Becoming a Tree FarmerBenefits of ForestryForestry StandardsGlossary

To have a woodland certified as a Tree Farm in Massachusetts, and to keep that certification, the owner must demonstrate that the woodland is being managed in a sustainable fashion to grow forest products of some sort.


To be eligible for Tree Farm certification, a landowner must:

  • Have 10 or more acres of woodland managed to grow forest products sustainably under a written management plan. (Land under a Chapter 61 or Forest Stewardship plan will easily meet this criteria.)
  • Use any required Massachusetts Best Management Practices to protect wetlands and water quality.
  • Protect any rare or endangered species habitats on the property (as required under Massachusetts law).
  • Use all forestry chemicals or fertilizers in a manner that meets or exceeds the requirements of the product’s label and state law.


Tree Farmers should also attempt to:

  • Protect or enhance wildlife and fish habitats, if feasible.
  • Protect special sites, such as stonewalls, cellar holes, vernal pools, etc., and unusual species, if known.
  • Minimize unsightly slash where possible.
  • Provide for rapid regeneration of harvested areas either through natural regeneration or planting or seeding.
  • Consider biodiversity issues when developing their management plans.
  • Use appropriate measures to enhance forest aesthetics.
  • Use licensed loggers or other professionals to carry out harvests or other forestry operations and keep them informed of special sites or conditions that require special attention or protection.


The American Tree Farm System has developed a set of standards and guidelines to ensure that Tree Farms throughout the U.S. meet the same minimum requirements for certification, while allowing for regional variations for sustainable forestry standards and practices.

The American Forest Foundation’s (AFF) 2015 – 2020 Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification which were enacted in January 2015 promote the vitality of renewable forest resources while protecting environmental, economic and social benefits and work to increase public understanding of all benefits of sustainable forestry. They are based on North American and Pan- European guidelines for sustainable forest management, encourage adaptive management, and serve as the basis for the American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) certification program.

Forest owners and managers who follow the AFF Standards of Sustainability are encouraged to promote the American Tree Farm System® program by displaying appropriate signs and participating in relevant program activities.

The AFF 2015 – 2020 Standards of Sustainability address all aspects of sustainable forest management and incorporate eight standards with various performance measures and indicators. ATFS qualified Tree Farm inspectors, group managers, and accredited third-party assessorsconduct field verification of landowner conformance to the AFF Standards as prescribed by ATFS policies and procedures.  All AFF sustainability elements (standards, performance measures and indicators) are important and will be considered in reviews.

To view the current AFF Standards for Sustainability, click the link below:

2015-2020 Standards and Guidance