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ATFS Standard #4: Air, Water, and Soil Protection

The next installment of the American Tree Farm System’s Standards of Sustainability brings us Standard #4: Air, Water and Soil Protection. A landowner’s forest management activities must maintain or enhance ecosystems and their benefits provided by the forest, including air, water, soil and site quality.

To fulfill this standard, landowners must implement best management practices (BMPs). In Vermont, these practices are called AMPs or acceptable management practices. Tree Farms that are enrolled in Vermont Use Value Appraisal are also required to follow the Acceptable Management Practices for Water Quality. AMPs help foresters, landowners, and loggers protect water quality. AMPs are designed to prevent sediment, petroleum products, and woody debris from getting into waterways. Landowners should implement AMPs on their land where applicable. AMPs are geared towards harvesting but should also be implemented when constructing or maintaining any trails or access roads on Tree Farm properties. Haul roads, skidder trails, loading areas, and other parts of the timber harvesting process must be constructed and used in an AMP-approved manner. To view Vermont’s AMP guidelines, click here.

AMPs must be implemented when working within wetlands and riparian zones too. The key aspect to this is minimizing road construction and other soil disturbances. Logging equipment can cause damage to wetlands, so if building roads are necessary, it is important to follow AMPs. Taking time to flag routes so loggers know where they can and cannot go during the harvest is recommended to minimize impact on wetlands and streams. Filling in ruts, reseeding exposed soil, and installing waterbars or other drainage structures following tables within AMP guide should help to minimize potential for future erosion.

Pest management is another aspect of fulfilling standard #4. A landowner must consider a wide range of management options to control pests and unwanted vegetation. It is recommended that landowners should consult with professionals to make decisions on controlling pests and pathogens, as there are a wide range of available options. Like other places, Vermont has unfortunately become home to several non-native invasive insects and plant species. Some non-native examples that landowners may contend with are emerald ash borer, hemlock woody adelgid, butternut canker, buckthorn, multiflora rose, and giant hogweed. Other pests which may be problematic for some Vermont landowners are white pine blister rust, beech bark disease, sugar maple borer, forest tent caterpillars and balsam gall midge.

It is preferred that a landowner consider other alternatives to pesticides first. Integrated pest management is an example of a non-pesticide option for the removal of pests. However, pesticides are allowed if non-chemical methods are ineffective or not feasible. If using pesticides, landowners must use EPA-approved products, and they must be applied, stored, and disposed of in an EPA-approved manner.

Prescribed burns are also involved in this Standard. Although not as common in Vermont, there are occasions when a prescribed burn can help certain species regenerate or promote wildlife habitat. If taking this route, then a landowner should contact their local Forest Fire Warden in order to receive proper training/assistance in conducting a prescribed burn, review VT laws regarding burns, and obtain a permit to conduct a burn. Fire is easily maneuverable and burns can get out of hand quickly, so it’s advised that burns be conducted only with individuals who are experienced in doing them.

For additional information and advice on this standard, here are a few key contacts or websites to use:
Forest Health questions
https://fpr.vermont.gov/forest/forest-health
Fire
https://fpr.vermont.gov/forest/wildland-fire
AMP
https://fpr.vermont.gov/forest/managing-your-woodlands/acceptable-management-practices
https://fpr.vermont.gov/forest/managing-your-woodlands/acceptable-management-practices/AMPcontacts

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