Pennsylvania Tree Farm Update

Posted: January 13, 2015

Updates on the new Tree Farm Standards, resources for Tree Farmers, and open positions on the State Tree Farm Committee.

By Rich Bugher, State Administrator, Pennsylvania Tree Farm Committee

In the last issue of Forest Leaves, I wrote about the yearlong project to update our membership database. With that project’s completion, we garnered an unanticipated side benefit – an email database for the state committee to correspond with our Tree Farmers. This is another way we can provide you information. Unfortunately, when I sent a couple emails to the entire Tree Farming community in late November and early December, nearly sixty emails kicked back as undeliverable. This could be due to a number of factors, including my error when I typed addresses into the system. If  you did not receive the inaugural email from me in November, or the subsequent email about the  fourth quarter meeting, just email me. I will add you to the list. I know for certain at least sixty folks did not receive the information. Please send me your email, again and I will make certain to include you in future communications. To all -- Remember if you change your email address, please let us know so we can make the change in our system.

Attention – All Pennsylvania Inspecting Foresters

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) has recently approved the 2015-2020 American Tree Farm System (ATFS) Standards of Sustainability.

To qualify to inspect using these new standards, all ATFS Inspecting Foresters must update their credentials using either the online refresher or classroom training. Training opportunities, including eligibility, are described below.

Online Refresher: The online refresher is designed to provide a high level review of the ATFS program and processes, new program features, and the ATFS 2015-2020 Standards, including key revisions and how to address them in the field. Current and active ATFS Inspectors, those trained on the 2010-2015 Standards and who have completed at least one inspection within the last two years (2013 and 2014) are eligible to update their credentials using the online refresher. The refresher is currently in production and is anticipated to be available in mid-January. The refresher is designed to be completed within one hour and is eligible for Society of American Forester CFE credit.

Training Workshops: The ATFS training workshop is a “classroom” model. It offers a complete overview of the ATFS program and procedures, ATFS Standards, eligibility, recognition programs, and more. The classroom training is designed for foresters new to the ATFS program, ATFS Inspectors considered inactive (having not completed an inspection in 2013 or 2014), or any Inspector interested in learning with a group. The workshop usually lasts four hours and is eligible for Society of American Forester CFE credit.

Nominations for 2015 Tree Farmer of the Year and 2015 Inspecting Forester of the Year

Do you know a tree farmer we should consider for this annual award? How about your Inspecting Forester? We would like to hear from you. You can email a nomination, along with a description of what sets this Tree Farmer or Inspector apart, to me, or by contacting someone on the state committee by March 1, 2015.

Your Management Plan

Last January I wrote in Forest Leaves about it being a good time of the year to review your Management Plan. This is an often forgotten activity that you should do annually. There’s more to your management plan than just a description of your Tree Farm. There are personal and financial needs to consider. As you take time to revisit your plans, revisit your family’s involvement and hopes for the future.

Death, divorce, illness, marriage, and new additions to the family can all mean increased expenses and a need to generate income. Unfortunately, many unprepared woodland owners find themselves forced to sell wood products too soon (e.g., not mature, markets down), or to even sell part of their Tree Farm, to address life events. By reviewing and updating your plan annually, you are more likely to be better prepared to address unforeseen events that require changes in directions or to even take advantage of new markets that might develop.

If other members of your family are becoming more interested or involved in managing the Tree Farm, you may want to discuss their goals and note them in your management plan. As well, consider potential activities or steps you should take that may facilitate future property gifts or transfers.

This may sound like a lot to think about, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be enjoyable—a time to slow down and reflect on your Tree Farm’s progress and your plans and hopes for the year to come. While it takes a bit of discipline, it can reward you in real, tangible ways.

Reviewing your management plan, whether it involves revisions or a handful of notes scribbled in the margins, leaves you better prepared to seize new opportunities, such as an uptick in the timber market. If your inventory of mature and ready to harvest timber is up-to-date, you can take advantage of a brief opening in the market and reap economic benefits a less-prepared Tree Farmer might miss.

Another economic benefit comes at tax time: your plan will reflect your commitment to careful long-term management, which reinforces the idea that your Tree Farm is a business. That proof may be beneficial when dealing with the IRS, particularly if your Tree Farm has incurred expenses or losses during the past year.

Reviewing your plan offers personal rewards as well. It is a time to share with the next generation the work that goes in to forest management. They learn from your dedication, and, if they contribute to the review process, will feel a closer connection with the Tree Farm and its progress. Regularly updating your plan will also ease the passing of your legacy. When the next generation takes the reins, your detailed account of the property’s history and condition will enable them to make better informed decisions about its future.

If you find you’d like help with your review, there’s a world of experts willing to lend you a hand. Your forester, local extension office, or ATFS’ online resources can all help connect you to the information you need.

With the New Year comes new opportunities, and reviewing your management plan gives you the best chance at success. Take the time now—your confidence and peace of mind in the New Year will make it worth the while.

Tools for Tree Farmers

You can update your current Tree Farm plan by completing a Management Plan Addendum. This five-page document provides a useful format for jotting down notes and important updates to your management plan. Once completed, your management plan will meet the 2010-2015 Standards of Sustainability. These standards are internationally recognized and show that you are working hard to protect America’s forest legacy.

Woodland Owners Resource is the place to go to research Best Management Practices for water, special sites, wildlife, invasive and destructive species, Integrated Pest Management, and much more. In addition to general information on these different topics, you can also select Pennsylvania for specific relevant resources. Resources on this website are frequently updated, check back regularly.

Open Position on the State Committee – Still Looking!

Don’t be bashful. You don’t need to be a forester, or a Tree Farmer of the Year to become involved in the Committee. We need Tree Farmers just like you to get involved at any level. We currently need an Area Chairman to cover the following counties: Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery and Schuylkill. If you live in the Southeast and think you might like to get involved, contact Bill Bow and he will explain what the position takes.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Tree Farm Program, contact Rich Bugher, State Administrator, at 724-977-0867, or visit the website.