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

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