Categories
Pioneer

What is a Tree Farm Standard?

The term standard has many definitions, and in the case for Tree Farm, its intention is “a required or agreed level of attainment.” The American Tree Farm System 2021 Standards “promote the health and sustainability of America’s family forests.” That is a mouthful and quite an all-encompassing expectation of family forest landowners. Certification of Tree Farms relies on these standards that were designed to help Tree Farmers to effectively manage their forestland, and promote stewardship.

The standards are based on international guidelines from the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC TM ). These standards require following third party certification auditing procedures. Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is also endorsed through PEFC. This certification requires that all standards maintain water quality, wildlife habitat, soil conservation and provide recreation. It also requires wood products production to be done in a sustainable manner. With this “green” certification your ability to sell your wood to markets may be improved. In the future, certification of wood and chain of custody for timber may be a required part of selling logs from your property.

The eight certification standards include: a commitment to practicing sustainable forestry; compliance with federal, state, and local laws; complete timely reforestation or afforestation following regeneration harvests; protect air, water, and soil quality; conservation of biodiversity and forest health; value forest aesthetics; protect special sites and conducting activities in accordance with landowner objectives.

Each of these were designed to accommodate the diversity of forestland and landowner objectives, in relation to the size, scale and intensity of woodlands and operations. For example, managing a small property may look completely different than a 1,000-acre woodland, whether it is in scheduling timber sales, maintaining recreational trails, managing water quality, or encouraging wildlife habitat.

Over the next eight issues of Pioneer eNews, we will look more closely at each standard, and what you, as a Pioneer Tree Farmer, need to do to meet those standards. Each standard identifies “performance measures” and “indicators” that demonstrate conformance. To be more specific, a standard is the principle that is being followed that promotes sustainably managing your forestland. The performance measure outlines the methods for the landowner to meet the standard. Indicators are the activities that he landowner actually completes that meet the standard.

To give an example, many Pioneer Tree Farmers may already have a management plan that addresses some of the requirements of Tree Farm, and may meet the performance measure having a management plan. However, many of the “indicators” outlining more detail in the plan are not being met. Therefore, the plan does not meet the standard, and the Pioneer would need to address more in their forest management plan to be one step closer to certification. Many may only have to address a few items to meet the standard, and some may not even have a management plan yet.

As we move through each of the eight Standards of Sustainability to become a certified Tree Farmer, please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns regarding your Tree Farm and your Pioneer trek to certification. Questions can be addressed to Kathy Beland at kathy.njtinc@gmail.com.

Categories
Pioneer

Pioneer Program: Initial Steps

The Pioneer Tree Program is an introductory phase of the Tree Farm program that helps those who are interested in becoming certified, but not up to American Tree Farm System (ATFS) standards yet. It also helps those who were previously certified but did not keep their land up to standard get back on track. For those who are new to the Pioneer program there are some steps to take towards becoming a certified Tree Farm.

Pioneer Tree Farms should first contact their forester to review Tree Farm standards and other requirements of the program. To be admitted to the Tree Farm program a property must be between 10 and 20,000 contiguous acres, be privately owned, pass inspections, and meet ATFS standards. The 8 certification standards include: a commitment to practicing sustainable forestry; compliance with federal, state, and local laws; complete timely reforestation or afforestation; protect air, water, and soil quality; conservation of biodiversity and forest health; value forest aesthetics; protect special sites and conducting activities in accordance with landowner objectives.

Meeting with your forester will help a landowner know what standards their land is currently meeting and areas that need improvement. In order to meet Tree Farm certification requirements, your plan might need to be updated. Review your forest management plan with your forester to see what needs to be added or changed to meet the requirements. If your forester is not a certified Tree Farm inspector, Vermont Tree Farm can connect you with someone who can work with you to certify your property.

For land that is already enrolled in the Use Value Appraisal (UVA) program some Tree Farm requirements may already be met. For those that are not, the Tree Farm Addendum form covers many areas that may not be included in a standard UVA plan. The VT Tree Farm website offers a comparison matrix which may help in fulfilling additional needs. Changes to your management plan do not need to be filed to the county forester unless it affects your UVA status.

Getting your land to certification may also involve changes beyond amending your management plan. For example, if a Tree Farm has problematic erosion or severe invasive plant problem which have not been addressed with some plan of action, that may need to happen prior
to certification. This determination is in the hands of the certified Tree Farm Inspector, which may or may not be your consulting forester.

If the landowner is not ready to update their plan or address concerns prior to certification, they may remain in the Pioneer program for five years.