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Resources for Foresters

Standards for Certification

Certification in the American Tree Farm System is voluntary. The certification process incorporates established standards and guidelines. All properties certified under the three certification options must conform to the Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification


The 2010-2015 Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification were approved by the American Forest Foundation's Board of Trustees on November 3rd, 2009.  ATFS is a program of the American Forest Foundation.  The 2010-2015 Standards were developed by an independent panel of experts, representing academia, conservation organizations, federal and state governments, landowners, and foresters.

The Standards recognize new conservation forestry practices and evolving consumer demand for sustainably harvested forest products. Once ATFS verifies that the Standards are met and the Tree Farm is certified, landowners can proudly display the ATFS green and white sign - the national symbol for good forestry.

2010-2015 Standards Guidance document [PDF]

The Standards Guidance document includes examples and information on how the 2010 - 2015 AFF Standards can be implemented on the ground. The guidance statements are intended to inform landowners, ATFS-trained inspectors and the third-party auditors as to the intent of the AFF Standards.  Guidance statements are not the Standard.


Management Plan Addendum

ATFS has developed a management plan addendum for Tree Farmers whose management plans meet the 2004-2008 Standards but are looking to update their plans to be in conformance with the newly released 2010-2015 AFF Standards.

The management plan addendum covers only the new items required in the 2010 Standards that were not previously addressed under the 2004 Standards (which Tree Farmers would have been certified under if they were certified before 2010).

2010-2015 Management Plan Addendum [PDF]

2010-2015 Management Plan Addendum [Word]


The six things you need to know about the ATFS Standards

  1. Designed for small woodland owners: These Standards were developed specifically for small woodland owners. The independent panel took care to ensure that the requirements were appropriate for the scale of management practiced on family woodlands across the U.S.

  2. Management plan: The management plan requirements help streamline the process for Tree Farm owners to participate in USDA conservation incentive programs. The management plan requirements under the 2010-2015 Standards correlate with the US Forest Service guidelines for forest stewardship program forest management plans. Tree Farm management plans will address the following elements as appropriate for the land certified:

    landowner objectives
    forest condition and health
    management activities/ prescriptions
    tract map
    soils and water resources
    wood and fiber production
    threatened and endangered species, high conservation value forests and other special sites
    invasive species and integrated pest management

  3. Special Sites: As the current Standards do, the 2010-2015 Standards require maintenance of special cultural and environmental sites (historical, archaeological, geological, biological and ecological sites). ATFS will be introducing new tools on the Tree Farm website to help landowners research special sites in their state and on their certified Tree Farms.

  4. Monitoring: Periodic monitoring has been added to the Standards to encourage landowners to monitor their woodlands for changes that could interfere with their management objectives. Things to be on the look out for include pest outbreaks (pine beetle, emerald ash borer, etc), invasive species encroachment (kudzu, Canadian thistle), and indications of trespass. Many landowners are already doing things like walking their boundaries, and inspecting after a thinning or planting for new groups of invasive species.

  5. Invasive Species: Tree Farmers are encouraged to make practical efforts to prevent, eradicate or otherwise control invasive species using a range of integrated pest management methods. Integrated pest management methods may include pesticides, physical removal methods and preventative methods.

  6. The new Standards were officially released January 1, 2010, and Tree Farmers had one year to ensure their management plans and management activities meet the Standards. Currently, ATFS Certified Tree Farmer's must follow the 2010-2015 AFF Standard of Sustainability. All volunteer inspectors are trained to the new Standards and are continually working with state programs to provide education to Tree Farmers.


Strengthening the AFF Standards is an important step in gaining and expanding woodland owner’s access to markets through American Tree Farm System certification.