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ATFS/AFF

A Snapshot of Trends Among Carbon Buyers

The voluntary carbon market is growing exponentially as companies across sectors step up to address their carbon emissions. By providing carbon credits for the private sector, the voluntary carbon market plays an essential role in bridging the finance gap between public and private climate action while also helping companies reach their sustainability targets. However, the guidance for buying credits remains unclear, and many companies are left without direction when it comes to understanding the ever-evolving carbon markets.

For carbon buyers navigating this new market, it is valuable to see how peers are evaluating projects and making progress on their carbon reduction journey. Earlier this year, the American Forest Foundation hosted a webinar with Greenbiz on Ensuring High Integrity When Purchasing Carbon Credits to discuss how to evaluate carbon credits and highlight our carbon project, the Family Forest Carbon Program

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Pioneer

ATFS Standards of Sustainability #1: Commitment to Practicing Sustainable Forestry

The first of the American Tree Farm System’s Standards of Sustainability is: Commitment to Practicing Sustainable Forestry. This standard requires that a landowner demonstrate commitment to forest health and sustainability through various actions. These actions include developing a forest management plan, implementing sustainable practices, and
seeking opportunities to expand their knowledge of sustainable forest management.

The most important facet of this standard is having and implementing a management plan for a forest. A management plan is a set of documents that describe landowner objectives for a property and guide actions to be taken to achieve those goals. Management plans shall reflect the forests’ unique characteristics as well as the intensity of the management that the landowners plan for the property. Whether a landowner wants to take major actions such as timber harvests, or take more subtle actions that keep the forest in the state that it is in, the management plan must
explain this.

Management plans must be adaptive. Forests are living and dynamic. Should circumstances influencing the property change, the plan must change with it. Natural changes, such as fires, floods or pest infestations that damage property, or personal changes of the landowner, such as a change in family circumstances or the sale or acquisition of land, can all
warrant changes to be made to the management plan.

So, what goes into a management plan? Management plans must describe current forest conditions, the landowner’s current objectives, management activities aimed at achieving the landowners’ goals, a strategy to implement those activities, and a map of the property. Forest conditions can be described in general terms such as age, species, and composition, or in a more detailed manner with maps and inventories. Similarly, landowners’ objectives can be broad in scope (ex. having a healthy forest, good habitat for wildlife, etc.) or be specific objectives tailored to specific tree or animal species to name an example. Although it is not required, landowners are encouraged to seek educational opportunities and consult qualified natural
resource professionals, like foresters or ecologists, to determine objectives and ways to accomplish them.

Management plans must consider these forest topics: forest health, soil, water, wood & fiber production, threatened or endangered species, special sites, invasive species, and forests of recognized importance. Plans must include activities related to these forest features where relevant. If there is no occurrence of one these forest features on the property, the plan must
express that it is not there.

It is important to note that when it comes to the required elements that go into management plans (ATFS uses the word “shall” to designate features that must be included) they must be backed by sources. There must be documentation showing how the information was obtained and what resource was used to obtain it. For example, it is not enough to simply say that threatened or endangered species are found in your woodland. Documentation from a natural resource professional proving that said species exist on the property would certify these claims are true. If there were not threatened or endangered species on the property, documentation would be needed to show that they are not found on the property.

Although not required, management plans can include the landowners’ objectives in regards to these optional forest features: fire, wetlands, desired species, recreation, conversion, forest aesthetics, biomass and carbon. There is no level of detail required for describing these features in the management plan, so goals for these features can be general if they are included.

Finally, the landowner should monitor for changes that could interfere with the objectives stated in the management plan. Monitoring can be done by frequently visiting the property and observing any changes that are noticed. Take a walk through your woods or ride along the trails
and see what you see. Keeping a written record of observations to document changing conditions is also suggested. Written records may help track the damage caused by pests or storms, as well as defend against adverse possession claims, substantiate casualty loss, and enable timely
responses to illegal activity that could occur on the land. Landowners are encouraged to update their management plans based on what they find in monitoring their land. Management plans are meant to be guides in managing land and not necessarily a strict blueprint to follow. Therefore,
monitoring helps the plan stay flexible enough to adapt to a forest’s changing conditions.

Implementation of a management plan and continuing to grow in one’s knowledge of forestry and management will help landowners fulfill ATFS Standard #1. To learn more about this standard and others check out the Tree Farm Standards page on the Vermont Tree Farm website at https://www.vermonttreefarm.org/tree-farm-standards/.

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ATFS/AFF

American Forest Foundation Applauds USDA on Investment in Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 8, 2022) – The American Forest Foundation (AFF), a national conservation organization that works to deliver meaningful conservation impact through the empowerment of family forest owners, responds to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $1 billion investment through the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities.  

American Forest Foundation (AFF) President and CEO Rita Hite said:

“We at the American Forest Foundation are excited by the focus and unprecedented investment USDA is placing on our forests and farmland for our climate, which will unlock significant market opportunities for landowners in rural America, helping them contribute more to tackling climate change while achieving their land goals.

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ATFS/AFF

Telling Our Story in New & Innovative Ways

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Continuous improvement and innovation – these have been the bedrock of our AFF mission for more than 40 years.

From the evolution of the American Tree Farm System®, our nationwide network of family forest owners committed to sustainable forest management practices, to the acquisition of WoodsCamp, an online tool that matches landowners with funding opportunities and services, we have never wavered from those core values.

Our communications and marketing efforts reflect that priority as well. We are continuously improving and innovating as we work to tell the story of our nation’s family-owned forests.

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ATFS/AFF

2021 in Review: Policy

Shutterstock-Captiol Building and Reflection

Operating in the second year of the pandemic and the wake of last year’s elections meant that the policy world of 2021 was a new landscape for everyone from local grassroots advocates to leaders in the halls of Congress. However, the American Forest Foundation (AFF) and our unparalleled network of family forest owners were able to navigate these uncharted waters, turning uncertainty into opportunity and a series of real policy wins for small landowners and forest conservation efforts across the country.

Forests Take Center Stage in Washington, D.C.

Policies that center forests in the fight against climate change were in the middle of some of the most high-profile environmental policy debates in Washington this year. This is without a doubt due in part to the extraordinary advocacy efforts of our grassroots leaders, many of whom participated in our first-ever virtual Fly-In.

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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.

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Tree Farmers

Black Hills Family Named National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year

Today, the American Forest Foundation, a national conservation organization that empowers family forest owners to make a positive impact through their woodlands, announced Bob Burns and Mary LaHood of Piedmont, South Dakota as the American Tree Farm System’s (ATFS) 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year. The LaHood-Burns family was selected from among more than 70,000 certified Tree Farmers nationwide, and are being recognized for their decades of dedicated, proactive stewardship of their 320 acres of forestland. 

“I am privileged to know Mary and Bob personally and can attest to their commitment to building community among forest landowners, in addition to caring for their land in a way that would make past and future generations proud,” said Angela Wells, Director of the ATFS. “Their efforts to empower their neighbors to protect themselves and their forests from wildfire, while tirelessly advocating for the rights of South Dakota’s family forest owners, are an embodiment of what makes the ATFS network so special.”

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Tree Farmers

Mary LaHood and Bob Burns: 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

In the mid 1870’s, there were two ways to enter the Black Hills of South Dakota, on foot or on the back of a horse. By 1887, the effort to construct the first railroad into a piece of Lakota treaty land that settlers called the Piedmont Valley brought John Murray to the area. In July of that year, Murray purchased a large acreage, including the wooded slopes above the red dirt valley floor, for $675.

One hundred and thirty-four years later, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), a program administered by the American Forest Foundation, has named Murray’s descendants as the 2021 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. Mary LaHood and Bob Burns, who manage the LaHood-Burns Family Forest with their children, were selected by an independent selection committee made up of ATFS partners, landowners, and past Regional and Outstanding Tree Farmer of the year finalists.

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ATFS/AFF

Tom Martin: Reflections on the Forestland

Tom Martin has many good memories of his childhood days at his family’s Northern Wisconsin Tree Farm. When he became president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation in 2009, the experiences he had in those woods provided valuable insights about what it meant to be a family forest owner 

“AFF resonated with my own values and experiences, having spent all those years in the woods and having the woodlands become a center for our family. It was easy to understand the opportunities and challenges that other forest landowners face. So, it felt like coming home to kindred spirits,” said Martin.

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ATFS/AFF

A Q&A With American Forest Foundation’s New SVP of Conservation, Valerie Craig

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) is excited to welcome Valerie Craig as the new Senior Vice President of Conservation. 

Valerie has centered her career around her passion for conservation. Most recently working at National Geographic Society as the Interim Chief Science and Innovation Officer, Valerie spearheaded the organization’s efforts to deliver impact-focused programs and grants related to global conservation, history, and culture. During her tenure at National Geographic, Valerie provided vital program leadership both domestically and internationally on issues like landscape protection, sustainable fisheries, ocean plastics pollution, and illegal wildlife trade. Her strong background in conservation strategy and innovation will be invaluable as the American Forest Foundation continues to increase the conservation impact of America’s family-owned forests.

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