The Pioneer Tree Farm category allows interested landowners, who may not quite meet the AFF Standard, to participate in the American Tree Farm System. The goal of using Pioneer Tree Farm is to establish communications with non-managing landowners to motivate them to work toward Tree Farm Certification by implementing excellent forestry on their property. Pioneer status is an introductory level of participation in the program; however, it is not a mandatory starting point for Tree Farmers meeting all requirements of ATFS Certification. Landowners meeting the AFF Standard should be considered for ATFS Certification.
The Pioneer Tree Farm category is also used by the committee as a “fall-back” level for those Tree Farmers whose plans have not kept up with the latest Tree Farm standard. A Tree Farm in the Pioneer status is not third-party certified and may not be included in any audits of the state or the national program. Being placed in this category protects both the landowner from failing an inspection, and the state and national program for allowing a deficient property to affect the integrity of the program. Being a Pioneer is not a bad status. It is a reflection of being honest about the status of the management plan.
Pioneer Tree Farm status requirements:
- Minimum of 10 and maximum of 20,000 contiguous forested acres
- Private landownership
- May have a written forest management plan, but the plan is not required prior to initial inspection and designation as a Pioneer Tree Farm. In order to achieve ATFS Certification, a Pioneer Tree Farmer must begin following a written plan that meets the AFF Standard before graduation to Certified status can occur.
- Must meet the AFF Standard within five years or be removed from the program. Graduation to Certified status may take place sooner than five years, but Pioneer status cannot be retained longer than five years.
There is no official recognition of Pioneer Tree Farms. Pioneer Tree Farms do not receive the Tree Farm sign or certificate. If certified at a later date, a Tree Farm sign and certificate are provided.