Becoming a Certified Tree Farm
Thank you for your interest in becoming a Certified Tree Farm. Illinois has about 1100 certified Tree Farms covering approximately 96,000 acres of forest land throughout the state. All of us have a common link, the desire to increase and promote the sustainable use of our forests for today and for the future generations to come.
To better understand what a certified Tree Farm is; let’s take a look at the organization, the program, its requirements and benefits.
The Tree Farm program is a national program covering 46 states. It is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to sustainable forestry on private land. The Tree Farm Program is operated thru the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) www.treefarmsystem.org/index.cfm , a program of the American Forest Foundation (AFF). AFF has three different programs, ATFS, Project Learning Tree (which is an environmental education program open to all teachers nation wide to provide class room education curriculum) and Forests for Watersheds and Wildlife (a habitat preservation program linking private forest landowners with public non-profit groups to preserve critical habitat for endangered species).
ATFS operates on $1.8 million budget. Most of this money comes directly from AFF, who in turn receives their money from foundations, grants and donations. As of 2006, ATFS now asks each Tree Farm to financially support the program through voluntary assessments based on the size of their Tree Farm. This assessment ranges from $50 to $150 per year. These assessments will help fill the gap due to the continued loss of grant monies from industry donations and grants.
Each state operates its own Tree Farm Committee and receives from ATFS pass through funding that is used by the individual state committees to further their local program. Illinois Tree Farm Committee generally meets quarterly and currently supports two regional committees, Southern Illinois and West-Central. We sponsor tours, conferences, and workshops to promote the Tree Farm Program.
So please browse our site where you will find a lot of useful information that can keep you informed of Upcoming Events, Current Issues related to forestry, Links to other important forestry related websites and to find online copies of our Newsletter, The Woodland Scoop.
Certified Tree Farm Requirements
Most of our Tree Farms in Illinois are Certified Tree Farms. Each Tree Farm needs to have an initial inspection and be certified by a certified Tree Farm Inspector. This certification process may very well take some time to complete and your patience is needed. This is also the time where you, as the land owner and potential Tree Farmer, need to make some very important decisions on how to manage your forest.
The second most important thing you will do as a Tree Farmer and landowner will be to put together your Timber Management Plan. This plan is the direction you want your forest to go for the next ten years. This plan will establish your goals and objectives for your forest and the most important thing that you will do as a Tree Farmer will be to implement and follow that plan. Whether your main goal is to manage for timber or pulp wood production, create a recreation area for you and your family, create or maintain ideal habitat for wildlife, conserve and protect a valuable water resource or a combination of all of these, it is your actions and accomplishments that will stand out.
Where do you find a certified inspector? Check out the Inspectors page for an updated list of Tree Farm Inspectors. Call and schedule an appointment for an initial visit with an inspector that is closest to your tree farm location. If you already have your management plan and it is up to date, then the certification will go a little faster. Most likely, a follow up visit will be needed to complete the certification. A certification form must be filled out completely by the Certified Tree Farm Inspector and returned to the Illinois Tree Farm Committee. This will give you an idea of everything that will be looked at before you can become a Tree Farm.
The benefits of becoming a Certified Tree Farm
Your benefits as a Tree Farmer are listed below. Some things to keep in mind are what a Certified Tree Farm does not do for you. It does not entitle you to lower real estate taxes. This qualification comes from enrolling in the Illinois’ Forestry Development Act program. However, your Tree Farm management plan can be used as the management plan required for this program. Becoming a Tree Farm does not qualify you for cost share programs through State and Federal forestry programs. You will need to contact your Illinois Department of Natural Resources' District Forester to apply for these programs.
Some would say the intangible benefits are the greatest of all benefits. The chance to meet with other Tree Farmers and forestry professionals during Tree Farm tours and events and opportunity to learn from others is the greatest benefit of all.
Benefits of Pioneer Tree Farm:
This is a lot of information and you should read through it at your leisure. Then, if you decide that Tree Farm can help you attain your goals of practicing forestry on your land, please call or email a committee representative or call your local Certified Inspector to get started. We will be pleased to welcome you to the Tree Farm Program.
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