But sure, there are resources. You mentioned the NRCS. They’re a valuable member of the community resource conservation districts, our colleagues at the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation who can provide support. But I’ll say two things. The first is we are transparent. Right, we present our findings to the landowner. We’re here to answer questions. We invite our landowner partners to come and see projects where we’ve executed good work, where they can see trees growing, and we have partners who would be happy to act as referrals. But also I’ll say that our interests are aligned with those landowners in having a successful project. We provide the capital at no cost to the landowner and therefore our balance sheet is at risk. So if the project fails, we’re on the hook, not the landowner. That should give you a sense of how committed we are to a project’s success. The relationship that we might have with the real estate broker or a consulting forester is one thing, but the other day we’re partners with the landowner and our commitment to the land is truly what matters.
Colter DeVries: 42:58
And just I’m sure most listeners are aware this doesn’t work everywhere. So I’m assuming you guys cannot do or you haven’t yet expanded into, like hardwoods of northern Michigan, you’re probably not going to do, pine plantations of Florida and Alabama. It’s probably locale specific and I think we’ve touched on the wildlands aspect of it, native intact. But tell me specifically kind of what MAST is looking for right now. You guys have a war chest to go out and get this done. Where are you going to?
Arnoud De Villegas: 43:44
apply it. So along the way we’re going to add some zodiac by virtue of the operating subsidiaries that we have, the verticals that we have Calforest, Silver Seed, drone Seed those businesses have historically had a focus on the Western United States. So Rockies West, that’s been our area of focus. We do have reforestation projects and trials going in British Columbia, in New Zealand. We do have demand for our services for across the world from old friend of mine from my finance days contacted me a couple weeks ago because of the devastation in Greece. But we are building this program carefully. Our area of focus remains the Western United States and we will expand cautiously with demand. But certainly hardwoods are a natural extension. The South-East has incredibly productive ground, also face disturbances, hurricanes. Otherwise I could see us moving in that direction at some point in time. But as we said at the top the count till last summer, and this summer we’ve burnt, sadly, lost more ground. But as of the end of last summer we lost 17.1 million acres in the Western United States alone in the last 10 years. We’re not short of acres to reforest. We remain committed to that mission and we remain small but determined to make maximum impact.
Colter DeVries: 45:58
So I don’t want to get too much into your business, but I do have now a triggered, burning question about the cost when you guys have to go out there and manually, using human physical labor, collect the seed. And granted, you’ve bought these nurseries, these seed businesses along the way, but still you’re having to source localized genetics. That to me in the Western US, with the mountains and the slopes and the access, physical access seems very, very costly. As a business owner, I think a lot can empathize and commiserate right now that labor is just extremely difficult to find. How is it not that, masked as like, well, let’s go to some flatter country, let’s go actually think about some fires that have torn through flatter areas? Why go after the West when it’s so costly, with the physical labor and the labor markets are difficult right now?
Arnoud De Villegas: 47:08
Well, on the flat versus deep, we were a start-up. Now we’re a bit bigger than a start-up, but we were a start-up and we’re all entrepreneurs and short, as you know, like the early days, steeped with challenges. There was a pun there, I guess, and our clients would give us just the steepest, rockiest, nastiest ground to work on, and we’re not short of grit and a desire to succeed. So we undertook those projects and have delivered some successes, some a lot of lessons learned along the way, as you would expect from new, burgeoning technology, but we continue to invest and deliver on outcomes. On the subject of labor, we believe that carbon markets allow us to make investments in our nurseries, in our seed collection programs, and so directly into rural communities across the West that need it most, and I have just countless examples of folks who work for our nurseries and our cone collection programs, where we’ve been able to make a material impact on their lives and on their livelihoods and their communities, because we’re bringing this capital to make a difference. So there’s definitely a social impact component to our work. The communities that used to have mills and do not, but they’re filled with people who have a love of the land and they see that for their forest, that national forest, burn up and they want to make a difference and so they come and apply for jobs and we pay them well and we look after them. We believe in our people and, yes, so I think labor remains a challenge, but when you couple incentives and a desire to make, like economic incentives, but also a desire to make a difference across landscapes, we found that people are working for us.
Colter DeVries: 49:44
Well, our new Dave Yegas with Mast, and that’s Mike Alpha Sierra Tango Mast, as well as Drone Seed. Check out some of their videos, pilot or not a pilot project, but a case study of the sheep crick ranch. I believe it’s sheep crick, that’s the one where I was actually out there as well, selling a little place nearby. Cool, very cool YouTube video showing your work and definitely chime in with questions. Comments anonymously on Ranch Investors Discord channel. We want to hear your feedback, but if you need some feedback and input from the audience, but a call to action from appraisers, brokers and landowners- the call to action.
Arnoud De Villegas: 50:38
You said it get in touch, reach out and look to make a difference on our Western landscapes. We have the ability to act. It won’t be easy, but we have the ability to restore landscapes and do good forestry work, just rooted in decades of experience and lessons learned how to reestablish forests off to catastrophic wildfires and other disturbance. We’re just looking for that engagement. You called out Mast and in our website, mastreforestcom, myself and my teammates would love to chat with any of you directly, anonymously or otherwise.
Colter DeVries: 51:33
Arnoux would love to come out and see your place because I’m sure Arnoux like me, I consider myself and Andy Rohn, the sometimes co-host appraiser, we’re land lawyers. We like to just go look, we like looking. They’re all beautiful.
Arnoud De Villegas: 51:49
That’s it. I don’t know if this will be published as a video or a recording, but the image here behind me is my backyard here and also ravaged by wildfires. Anyway, we can do it. I really appreciate that. I’m in way up in the North California by the Oregon border. That’s where our company, cal Forest, is based in Siskiu County. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you, colta, and your audience. I appreciate that you share our passion for Western landscapes and forests. Thank you very much.
Colter DeVries: 52:36
Pleasure having you on. I’m excited to bring on a group that has raised over $46 million. It speaks to the scale and size of the problem you are solving.
Arnoud De Villegas: 52:51
Colter DeVries: 52:53
Well, Arnoux, thank you again. I hope to send along some comments and questions from Discord.
Arnoud De Villegas: 53:00
Excellent. Well, thank you very much. All the best.
Ranch Investor: 53:03
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