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ATFS Certification: What Does It Mean to Us?

Written by Larry Beauregard

When my wife, Barbara, and I purchased our 120-acre woodlot in 1981, we had long-term investment and a source of firewood in mind. We had no clear objectives about what we wanted to do with the land and the timber growing on it. However, over the next 20 years, we slowly developed a keen appreciation for exactly what we had. We began to formulate objectives that reflected our interest in forest sustainability and looked forward to working with our forestland not only for us but also for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. We decided that working through Tree Farm might help us to meet our objectives. Of course, when we first read the ATFS certification standards, we had what the younger generation would call an OMG moment. How could we possibly satisfy all of those criteria? That is when our consulting forester, Dave Wardrop, came into the picture. Based on his knowledge and experience, he was able to help us to clarify our own objectives and to develop and implement a sound forest management plan. Beauregard Woodlands did become a Certified Family Tree Farm in 2005.

We are often asked if there is any cost associated with certification and if the benefits gained are worth any additional costs. In our experience, the answer to both questions is “yes”. The increased detail required in our management plan was associated with a greater expense for the services of our consulting forester than might be expected for an adequate but bare-bones plan. We also expect that the extra effort required of contractors during the harvesting phase will likely come at a price. However, the detailed plan required for ATFS certification put us in a very competitive position for participating in state and federal cost-share programs. By taking advantage of these programs, we have been able to recoup a percentage of our woodlot expenses. Additionally, we have entered our woodlot under the Tree Growth Tax program to reduce our overall property tax liability.

With growing national and international interest in sustainably grown forest products, we expect that our efforts will generate a premium for products harvested from our ATFS certified family forest. Though certification has brought a premium price in some parts of the United States, the premium has not yet materialized here in Maine. However, we are convinced that this will change and that the extra cost and effort will be recognized and rewarded by regional markets. We will have to be able to demonstrate to the end-user that our forest products meet current sustainable forestry standards through an effective and consistent chain-of-custody program. ATFS should include such a program as part of its overall certification activities.

From our personal perspective, certification provides us with recognition that our efforts do meet the requirements of responsible and sustainable forest management. It also provides some expectation of a favorable return on the significant investment of time and money. From a buyer perspective, certification provides some guarantee that our forest products meet third-party criteria for sustainability and provides documentation of the first step in the chain-of-custody for those end users who value sustainably grown forest products.

We are proud to be Certified Family Tree Farmers.

Tree Farm Profile: Beauregard Woodlands (Old Town, ME)

Beauregard Woodlands is a 120 acre woodlot in west Old Town, Maine. Located just off state route 43, it is accessed by the Old Stagecoach Road. The parcel is bisected by Judkins Brook and includes approximately 20 acres of forested wetland. Primary timber types of the remaining acreage are softwood and mixed hardwood-softwood. Most common softwood species include red spruce, balsam fir, eastern hemlock and eastern white pine. Hardwood species include red maple, bigtooth and quaking aspen, yellow and gray birch and northern red oak.


Larry and Barbara Beauregard are residents of Brewer and purchased the Old Town woodlot in 1981. Larry, a retired medical geneticist, had no background in forestry or forest management. However, since his professional retirement, Beauregard Woodlands, forest management, and natural science have become his avocation. Larry serves as Penobscot Valley Chapter Leader of SWOAM, as a member of the Maine Tree Farm Committee, as a trustee of the Hirundo Wildlife Refuge and as an instructor for the Maine Master Naturalist Program. A frequent participant in courses at the University of Maine, Larry calls himself the oldest undergraduate student in the School of Forest Resources.

Consulting Forester:
David Wardrop, LPF
Golden Forestry Services, Veazie, Maine

Woodland Management Objectives:

  1. Improve health and value of standing timber.
  2. Stimulate regeneration of desired timber species.
  3. Increase diversity of timber species especially hardwoods.
  4. Improve recreational opportunities for family and friends.
  5. Provide improved habitat for selected wildlife species.
  6. Develop hobby-level opportunities for non-timber forest products.

In 2004, we engaged a consulting forester, David Wardrop. With his assistance, we submitted an application for cost-share support under the Maine Woods Wise program and completed our first comprehensive forest management plan. Our intention at that time was to improve the quality of timber on the woodlot by selectively harvesting in areas of dense and mature growth. We also hoped to generate some income that could then be used to finance ongoing management activities.

Feller-buncher in operation (January, 2005)

The harvest specifications were designed by our forester and the harvest occurred during the winter early in 2005. A mechanized approach with a feller-buncher and grapple skidder was use. Approximately 1500 cords of sawlogs and pulpwood were removed from 65-70 forested acres. Tree tops were processed as biomass on site.

Harvest landing area (January, 2005)
Skidder trail (January, 2005)

Since the time of the initial harvest, we have continued stand improvement using low impact techniques. Focus was on thinning and pruning within selected stands with idea of improving stand health and enhancement of crop trees.

Low impact stand management (August, 2007)

Walking through our woods has been a favorite family pass time. We have created an extensive trail systems throughout our property. In some cases, trails used former skidder trails. Open spaces were created by cleaning landing areas.

Cooper's favorite trail (June, 2014)
Freshly mowed former log landing (June, 2014)

Our family has a strong interest in non-timber forest products but this is best described as a hobby level interest. In early spring, we collect sap to supply the family with maple syrup. During the summer, we collect a variety of mushrooms to grace our dinner table. In the late fall, we hold “tipping parties” for family and friends and use this as a opportunity to make seasonal decorations and enjoy a bit of merriment out on the woodlot.

Maple sap collecting (February, 2013)

Wildlife abounds in our woodland. White tail deer are plentiful, especially during the winter. We also have wild turkey and ruffed grouse. There is at least one black bear that routinely roams our woods and den there in the winter. We have made a special effort to attract birds to the area including setting up nesting boxes at the back of our lot.

Black bear peeking from winter den (March, 2014)
Duck box in wetland (December, 2007)

Beauregard Woodlands is truly a family project. Over the years, we have experienced an evolution of our objectives but, in every case, we have increasingly come to appreciate what we have and to gain a greater sense of enjoyment.