Advancing Integrity with the New Improved Forest Management Methodology

International leaders have called for greater integrity in carbon accounting to ensure the long-term success of voluntary carbon markets. To meet this need, the American Forest Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and TerraCarbon have pioneered a new approach for calculating a carbon benefit that increases accuracy and transparency. This new methodology does not base its calculations on the commonly used projected baseline, which can be limiting. Rather, this methodology uses a dynamic baseline, which makes it possible to accurately attribute a carbon project and its associated forest practices as the sole intervention responsible for the additional carbon sequestration and storage. This new methodology is approved by Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard.

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ATFS Standard #8: Forest Product Harvests and Other Activities

The final article of this series looking at American Tree Farm System’s Standards of Sustainability brings us to Standard #8: Forest Product Harvests and Other Activities. Forest product harvests and other management activities are conducted in accordance with the landowner’s objectives and consider other forest values.

Standard #8 encourages the use of qualified professionals when conducting timber harvests and other management activities. The standard helps ensure that proper logging paperwork is completed before a timbersale is performed. It also relates to consulting foresters, truckers and others who may be involved in a harvest project.

Many states require licensure or registration to be a natural resource professional or logger. Vermont is one of these states as consulting foresters must be licensed which proves their knowledge of and experience within the industry. Loggers are not required to be licensed, but many do receive training and qualification through the Logger Education to Advance Professionalism program (LEAP). Finding the right logger for a project is something to discuss with your consulting forester.

When choosing a logger, it is important that they carry insurance, and comply with appropriate federal, state, and local safety laws. They should also comply with fair labor rules, regulations, and standard practices. When drawing up contracts check with your forester to determine the insurance rates and coverages. Contracts cover labor-related topics like payment rates, workman’s compensation, and performance bonds, as well as environmental concerns like protecting soil and water integrity, litter control, and working in accordance with AFF Standards. Landowners should keep contracts and records of management activities for at least three years.

The Standard also requires the landowner or a designated representative to monitor the harvest or activity. This ensures it is being done in a way that aligns with the landowner’s objectives, the contract is being followed, and the project is being completed in proper manner. Your consulting forester can be hired to be your representative for a project, and county foresters can also help answer any questions you may have.

All in all, to fulfill Standard #8 find a logger and consulting forester that have them same mindset as you when it comes to management activities. Have everything spelled out clearly in a contract and maintain records of the project. Although this standard is specifically addressing using professionals, it does not exclude a landowner from doing their own harvests, habitat or timber stand improvement work, water quality, recreation, or any other implementation of their management plan. As long as the work a landowner is completing is part of the management plan, and they follow the previous standards for the Tree Farm program, then they will still meet this standard.


New Approach to Forest Carbon Accounting Aims to Enhance Accuracy & Transparency

A first-of-its-kind carbon accounting methodology for Improved Forest Management (IFM), designed to provide more measurable proof of climate impact and to solve access challenges for small forest landowners, has officially been approved for use in the United States and around the world.

Developed by the American Forest Foundation (AFF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to be used for the organizations’ Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP), the methodology was approved by Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard, the world’s most widely used voluntary greenhouse gas program, after a rigorous, multi-year evaluation process.

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First-Ever Family Forest Carbon Program Partner Retreat Tackles Carbon Market Opportunity for Family Forests

While carbon markets are always evolving, there’s one constant: the need for collective action. The work of the Family Forest Carbon Program is possible thanks to the efforts and support of our buyers, donors and scientific partners. That’s why the American Forest Foundation was excited to host the first-ever Family Forest Carbon Program Partner Retreat last week, bringing together climate leaders across sectors and industries.

Revenue from carbon markets can provide the income landowners need to keep their land and help it flourish with climate-smart forestry practices.

Partners gathered in Shrewsbury, Vermont to see the impact of the Family Forest Carbon Program firsthand, meet one of the program’s enrolled forest owners and discuss opportunities for scaling the program to unlock the potential of thousands more forest owners in the years to come.

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Three Carbon Market Takeaways from Climate Week 2022

This year’s Climate Week brought together global climate leaders from business, government, NGOs and civil society with the theme of “Getting It Done.” The American Forest Foundation was among the participants that discussed critical challenges and innovative solutions developing within the voluntary carbon market. Here are three important themes we identified for investors and corporate buyers.

What we are trying to do is reach down and say, could we actually get to a 30-acre landowner? Through [FFCP], we are providing climate benefits at scale, but implementing locally. Local foresters, local forest management and local resources.

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ATFS/AFF Tree Farmers

The American Forest Foundation Expands Access to Carbon Markets for Underserved Landowners

The American Forest Foundation (AFF), a national conservation non-profit that specializes in family-owned forestland, today announced that Bank of America has provided a $230,000 grant to help support AFF’s Family Forest Carbon Program. The program is uniquely designed to provide small-acreage and underserved landowners access to carbon markets.

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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