What is the Tree Farm Program?
The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) is a national program of the American Forest Foundation. It is committed to sustaining forests, watershed and healthy habitats through the power of private stewardship. ATFS is the largest and oldest sustainable family woodland system in America, meeting strict third-party certification standards.
Since 1941, ATFS has educated and recognized the commitment of private forest owners in the United States. Currently, ATFS has 19 million acres of privately owned forestland and 73,000 family forest owners who are committed to excellence in forest stewardship, in 46 states. In Maryland there are currently 964 Tree Farmers (757 certified), with nearly 110,000 acres in the program.
Tree Farmers share a unique commitment to protect wildlife habitat and watersheds, to conserve soil and to provide recreation for their communities while producing wood for America and the world. These individuals hold the key to the kinds of forests, forest activities and forest resources future generations of Americans will enjoy.
ATFS has established standards and guidelines for property owners to meet to become a certified Tree Farm. Under these standards and guidelines private forest landowners must have a management plan developed for their wood lot and visit with an ATFS certified volunteer tree farm inspector on a five year cycle.
Water. Wildlife. Recreation. Wood. The four sides of the Tree Farm sign tell the story of sustainable forestry … a thriving forestland that has clean water, a healthy wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. Our green and white diamond shaped Tree Farm signs are widely recognized across the country.
There are two primary items that are considered when determining whether a forest landowner qualifies for the Tree Farm program.
First, the landowner must own 10 or more acres of forested land.
Second, they must have a written and implemented forest management plan that accounts for the production of forest products, water quality, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, biodiversity, and recreation opportunities.
The Tree Farm must also meet certain minimum standards and guidelines known as the Standards of Sustainability.
- A Commitment to Practicing Sustainable Forestry
- Compliance with Laws
- Reforestation and Afforestation
- Air, Water and Soil Protection
- Fish, Wildlife and Biodiversity conservation
- Forest Aesthetics valued
- Protect Special Sites
- Forest Product Harvests are conducted according to a management plan
By meeting the “Standards of Sustainability” the State Tree Farm Committee will certify your wood lot as a sustainably managed Tree Farm.
There is no cost for ATFS membership.
A landowner only has to meet the qualifications mentioned above. There are many benefits and resources associated with membership in the Tree Farm system.
- Professional sustainable forest certification
- Information and updates on legislative issues affecting forest landowners
- Participation in the National Tree Farmer of the Year contest
- Right to display Tree Farm sign and certificate
- Family Forest Action Alerts: https://www.treefarmsystem.org/take-action
- Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Awards: https://www.treefarmsystem.org/awards-and-recognition
- However, the greatest benefit to landowners is the opportunity to meet and discuss forest management opportunities with a certified professional forester for free on a periodic basis.
If you would like to learn if your property qualifies as a Tree Farm or if you would just like more information follow up through the Contact resources listed below. If you meet the criteria, a free inspection of your land can be arranged by contacting a certified inspecting forester in your area. A listing of certified foresters will be provided. You can also visit the American Tree Farm System web site for information on the program.
You may be interested in getting started by learning more about the Woodland Resources available to you and MyLand Plan, a resource made available through the American Forest Foundation for woodland owners, by woodland owners.
Your next step is to contact your local Maryland Forest Service office.
For information regarding the FIP and EQIP cost share programs, contact your local USDA-NRCS office.
For Maryland Tree Farm news and other information, visit the Maryland Tree Farm Committee webpage