New England Forestry Foundation
Lauren Owens Lambert

Forest Management

Exemplary Forestry

Exemplary Forestry is a forest management approach created by New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) that prioritizes forests’ long-term health and outlines the highest standards of sustainability currently available to the region’s forest owners for three key goals: enhancing the role forests can play to mitigate climate change, improving wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and growing and harvesting more sustainably produced wood.

Members of the public are welcome to read about and implement Exemplary Forestry standards on their owns lands.

Developing New England’s Gold Standard of Sustainable Forestry

Since NEFF’s 1944 founding, it has focused on improving forest management and implementing these advances in sustainable forestry on its lands. The results are clear: NEFF’s more than 150 Community Forests have extensive regeneration, large mature trees, and large amounts of wood per acre after more than 75 years of management and harvests. NEFF’s forests, in other words, are a living example of what New England forests can do for society—produce ecosystem services, wood products, carbon storage, and scenic beauty all at the same time.

In 2019, NEFF first codified this management style and placed its practices in a landscape context, and the result is Exemplary Forestry. Its standards build on and supplement existing third-party forest management certification.

Landscape-Scale Management

Exemplary Forestry is designed to balance a forest parcel’s management with that of other nearby lands, both to maximize the property’s impact and in the hopes of creating an entire landscape that meets Exemplary Forestry goals.

This landscape-scale approach to management is part of what sets Exemplary Forestry apart from other forestry methods, and is a particularly important part of protecting ecosystem services and improving wildlife habitat—forests and wild animals are unconcerned with property lines, after all.

A Tailored Approach

New England has more distinct climate zones than most of western Europe, which means Exemplary Forestry practices need to be tailored to the conditions of particular forest regions. NEFF’s work to date has documented two sets of management practices, one for the Acadian Forest region and one for southern New England.

In 2019, NEFF produced management standards for the Acadian Forest, which sweeps across northern New England and then up into Canada; NEFF then turned its attention to more southerly woodlands, and released Exemplary Forestry standards for New England’s Central and Transition Hardwoods in 2021.

Hardwood forest types play a bigger role in these standards because southern New England represents the transition area between the Acadian Spruce-Fir forests to the north and the deciduous (hardwood) forests to the south. The Acadian standards do account for Northern Hardwood forest types, however.

The Nuts and Bolts

Both sets of NEFF’s Exemplary Forestry standards and metrics call for implementing Best Management Practices to protect and improve forest conditions, and practicing forestry that results in a range of specific and measurable desired outcomes—all backed up by references to manuals for how to achieve those outcomes. A snippet of the Acadian standards and metrics is included below so readers can get a sense for what “specific and measurable” means; be sure to refer to the glossary of forestry terms on the Resources page as needed.

As defined by the Acadian Exemplary Forestry: Standards and Metrics document, implementing Acadian Exemplary Forestry means practicing forestry that results in:

  • A diverse size class distribution of 5-15% of stands in seedlings, 30-40% in saplings and poles, and 40-50% in sawtimber (including 10% of the total area in large diameter multi-storied stands).
  • Growing tree species well-suited to each site, (e.g., matched to soil and physiographic conditions as well as expected changes in climatic conditions).
  • Stocking that fully occupies the sites; this is an average of at least “B-line” stocking for stands not currently being regenerated. For example, in 8-10” diameter stands of mixed wood this would be approximately 20 cords/acre.
  • Growing and harvesting quality timber at an average of 0.5 cords/acre/year, and targeting increasing the stocking of high-quality products.

The standards also call for managing specific proportions of the landscape for umbrella wildlife species.

Umbrella wildlife species have habitat needs that encompass the needs of many other species. The Acadian standards account for two umbrella species, the Canada Lynx and American Marten.

New England Forestry Foundation

Video Gallery

First, learn how sustainable wood produced by climate-smart management approaches like Exemplary Forestry makes mass timber a particularly powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Viewers can also discover how mass timber is assembled, and how it stores carbon.

Next, watch Exemplary Forestry go global. In support of the global Sustainable Markets Initiative, then-Prince Charles launched a video platform called RE:TV that showcases inspiring stories of sustainability innovation and ingenuity, including NEFF’s Exemplary Forestry work. While our Exemplary Forestry standards are tailored to specific regions, the concept behind them—top-notch sustainable forestry that maximizes forests’ ability to mitigate climate change, produce wood products and support wildlife—is one that can be applied worldwide.

Acadian Forest

Learn about Exemplary Forestry for the Acadian Forest and read its standards and metrics. This set of standards is tailored to the Acadian Forest region of northern New England, and accounts for Northern Hardwoods and Spruce-Fir forest types.

New England Forestry Foundation

Central and Transition Hardwoods

This set of Exemplary Forestry standards and supporting materials is tailored to southern New England’s Central and Transition Hardwoods Forest region, and accounts for the region’s five most common and economically important forest types.

New England Forestry Foundation


A one-stop shop for PDFs of Exemplary Forestry standards and reports, a glossary of forestry terms, other downloadable materials, and more.

New England Forestry Foundation