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Forest Management
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Forest Management

The Arkansas Forestry Association, in conjunction with the Arkansas Sustainable Forestry Initiative State Implementation Committee, now offers a new guide for forest landowners. A Landowner’s Guide to Sustainable Forests is available for download. You can print the PDF copy for your use and to share with friends and other forest landowners. Printed copies are also available at the Arkansas Forestry Association office – 1213 West 4th Street, Little Rock, AR 72201. The 14-page guide provides information on topics like forest management planning, best management practices for water quality, reforestation and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard, which is based on principles and measures promoting sustainable forest management and considers all forest values. Similar information to what is found in the guide is below.


In addition, the AFA Education Foundation provides information and resources for family forest owners seeking forest management information. The Foundation works with state and federal agencies, and private conservation organizations to offer landowner education workshops on various topics throughout the state and publishes educational guides on several forest management topics.


Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Family forest owners own 58 percent of all privately held land in Arkansas. In fact, over 80 percent of the state’s 19 million acres of forestland is owned by either family forest owners or private forest industry and private forest investment firms. That means the management decisions of non-industrial landowners play an important role in providing clean water, aesthetic benefits, wildlife habitat, recreation and much more – including important forest products needed in a growing economy.

The Arkansas Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) State Implementation Committee promotes the practice of sustainable forestry through public education and outreach efforts across the state. Practicing sustainable forestry on your land means you are able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It integrates reforestation, growing, nurturing and harvesting of trees while protecting soil, water quality, wildlife and plant habitat as well as aesthetics for today and in the future.

The SFI program was launched in 1994 as one of the U.S. forest sector’s contributions to the vision of sustainable development established by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Its original principles and implementation guidelines began in 1995, and it evolved as the first SFI national standard backed by third-party audits in 1998.

Today, SFI Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving a sustainable forestry certification program that is internationally recognized and is the largest single forest standard in the world. The SFI 2015-2019 Standard is based on principles and measures that promote sustainable forest management and consider all forest values. It includes unique fiber sourcing requirements to promote responsible forest management on all forest lands in North America. SFI certification also extends to the market. When consumers see the SFI label on a product, they can be confident they are buying wood or paper from responsible sources – whether it is reams of paper, packaging or two-by-fours.


Using the link above will take you to the SFI homepage, where you can explore a wealth of information about sustainable forest management and also find links to the SFI 2015-2019 SFI Standards.


The SFI Standards include the following components:


The SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard promotes responsible forestry practices. Its requirements include measures to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk and forests with exceptional conservation value. The standard is for any organization in the United States or Canada that owns or manages forests.


The SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Certification goes beyond certified forests to address the 90 percent of the world’s forests that are not certified. Program Participants must show that the raw material in their supply chain comes from legal and responsible sources, whether the forests are certified or not.


The SFI 2015-2019 Chain-of-Custody Standard is an accounting system that tracks forest fiber content (certified forest content, certified sourcing and recycled content) through production and manufacturing to the end product.


SFI On-Product Labels are recognized globally and provide a visual cue to help customers source products from responsibly managed forests.



Developing a Forest Management Plan

The first step toward successful, profitable and sustainable forest management is defining your objectives. Will it be timber, wildlife habitat, hunting, recreation, aesthetics or historical value? Most likely, it will be a combination of objectives. The best way to meet your long-term goals and objectives is through a forest management plan. There are many components to a forest management plan, including taking inventory of your forest resources and property, harvesting and regeneration, water quality considerations, invasive plants and animals, identification of endangered or threatened species and special places on your property. There are a number of agencies and organizations that assist landowners with management plans or provide information about programs that will help you manage sustainably. Here are a few:


Threatened, Endangered or Imperiled Species – What you need to know


If you own or work with forestland, you have no doubt heard of threatened or endangered species. There are approximately 1,360 threatened or endangered species listed in the United State today, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


Threatened and endangered species have their origins from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). By definition, an endangered species is any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Threatened species are any which are likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.


It’s important to note that threatened and endangered species can thrive in managed forests. In fact, active management is necessary for the survival of some species. It is up to landowners to take the steps necessary to identify and conserve the habitat that these species need. Being able to recognize habitat characteristics can be as important or even more important that being able to identify the threatened or endangered plant or animal. As an example, in Arkansas, many landowners are familiar with the red-cockaded woodpecker. This endangered species’ cavity tree is identifiable by the sap surrounding the entrance hole. While the entrance hole can be easily seen in the forest, the bird itself can be quite elusive. Seek expert advice from a trained wildlife biologist if you have any questions or contact one of the organizations listed below.


Once listed, a species is afforded the full range of protections including prohibition on killing, harming or otherwise “taking” a species. The term “take” means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.


In addition to classifications under the ESA, other non-governmental organizations have developed their own classifications for plants, wildlife and communities. For example, NatureServe’s global conservation status includes rankings of critically imperiled, imperiled and vulnerable species. More information is available on these classifications in the Forests with Exceptional Conservation Values section of this information, and via the NatureServe link below.


For help with threatened and endangered species, you may want to contact organizations such as:

Invasive exotic plants and animals are those that are found outside their native range; they can potentially have negative ecological, financial and social impacts. Invasive species pose a threat to the survival and reproduction of native species and can decrease forest productivity, complicate forest management and degrade biodiversity, wildlife habitat and the visual value of your forests. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service has valuable information about invasive species, their identification and control. You can also find information on the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s Forest Health page at


In addition, you may want to visit:

When developing your forest management plan, you will not only be planning for today but also for the future. Your active forest management today will help reduce the risk associated with insects, disease and wildfire. Tree density, understory, species composition, accumulation of dead fuels/litter layer, lack of well-established firebreaks, and arson all contribute to damaging wildfires. By utilizing prescribed burns, landowners safely apply a natural process, ensure ecosystem health and reduce wildfire risk.


In Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture - Forestry Division protects Arkansas’s forests, and those who enjoy them, from wildland fire and natural hazards while promoting rural and urban forest health, stewardship, development and conservation for all generations of Arkansans. Visit their website to find information on burn bans, law enforcement/investigations, Arkansas’s Voluntary Smoke Management Guidelines, fire statics and more. For even more information, the Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal, nicknamed SouthWRAP, allows users in Arkansas and 12 other Southern states to identify wildfire threats based on landscape characteristics, historical fire occurrence, weather conditions and terrain. Additional resources are available to help implement wildfire prevention practices. For more information, visit


While planning and implementing practices that will create sustainable, healthy forests, don’t minimize the importance of forestry aesthetics. Appearance, a significant characteristic of forests and forestry operations, may not always be aesthetically pleasing to everyone. Forestry operations are highly visible and are subject to the perceptions and opinions of an environmentally aware public. The way a forestry operation looks to a visitor often leads to misconceptions of sustainability and leaves negative opinions of many landowners and the forestry community. There are a few things you can do to lessen the visual impact of these operations and improve the image of forest management. 


  • Use visual buffers along major travel routs or near urban areas
  • Leave areas of unharvested trees between clearcut areas
  • On thinning harvests, avoid clear cut rows leading directly to travel routes
  • Place logging slash away from high visibility areas
  • Dispose of all trash and litter properly
  • Minimize the amount of mud and dirt on public paved roads
  • For mechanical site preparation, follow land contours and minimize the size and number of piles and windrows
  • Notify adjoining neighbors when preparing for a prescribed burn, monitor weather conditions closely before, during and after the burn

For more information on forestry aesthetics you can review, Forestry Aesthetics Guide, A Guide to the Aesthetics of Forest Operations in the South at


You’ve taken all of these sustainable forest management opportunities into consideration – but there is still more to consider. Even before you harvest, you should plan for both reforestation and afforestation as a means to achieve your long-term objectives.


Reforestation is the restocking of a forest after removal of trees through harvesting, wildfire or disease. Reforestation can occur by artificial means or through natural regeneration. Artificial regeneration is the planting of tree seedlings, either by hand planting or by machine. This method results in more uniform control of species and spacing. On the other hand, natural regeneration occurs by natural seeding or sprouting from stumps or roots.


Afforestation is the establishment of a forest in an area where the preceding land use was not forest (e.g., pasture, farmland). Before reforestation or afforestation is begun, you should contact a professional forester. They can assist you in selecting the most appropriate forest planting techniques for achieving your objectives. The following resources can help you find a professional forester:


Because of the long term public and economic benefits associated with sound private landowner reforestation and afforestation, there exists private, state and federal cost sharing programs designed to assist small private landowners with the establishment of new forests. If the landowner has retained a forestry professional, he can initiate public cost share applications. You can contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Arkansas for help.


Arkansas's Best Management Practices for Water Quality Protection

Arkansas is fortunate to have vast, healthy, diverse, and productive forests. These forests are a tremendous asset to our environment and economy, providing wood products, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Forests processes maintain clean water. Sound management of forests is compatible with these values. Silvicultural practices can cause soil to move into streams. Implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) is an effective way to protect forest water quality. The Arkansas Forestry Commission is the lead agency in Arkansas in establishing, interpreting, monitoring, and updating forestry BMPs. The purpose of the BMP guidelines is to help forest landowners and forestry practitioners understand what BMPs are, why BMPs are important, and how to implement BMPs.


Forestry BMPs are important practices, which prevent or reduce the amount of erosion generated by silviculture. BMPs include structural and nonstructural controls, operations, and maintenance procedures that can be applied before, during, and after silvicultural activities. Implementation of Arkansas’ forestry BMPs is voluntary and the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) strongly encourages implementation. The AFC adopted these BMPs in response to the Clean Water Act of 1977 and the Water Quality Act of 1987. The goals of these federal laws are to protect and improve the quality of America’s water. Forest wetlands are environmentally sensitive areas that are protected from nonpoint source pollution by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1977. Normal forestry activities are exempt from National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements within jurisdictional wetlands. 


Forest managers and landowners should become familiar with requirements that may exist, especially on jurisdictional wetlands. A thorough understanding of the BMPs and flexibility in their application are of vital importance in selecting BMPs that offer site-specific control of potential nonpoint source pollution. Those responsible for forest management practices should remain aware of potential problems and be prepared to make changes as they become necessary. With each situation encountered at various sites, there may be more than one correct BMP for reducing or controlling potential nonpoint source pollution. Care must also be taken to select BMPs that are practical and economical while maintaining both water quality and the productivity of forestland. Use sound technical judgment and common sense when applying these guidelines, because a wide variety of topography, soils, climate, and other factors exists.


Following BMP’s is always important, but especially in helping to maintain biological diversity on your property, if you identify special sites on your property or your property contains Forests of Exceptional Conservation Values.


Maintaining Biological Diversity

Among other benefits, maintaining biological diversity is another means of enhancing wildlife habitats on your land. The SFI program defines biological diversity or biodiversity as: “The variety and abundance of life forms, processes, functions, and structures of plants, animals and other living organisms, including the relative complexity of species, communities, gene pools and ecosystems at spatial scales that range from local to regional to global.”


While many believe that biodiversity is most effectively addressed at the watershed or larger level, there are opportunities to manage and contribute to biodiversity at all levels – stand, forest, watershed, landscape and global. Landowners can influence compositional and structural diversity at the stand and forest levels through management choices. Techniques landowners can use to ensure biodiversity involve maintaining: 


  • A mix of habitat and cover types – both terrestrial and aquatic
  • A mix of species – both flora and fauna
  • A distribution of age classes within and between stands
  • Maintaining elements for wildlife, such as snags, stumps, den/net trees, and mast trees
  • Forest with Exceptional conservation value (FECV)
  • Special site and other unique stand features such as snags, low-value tree, seeps, etc.

All of these techniques contribute to greater diversity on the landscape level.


Characteristics of Special Sites

Your land may hold sites that have ecological, geological, cultural or historical significance and which should be protected for future generations. Such sites may include cemeteries, waterfalls, Indian mounds, unusual plant communities or habitats. By preserving these special sites, you can enhance the biodiversity of your property for all who enjoy it including humans, plants, and animals while ensuring these sites will not disappear from the landscape. Your resource professional (that you may have identified by using the various links available on this site), can assist you in identifying and protecting these special sites.


Some examples of non-forested sites that you may want to protect as special sites are caves, seepage slopes, rock outcrops, riparian areas, waters bodies (creeks, rivers, pools and ponds), natural openings in the forest such as prairies, glades and dry sand hills. These sensitive sites harbor many of the critically imperiled and imperiled aquatic and terrestrial species. Temporary pools that fill up with water in the spring are especially important features that may contain rare, threatened and endangered species. All of these areas are important and are easy to implement into a forest management plan.


Forests with Exceptional Conservation Values

Forests of Exceptional Conservation Value (FECV) are defined as forests with viable occurrences of critically imperiled and/or imperiled species and ecological communities. Critically imperiled species (often referred to as G1) are at very high risk of extinction due to extreme rarity (five or fewer occurrences or populations), very steep population declines, or other factors. Imperiled species (often referred to as G2) are at high risk of extinction due to very restricted range, very few populations (20 or fewer), steep declines, or other factors.


As a landowner, you serve as a steward to the trees as well as to other plants and animals on your land. Being a good steward involves having knowledge about your forests. Assessing areas of Forests with Exceptional Conservation Values and then managing these areas in a way that will not damage the value is important for the success of these forest types. If you think certain plant or animal species on your land indicates that you may have a FECV, contact a forestry professional for further review.


Inconsistent Practices

Inconsistent practices are any activities conducted by SFI program participants that are not consistent with the SFI standard. In Arkansas an SFI Implementation Committee (SIC) has developed a confidential process to receive, respond to, and follow up on any complaints. To report an inconsistent practice, contact the Arkansas Forestry Association at 501.374.2441.

Important Sustainable Forestry Resources for Forest Landowners:

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