Certified Tree Farms

In your travels have you ever seen this sign and wondered what a Tree Farm is all about? The first thing that comes to mind is that the landowner is probably concerned with wood, water, recreation, and wildlife.

Credit: frederick.forestryboard.org - Claude Eans

This sign indicates a property is preserved as a Certified Tree Farm, and meets certain conservation standards.Being a Tree Farm means that the landowners are managing their forest for the enhancement of these resources. They are, generally speaking, conservationists and are proud of their property. It means that they have taken the necessary steps to learn how to work towards the goals stated on the sign and have graduated to the “Certified” status as a Tree Farm.

Everyone is aware these days that trees benefit air and water resources. Trees are enhancers of clean air. They additionally protect water, by trapping excess nutrients through retaining storm runoff and providing buffers along stream and river banks. Retaining forest land benefits wildlife and offers numerous recreational opportunities, as well. And, let us not forget the many forest products that come from our family woodlots. A well-managed forest provides these benefits.

To be eligible for the Tree Farm program means that the landowner has obtained a management plan written by a professional forester. The forester has analyzed the present condition of the forest and provides management recommendations according to the health and aesthetic needs of the forest in accordance with the wishes of the landowner. All this is done after careful consideration of the landowner’s wishes and for historical sites and endangered species that may be located on the property.

Managing for recreation, providing nature trails, hunting, fishing, paying special attention to wildlife habitat, and establishing a source of income are all possibilities. Management may consist of selective harvest of mature trees to aid in the reproduction of species such as oak, walnut, and other valuable hardwoods. This can be as simple as clearing fallen trees and using them for firewood as a sustainable energy source.

Other examples of management plans are those that will insure the sustainability of the forest and can be tailored to the habitat needs of wildlife species. Certain endangered species need different forest states for their existence. A property can provide numerous ecological communities for a wide variety of wildlife and recreational possibilities. When establishing a Tree Farm, the landowners provide wide-ranging efforts to follow the management plan, and are then inspected for compliance. If the landowner accomplishes a substantial portion of the plan, then the property attains the Certified Tree Farm designation.

What is a Certified Tree Farm? Who certified it and why? The organization (American Tree Farm System, or ATFS) providing the sign is a part of the nationwide American Forest Foundation. ATFS is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and provides important services to landowners such as directing them to experts who will help them manage their woodlands for sustainable forestry and representing them nationally in matters such as taxation and regulation of their resource uses.

The Maryland Tree Farm committee, comprised of volunteers, oversees the Tree Farm program in Maryland. The committee helps coordinate local inspections throughout the state, develops educational programs, and chooses a Maryland Tree Farmer of the Year to participate in the national competition. A fairly recent development is that the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) has been recognized, along with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), for third party certification. Having this third party certification gives consumers assurance that the products they purchase originate from sustainably managed forests that protect economic, social, and environmental benefits. Being certified provides the landowner a sense of pride knowing that their forest adheres to lofty standards of sustainability, and may also offer monetary advantages when selling forest products.

Most people probably don’t realize that the Forest Industry is the fifth largest in Maryland, representing a value of $600 million annually. It is also a direct source of employment for over 10,000 persons. There are others indirectly benefiting from this employment, as well, according the University of Maryland.

According to 2015 statistics, on a nationwide basis, there are about 40,000 Tree Farms representing 27 million acres of forestland. Maryland has 1,200 Certified Tree Farms on 140,000 acres, with Frederick County accounting for 134 Tree Farms on nearly 20,000 acres. The ATFS is a source of information and professional help to attain the landowner’s goals. The landowners provide the efforts necessary, and are rewarded accordingly; the sign is a visible indication and certification of the commitment to protect the environment we all share. Information about ATFS can be found in this link: www.treefarmsystem.org.

Article by Claude Eans, FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 9/25/2016