2023 American Tree Farm National Leadership Conference

ATFS Director Angela Wells greets the general session of the ATFS National Leadership Conference.

The 2023 American Tree Farm System (ATFS) National Leadership Conference (NLC) was held Jan. 30–Feb. 1, 2023 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Tree Farm committee leaders from dozens of states participated in the event. Employees of the American Forest Foundation (AFF) hosted the event including Angela Wells (Director, ATFS) and her team of ATFS program leaders.

General sessions were mixed with breakout sessions covering diverse topics related to new AFF programs, the direction of the AFF related to third-party certification, and ideas for promoting the Tree Farm program at the state level.

Most notable were discussions of the AFF’s Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP) that is currently available in West Virginia and a half-dozen other states. The FFCP will expand to more states in the coming years.

Another new program from AFF is the Family Forest Virtual Community (https://community.forestfoundation.org/registrations/groups/54861), an online connection to the AFF for landowners who may or may not want to be involved with the Tree Farm program. The idea is to make the connection to all forest owner to be sure they have access to good management information.

As these new programs come online, the AFF is re-evaluating their third-party certification program for Tree Farmer programs and are encouraging those states where certification is not important to transition to “recognition” status. Both certification and recognition programs are under the same sustainability standards, but auditing/inspecting protocols differ.

Overall the ATFS NLC was well-organized and provided an excellent opportunity to interact with other states to see how they manage their Tree Farm programs. And it allowed for very close, honest contact with AFF ATFS leaders.

For more information, contact Dave McGill, WV Tree Farm Chair, at dmcgill@wvu.edu or 304-293-5930.