What the 2021 ATFS Changes Mean for Forest Owners, Inspectors

By Eric Jenks

For NYFOA members that are also a part of New York Tree Farm (NYTF), 2021 has brought a change to the standards set by the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). “We are in a transition period from two set of standards,” said NYTF Areas 3 and 4 Chair Erin Perry. “The 2021 interim guidelines are similar, but every 5 years there is a review period with a public comment period to make sure that the standards of sustainability are supported and manageable for people and forest management in general.”

All ATFS forest inspectors are required to retrain on the standards this year. “Everyone will be brought up to speed on the new standards, what the changes are, and what the guidance is to implement them,” said Perry. “Currently, Vermont and NY are doing online classes jointly throughout the year. Inspectors were supposed to be re-certified by March 15th, but the new training wasn’t available until beginning of March. We’re hoping to get everyone trained by fall.

According to Perry, most of the standard changes are minor, with many of them being simply clarification or wording changes. “They’ve also increased encouragement for landowner education, and included a section where the forester can give resources or guidance in their report on a property, which is nice,” said Perry. “A nice change is that the eligibility clarifications now specifically include plantations such as orchards and tree farms, as long as they are part of the forest system and management planning. Another wording change is native to naturalized species, which is recognizing that some native species don’t thrive here, and using naturalized species allows a better species selection to compete with potential invasive species.”

For forest owners, Perry says that now is a good time to have your management plan looked at. “For forest owners, changes include better documentation of chemical use, even where it’s applied on a private property,” said Perry. “We’ve never tracked small usage before, so it’s good to start incorporating it as part of your overall plan. There’s a bit more paperwork involved, but I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal to deal with at all. A nice thing about it is that it gives landowners an opportunity to talk to their inspectors about what these chemicals do. A lot of people think that small usage by individuals doesn’t have that much of an effect, but it’s worth having the conversation about the potential ramifications and how it impacts your other management goals. Like the rest of the guidances, it will be applicable to the size and management scope of the property. For example for a 25 acre wood lot homestead, the guidance is just looking for some handwritten notes with a date and application notes. A large parcel would however be looking for much more detailed records. I think this only furthers the conversation about the usage, what alternatives exist, and the potential overall effects on the environment. There are times it works well. I haven’t found any natural measures to eliminate poison ivy. Some things do have alternatives however, and if it’s written into the plan we can better manage for the goals of the whole property.”

For more information on the 2021 Transitionary Guidance, you can visit the ATFS website here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.