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American Tree Farm System Celebrates 75 Years

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The American Forest Foundation (AFF) earlier this week kicked off its celebration of the 75th anniversary of the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), the largest and oldest sustainable forestry program for family forest owners. In celebration, AFF’s governance, Tree Farmers, volunteers, and partners have pledged to measurably increase their impact on the clean water, wildlife habitat, and wood supply that comes from family-owned forests.

"Our woodlands are facing incredible challenges today – a changing climate, catastrophic wildfires, insect epidemics, development pressures, and much more," said Tom Martin, president and CEO of AFF. "Yet we continue to need the clean water, wildlife habitat, and wood supply we depend on from our forests. Tree Farmers exhibit the most exceptional forest stewardship that helps protect and enhance these benefits."

ATFS originated in 1941 with the dedication of the first Tree Farm in the U.S. state of Washington. The program was created, by the then known American Lumber Manufacturers Association, as a way to engage and support landowners to ensure the health and safety of the forests and wood supply that came from them.

"ATFS was founded on the concept that recognizing landowners who practiced good forest stewardship, would encourage their neighbors to do the same," said Salem Saloom, a Tree Farmer from Brewton, Alabama. "But what really happened was a social movement that many describe as the greatest voluntary forest conservation movement in this country’s history."

ATFS leaders made critical shifts in the program over time, evolving the mission to stress that good stewardship is more than growing trees for wood fiber, but also to provide clean water, home for wildlife, and space for recreation, all of which are exemplified on the ATFS sign. Today, the program is internationally recognized and endorsed by the global Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), with more than 80,000 Tree Farmers sustainably managing more than 21 million acres of forest.

As part of the 75th celebration, kicking off at the ATFS annual leadership conference this year held in Seattle, Wash., AFF and ATFS leaders said that they are committed to growing the impact of the program on some of the most critical issues facing society--providing clean water and addressing the wildfire threats especially in the west, enhancing wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and ensuring sustainable wood supplies for the forest products we consume every day,
 

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