ATFS Standard #7: Protect Special Sites

The next of American Tree Farm System’s Standards of Sustainability is Standard #7: Protect Special Sites. Special sites are to be managed in ways that recognize their historical, archeological, cultural, geological, biological, or ecological characteristics.

To begin, what is a special site? Small areas of a woodland can be deemed a special site for a number of reasons including:
 Historical, archeological, cultural, or ceremonial features
 Sites of importance to wildlife
 Unique ecological communities
 Geological features
 An area of significance to the landowner

Some examples that are common to Vermont can be old cellar holes, dam sites, mill sites, look outs/vistas, historic cemeteries, vernal pools, various wetlands and swamp communities, rare or threatened plant and animal species, or areas holding special family memories.

Landowners are required to make an effort to locate and protect special sites in their woodland and have management activities consider and maintain these sites. The best way to determine and locate special sites is to get out on your property with your consulting forester or natural
resource professional and search for any. If any sites are found, they should be identified on maps and, if appropriate, marked on the ground.

Limiting disturbance of these sites when conducting management activities may be important. This can be done in a number of ways, some of which could include creating a vegetation buffer, fencing the area, and other methods to control erosion or soil disturbance.

There are some resources that are helpful in determining special sites in Vermont. Vermont’s Natural Heritage Program is a good place to search for preexisting reports of rare or endangered species, and natural communities that may be on your property. Vermont’s Division of Historic Preservation is a good source for historical and archeological information that may be pertinent to your property. Some other resources include the Historic Sites page on the Vermont state government’s website and the
Vermont Archeological Inventory.


ATFS Standard #6: Forest Aesthetics

The next stop in our look at the American Tree Farm Systems’ Standards of Sustainability brings us to Standard #6 Forest Aesthetics. Standard #6 recommends that forest management activities recognize the value of forest aesthetics and these values should be included during management planning.

Forest aesthetics deals with how the forest looks to landowners, neighbors, foresters, and the general public. This standard comes into play mainly when logging is performed on a property. Logging and other management activities on your property can cause aesthetic concerns such as slash on the ground, ruts, clear cuts, and broken or bent trees. Although some of these are temporary, logging alters the appearance of a forest which can be off-putting to people. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to many any logging operation, “looks bad.” Logging is generally messy to the casual observer, but there are ways in which logging or other forms of management may be made less so.

Some recommendations for aesthetically pleasing forest management involve the time of year management is done. Logging and other management projects may be better to be done in the winter because the frozen ground and snow cover leads to less soil disturbance. Road building is better when done in a dryer time of the year leading to cleaner looking project. Other recommendations refer to how management should be conducted. Some examples include placing landings out of public view, inputting a bend or turn in the entrance road to block view of the harvest, and closing and revegetating a logging road with wildlife-friendly plants after a project is completed. These steps and more can make a project look better and help prevent issues involving forest aesthetics.

However, some of those recommendations imply that the public should be offended by viewing a log landing, or a harvest, at all. Instead, one of the most effective ways to address concerns regarding forest aesthetics, is educating landowners, who in turn may educate their neighbors or others on the logging process. It is an important part of any logging operation, or management activity to review the potential work, as well as expectations of how a harvest may look during and after its completion. Visiting logging operations with permission of other landowners and loggers, during the operation and after it is complete, as well as visiting one that was completed years before, may help a landowner and others understand forest aesthetics, and realistic expectations of logging operations.

Below are some resources that provide further explanation and recommendations regarding forest aesthetics for your property:

 University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension’s Good Forestry in the Granite State:

 Voluntary Harvesting Guidelines for LANDOWNERS IN VERMONT. Chapter 2:


ATFS Standard #5: Fish, Wildlife, Biodiversity, and Forest Health

Continuing our look at the American Tree Farm System’s Standards of Sustainability brings us to Standard #5: Fish, Wildlife, Biodiversity, and Forest Health. A landowner’s forest management activities must contribute to the conservation of biodiversity. This standard covers four main topics: threatened and endangered species, desired species, forest health, and forests of recognized importance.

The first performance measure under this standard requires forest management activities to protect habitats and communities occupied by threatened or endangered species, as the law requires. Under this standard, Tree Farmers ARE required to protect occupied habitat of threatened or endangered animal species, if they are aware of their presence, and to manage that habitat accordingly. Although the actual Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) encourages landowners to protect threatened or endangered animal species, the ESA does NOT require them to protect plant species. However, Tree Farmers are expected to research available resources to identify potential threatened and endangered plant and animal species.

Landowners are required to confer with natural resource agencies, heritage programs, professionals, or other sources periodically to learn more about the occurrence of threatened and endangered species and their habitat requirements. Vermont specific information on threatened and endangered species may be found at:

Vermont Biofinder

Vermont Natural Resources Atlas

The standard requires the landowner or a natural resource professional to provide the resource used to determine if threatened and endangered species are potentially present on their property. If they are detected the landowner’s forest management activities must incorporate the protection of these species on their properties. The presence of the species on someone’s land does not rule out management, but it may influence the timing and/or technique of management activities. Some examples of habitat protecting management include limited mechanical entry, restricted pesticide use, hunting or fishing limitations, and residual tree maintenance. Other resources may include the threatened and endangered species lists kept by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA NMFS).

Landowners should also address desired species and/or desired forest communities for their property. When conducting management activities, ATFS recommends but does not require landowners to consider a desired species on their property. Sometimes landowners would like to increase the population or presence of a particular plant or animal species on their property. For example, improving habitat for turkey or planting trees to re-establish Clayplain forests. When managing with a desired species in mind landowners should consult information on a desired species and how to conduct management activities for these species. The ATFS lists nonprofit organizations that focus on the desired species, state and federal agencies that focus on fish and game species, and Extension Service publications as good resources for desired species management. The best resource is likely your consulting forester, who has more knowledge on Vermont and whether your desired species are feasible for the location of your Tree Farm.

Landowners should also take practical steps to promote forest health. Forests are living entities and as such they are susceptible to harmful disturbances such as pests, invasive species, fires, and diseases. Landowners should take proactive steps to promote the resilience, productivity, and vitality of their forest land. Meeting with a forester or other natural resource professionals is a good way to determine what disturbances your land may be at risk of encountering and determining actions to combat them. Some of these actions can be preventative, while others can be put in place if there is an occurrence of the problem. Landowners are also encouraged to take advantage of forest health education opportunities to remain aware of the latest developments.

Finally, fulfilling Standard #5 involves maintaining or enhancing forests of recognized importance (FORI). FORIs are defined as forests that represent globally, regionally, and nationally significant landscape areas of exceptional ecological, social, cultural, or biological values. This is a very broad definition and many features of a forest could identify it as a FORI. Some of these features may include: protected, rare, or sensitive ecosystems, critical habitats of threatened or endangered species, the occurrence of archeological sites, unique geologic features, and others.

When preparing forest management plans for the Tree Farm Program, you must always include information on forests of recognized importance, even if there are none. If you have a management plan which does NOT include this information, please take the time to add a paragraph as an addendum to your affected plans. This does not need to be added to anything other than your records, and the landowner management plan. You may also use the management plan addendum form provided as a link on the Vermont Tree Farm website. Please also refer to your standards booklet and the guidance within for more specific information.

There are no designated databases which identify FORI’s across the country. Each state Tree Farm Committee was tasked with identifying any FORI’s in their respective states. The language below provides a general statement which may be altered to suit your Tree Farm situation:

There are no Forests of Recognized Importance (FORI) identified by the Vermont Tree Farm Committee on this parcel. Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, in Woodstock, Vermont has been designated as a Forest of Recognized Importance for its cultural and historic significance. It is the oldest professionally managed forest in the US and the earliest example of scientific silvicultural practices in America. Management of this ownership is not impacted by Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park as a FORI.

The Vermont Tree Farm Committee is the resource which documents presence or absence of FORI in Vermont. There is also an excellent ATFS document outlining further FORI guidance on ATFS and Vermont Tree Farm websites.

For further info on FORIs, click here.


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


Four Ways Businesses Are Leading Change in the Voluntary Carbon Market

Even just a few years ago, investing in carbon projects and purchasing carbon credits was a difficult task for companies that did not always yield clear results. Companies had to do their due diligence and individually vet through projects with all sorts of varying carbon standards, purchasing credits from programs where the measured carbon impact was opaque at best. Today, the carbon landscape is changing for the better. Today’s carbon markets demand higher transparency, accountability, and carbon integrity. Companies now can more easily distinguish between the programs making credible carbon claims and those that do not. This trend toward quality allows companies to truly lead change in the Voluntary Carbon Market when deciding who to partner with. 

Choosing partners that align with your company’s climate targets and sustainability goals is key. At the American Forest Foundation, the Family Forest Carbon Program provides options for carbon buyers, donors, and investors to get involved in the development of a catalytic improved forest management project that delivers a credible carbon benefit. 

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What We Can Save by Reducing the Wildfire Threat Across Public and Private Land in the West

To help ignite the scale of investment needed to tackle the wildfire issue, AFF partnered with Risk Management Solutions to develop a replicable approach to quantify avoided losses from wildfire to residential, commercial, and industrial infrastructure.

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We’re Not Waiting Until Tomorrow


What do you think of when you think of Earth Day? Clean-ups at the local park? Recycling events? A peaceful walk? Pleas for donations? All of the above? 

For many of us, Earth Day involves one or more of those things. And rightly so. They are all good for the planet and, importantly, for bringing more of us into the realm of environmental stewardship. 

Family forests can shape the future of our planet before Earth Day, after Earth Day and every day in between. That’s why we’re not waiting until tomorrow. The opportunity and the impact are too great.

Read More


ATFS Standards of Sustainability #3: Reforestation and Afforestation

Moving along in our look at American Tree Farm System’s Standards of Sustainability the third standard is: Reforestation and Afforestation. After a timber harvest, a landowner must complete timely restocking of desired species of trees on a regeneration harvest site and nonstocked areas where tree growing is consistent with land use practices and the landowner’s objectives. To clarify, intermediate thinning, single tree and small group selection, and treatments other than regenerating a stand, are not impacted by this standard. This is focused on regeneration harvest, or actually starting over.

What is reforestation and what is afforestation? Reforestation is the re-establishment of forest through planting or seeding on land classified as forest. Reforestation is typically done after a timber harvest. Afforestation refers to the process of planting or seeding trees on an area of land that has been under different use, transforming land use from non-forest to forest. An example of this would be a field that has been used as livestock pasture for a long time that is being changed from pasture back to a forest.

Reforestation or afforestation must be achieved by a suitable process that ensures adequate stocking levels. Following a regeneration harvest, stocking of a desired species must take place within five years of the harvest. This time frame could be longer or shorter though depending on local conditions or applicable regulations. It is important to check with your natural resource professional to find out if there are any reforestation laws in place so that compliance with those laws can be met. Federal and state reforestation guidelines can be used as a reference when it comes to stocking levels, but wildlife habitat management practices may run contrary to these guidelines. Make sure the guidelines you choose to follow are most in line with your objectives as a landowner. Properties enrolled in Vermont’s Use Value Appraisal program need to meet standards set for regeneration harvests as well. This rate is set at 350 stems/acre within 5 years of a harvest.

Deliberate reforestation, though practiced in other places, is not as common in New England. Forest stands are able to naturally regenerate well in the area through different harvesting techniques and strategies, so this standard is usually met by stating in a landowner’s management plan that the intention is to let the area naturally regenerate.

When choosing to plant, selection of tree and other plant species are up to the discretion of the landowner, however your forester should be consulted in this decision. Landowners choose particular species for a variety of reasons. They may want to re-introduce a species that should be in the area but is not due to infestation or disease. They may want a species that will support wildlife. They may want a species that will adjust better to climate change. Or, they may simply want to regrow the same species that were cut in the harvest.

Whatever species a landowner chooses, when reforesting or afforesting an area it is preferred that land owners use native and naturalized species and local provenances that are well-adapted to site conditions. If opting for a nonnative species, landowners should consult with qualified natural resource professionals to make sure potential negative impacts on the ecosystem and genetic integrity of native species can be determined. Consultation should also be done if afforesting within an ecologically important non-forest ecosystem to make sure the conversion does not negatively impact the ecology.


A Tree Farmer’s Story of Fisher Nest Boxes: Conservation at Work

By Kimberly Royar, Furbearer Project Leader, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and Brian O’Gorman, Tree Farmer

Many wildlife species rely on standing dead or dying trees for food, nesting, and cover. Natural den trees, especially those with cavities that may be in the vicinity of water, are valuable for everything from waterfowl, woodpeckers, and owls to bats, squirrels, marten, porcupine, raccoon, and fisher. Landowners can improve habitat for many wildlife species by retaining standing dead and dying trees in their woodlot. If possible, woodlot owners should manage for at least six living cavity trees or snags per acre with one greater than 18” in diameter and three larger than 16” in diameter. The priority is for hardwood trees over softwood to extend the
viability of the tree.

On lands where natural standing dead trees are limited, manmade nest boxes can be erected to subsidize the number of live den trees. Artificial ‘nest’ boxes have been constructed and erected to enhance habitat for many wildlife species, from bluebirds to bats, and have been used in
Minnesota for fisher to compensate for the lack of large diameter cavity trees (>20” DBH (diameter at breast height)). The University of Minnesota completed a pilot study in 2019 that found that only 2% of 10,000 trees surveyed were large enough for fisher to use. The study
documented use of the specially designed fisher nest boxes by barred owls, flying squirrels and other rodents, raccoons, and fishers.

In Vermont, a landowner and Tree Farmer in Bennington County, Brian O’Gorman, is experimenting with nest boxes for fishers (Pekania pennanti). Although today fishers are abundant throughout Vermont, they were extirpated in the 1800s due to extensive land clearing and unregulated harvest. They were reintroduced in the 1950s and 1960s by the Forest, Parks, and Recreation Department to control porcupine populations and continue to play an important role as a forest predator. They primarily reside in coniferous or mixed hardwood forests and exhibit a particular preference for areas with diverse structure, such as that found in an uneven-aged forest containing snags and multiple fallen trees (Noonan, 2006). These areas not only provide ample denning opportunities but also, more importantly, offer higher concentrations and varieties of prey. Fishers use multiple large trees with cavities as den sites (Powell, 1982). Research in Maine found that females used one to five natal dens between March and June. Ninety-four percent of the trees were hardwoods, 52% of which were aspen (Paragi et al., 1996). In British Columbia, maternal fisher den boxes have proven to enhance the fisher population in areas dedicated to industrial forestry.

O’Gorman manages a 300+ acre Tree Farm that, like many Vermont properties, was once a pasture for Delano sheep. After reforestation, it had been heavily logged by the previous owners. Since purchasing the property in southern Bennington County, O’Gorman enrolled in the Use Value Appraisal program (UVA or “Current Use”) and has been managing it according to a forest management plan. He has worked with his VT forester and a logger primarily for sugar maple production but also to improve and diversify the property for wildlife by planting butternut seedlings and red oak acorns, protecting and enhancing mast and old growth areas, and erecting artificial fisher nest boxes. O’Gorman built three boxes for fisher with the assistance of Vermont Trappers Association member, Al Zander, according to plans from British Columbia, Canada (Brinoni, 2015). O’Gorman and Zander distributed and erected two of the boxes into areas on his property, and the other onto Zander’s, with promising habitat and obvious fisher tracks and sign (Zielinski et al., 1995) with the help of a local Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association (VASA) club. He has outfitted each with a camera set-up, baits, and lures so he can
monitor the comings and goings of the species using the boxes. So far, there is no evidence of use of the boxes by fisher, but O’Gorman will continue his efforts in hopes of improving habitat on his property for fisher and other wildlife species.

Kim Royar is a wildlife biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Brian O’Gorman is a Tree Farmer and a member of the VT Trappers Association, and he encourages sportsmen to spend $15 and purchase a Vermont Habitat Stamp.

Literature Cited
Brinoni, Michael AScT. Fisher Den Box Drawings prepared for Davis Environmental. Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program. Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. 2015. 3 pages.

Noonan, Bob. 2006. Fisher Trapper’s Guide. Onalaska, WI. CPC Printing and Promotions. 95 p

Paragi, Thomas F., S. M. Arthur, and W.B. Krohn. Importance of Tree Cavities as Natal Dens for Fishers. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry, Volume 13, Issue 2, June 1996, Pages 79–83.

Powell, Roger. 1982. Fisher: Life History, Ecology, and Behavior. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 237 p.

Zielinski, William J.; Kucera, Thomas E., technical editors. 1995. American marten, fisher, lynx, and wolverine: survey methods for their detection. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-157. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 163 p.

Maternal fisher den box in Bennington County. Note the reinforced den opening to
prevent predation by red squirrels and cannibalism of fisher kits by male fisher. Leaning pole adapted from trapping methods to aid in access. This is approximately 10 feet in height in a sugar maple.
Jack Pines Pirates OHV Club and Vermont Trappers Association putting up a den

ATFS Standard of Sustainability #2: Compliance with Laws

The second of American Tree Farm System’s Standards of Sustainability is: Compliance with Laws. Forest management activities must comply with all relevant federal, state and local laws, regulations and ordinances.

There are federal and state laws that deal with forest management that landowners must adhere to with their Tree Farms. Some common management activities that are regulated by states include the conservation of protected species and their habitat, prescribed burning, pesticide application, harvesting, road building, and water quality regulations. Regulations vary between states. The list below are some relevant laws that may pertain to your Vermont Tree Farm:
 Heavy Cut Law
 Slash Laws
 AMP’s regulations on Current Use Proprieties
 Shoreline regulations
 Wetland rules
 Act 250- Timber harvests above 2500’ in elevation
 Timber Trespass
Where can a woodland owner find out more about relevant laws?
Abiding by laws includes correcting conditions that may have led to adverse regulatory actions. Mistakes may occur in forest management activities. If mistakes occur, landowners must show proof of good-faith effort to remedy the nonconformance. Compliance with laws is verified by a three-step process:
 Step 1- Observation of conditions on the subject property
 Step 2- The landowner’s verbal or written claim of legal compliance
 Step 3- Research with the state Department of Natural Resources, local Natural Resource Conservation Service office, or State Forestry Commission offices

ATFS inspectors or third-party assessors determine compliance and if Steps 1 and 2 do not raise issues, then Step 3 is not required. Nonconformance to laws can lead to Tree Farm decertification.

When it comes to abiding by laws, landowners are encouraged to think of the saying, “When in doubt, ask.” This leads to an important aspect of adhering to Standard #2: landowners should get advice from qualified natural resource professionals, qualified contractors, or those trained in/familiar with laws and regulations. Foresters and other natural resource professionals are well-versed in management laws and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to managing one’s property. Seeking guidance from them is a good way to clear up questions and keep one’s land in line with laws and regulations.