Fred van Eck speaking

Fred van Eck, a private equity investor, was passionate about two things: finance and trees.


Behind The Film

Fred van Eck, a private equity investor, was passionate about two things: finance and trees.

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In 1969, Fred bought over 2,000 acres of redwood forest in California, later purchasing an additional 7,000 acres in Oregon. As a frugal investor, these purchases were a logical and rather intuitive investment in productive timberland for Fred — a gift that would keep on giving.

But his vision of what could be achieved with forests took a new turn when he crossed paths with Laurie Wayburn, a pioneer in forestry restoration. It was an unlikely meeting of the minds, yet Fred and Laurie found incredible synergy in their philosophies; namely, that whether in forestry or finance, the best way to build value was through holistic, conscientious management. The two embarked on a friendship, and the van Eck Forests set a new standard for sustainable forest management.

Today, the van Eck Forests operate as living laboratories to test out innovations in forest management, showing how forests can generate economic returns while also restoring biodiversity, healthy watersheds, and climate change resilience. The properties span 9,400 acres of conserved, well-managed, economically self-sustaining forest. These forest systems don't just consist of flora and fauna — they also support a diverse ecosystem of human activity and economy, providing employment for loggers, foresters, biologists and others, not to mention vast social benefits in the form of increased biodiversity, healthy water systems, and carbon sequestration.

The van Eck Forests were the first emissions reduction project adopted by the State of California to help meet its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. This was a milestone for the role of forests in the state’s climate change policy, signaling that climate-positive forestry should be about much more than just planting trees.

Guided by the passion and vision of Fred and Laurie, the van Eck Forest Project has become an exemplar of a truly holistic forest economy — the forest of the future. The “Beyond the Trees” documentary is an homage to their vision and an urgent call for a new kind of forest management, at a time when it is more needed than ever.

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The vision behind the van Eck Forests was to demonstrate the synergy and practicality of managing for ecological and economic sustainability.

Net income generated by the forests supports the Hardwood Tree Improvement Program at Purdue University. More information is available at