posted on June 13, 2011 20:38
If you own 10 acres or more of forest land in the Southeast, hiring Milliken Forestry Company to help you undergo the process of forest certification for your land is something to consider for both environmental and financial reasons.
The process entails a number of steps that, when complete, demonstrate that you are following sustainable forestry management practices. Not only is forest certification good for the environment, but it can also be financially advantageous for private landowners of forest land. Milliken Forestry has helped numerous clients become certified, and has the experience needed to lead landowners through the process.
To become a certified Tree Farm under the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), you must meet eligibility requirements and standards established by the American Forest Foundation (AFF). Although there are multiple forest certification systems, Milliken Forestry has chosen the ATFS because it is most suitable for owners of privately held timberland.
About the American Tree Farm System
The American Tree Farm System® (www.treefarmsystem.org/certification
), a program of the American Forest Foundation (AFF), is “a network of more than 95,000 woodland owners sustainably managing 26 million acres of forest land. It is the largest and oldest sustainable family woodland system in America, is internationally recognized, and meets strict third-party certification standards.” Through the power of private forest landowners, The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) is “committed to sustaining forests, watershed and healthy habitats.” The ATFS has educated and recognized the commitment of private forest owners in the United States since 1941. (Visit http://www.treefarmsystem.org for more information about the ATFS.)
The ATFS provides a platform and a voice for family forest owners in national and state affairs. The ATFS National Public Affairs Committee sets priorities and organizes education and lobbying efforts in support of policies that advance sustainable forestry on privately owned forests.
How does the certification process work and how much does it cost?
To become a certified Tree Farm, the ATFS has established standards and guidelines that forest landowners must meet. You cannot just “sign up” to become an ATFS-certified Tree Farm. Rather, a landowner must be accepted into the program, but Milliken Forestry can help you with this process. One of the primary requirements of ATFS forest certification is developing a forest management plan
by a professionally trained forester such as one of the foresters at Milliken Forestry
. Forest landowners must also demonstrate that they are following their management plan. Additionally, several rounds of inspection of the land must be performed by a qualified forestry professional. Each year, randomly selected certified Tree Farm properties are visited to ensure properties are meeting ATFS standards and guidelines.
If you are working with a forestry consulting company such as Milliken Forestry Company
, the cost of becoming a certified Tree Farm is normally based on the number of acres of land you want to certify, with the cost per acre decreasing with increasing acreage. Participation in certified groups like Milliken Forestry Tree Farm Group require an annual dues commitment to support the administrative and professional service required to maintain a group certificate. On average, the dues run about 25 cents per acre per year, but may vary depending on the property size. Other associated costs could be in development of a management plan that meets the current AFF Standards. A landowner may also need professional advice and service to meet the requirements.
How can private landowners benefit from forest certification?
Forest certification is a market-driven approach to sustainable forestry. Markets are becoming more and more favorable for timber that is harvested from a certified forest, therefore producing certified forest products has the potential to be very lucrative for landowners. Heightened awareness and growing demand for certified wood products, especially as green building initiatives increase, may positively affect long-term pricing for certified wood.
Private landowners who are certified under the ATFS are well-positioned to benefit from the future market advantages of certified wood, sale of bio-fuels and carbon offset trading. In addition, landowners receive public recognition for practicing sustainable forestry, get the protection of agricultural exemption status, and are able to participate in environmental programs.
Financial Benefits of Forest Certification
Financial benefits of forest certification can include:
- Potentially higher prices for wood that originate from a certified forest
- Access to certified wood markets
- Access to developing ecosystem markets, such as carbon sequestration credits;
- Interaction with professional foresters who can offer forest management recommendations;
- Conserving or saving costs of forest ownership due to the lessening of burdensome regulation.
Environmental Benefits of Forest Certification
The environmental benefits of forest certification can include:
- Improved forest management practices
- Improved wildlife habitat
- A greater number healthy forests
- Protection of soil and water resources