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.
Developing The Gold Standard of Sustainable Forestry
Since NEFF was founded in 1944, 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, and scenic beauty all at the same time.
In recent years, NEFF has 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. Members of the public are welcome to read about and implement Exemplary Forestry standards, which are available for download at the bottom of the page.
Exemplary Forestry is designed to balance a forest’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.
Exemplary Forestry in the Acadian Forest
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 aims to document two sets of management practices, one that is still under development for southern New England and one that is complete for the Acadian Forest region.
NEFF chose to start with the Acadian Forest—a broad band of forestlands that receives steady rainfall and sweeps across northern New England and then up into Canada—both because of the depth of experience NEFF staff has there and because it is home to some of the most extensive commercial forest harvesting in the northeastern U.S.
NEFF Senior Forest Science and Policy Fellow Alec Giffin and NEFF Executive Director Bob Perschel coauthored the project’s final 27-page report, “Exemplary Forestry for the 21st Century: Managing the Acadian Forest for Bird’s Feet and Board Feet at a Landscape Scale.” This was the culmination of a two-year process of research and analysis. The full report is available here.
NEFF completed its Downeast Woods and Wildlife project in December 2020 with 9,150 total Downeast Maine acres protected, which means NEFF can now put the Acadian standards to work on its own large-scale forest parcels in the Acadian Forest Region.
Exemplary Forestry for Central and Transition Hardwoods
In 2019, with the Acadian Exemplary Forestry standards officially a feather in NEFF’s cap, staff members turned their attention to the woodlands of southern New England and the creation of equally powerful standards for this significantly different setting. NEFF again engaged an expert outside advisory group to work with its staff ecologists, foresters, and climate experts. After careful research, analysis and review, this team successfully crafted Exemplary Forestry standards for New England’s Central and Transition Hardwoods in 2021.
The standards and metrics themselves can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here, or by visiting the following downloads section. They are supplemented by a range of materials, including Best Management Practices on topics like protecting soils, a summary of the process NEFF uses to evaluate an individual forest parcel’s habitat potential in the context of its landscape, and an analysis of how the standards will be implemented to address the challenges presented by climate change. Collectively, the documents will help other forest owners and managers implement Exemplary Forestry. They are currently available by request and will be posted to NEFF’s website in early 2022.
The Central and Transition Hardwoods standards have the same broad framework as the Acadian version: they preserve the full suite of ecosystem services when implemented and have the same three key goals; they lay out specific and measurable practices to achieve these goals simultaneously; and they take the wider landscape into account when determining how to manage specific land parcels.
Of the Central and Transition Hardwoods standards themselves and their supplemental materials, those that address wildlife, forest types and climate change mitigation vary the most when compared to Exemplary Forestry for the Acadian Forest. Learn more in the NEFF article, “Exemplary Forestry Heads South.”
Setting a Global Example
In support of the global Sustainable Markets Initiative, Prince Charles launched a video platform called RE:TV in September 2020 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. Watch NEFF’s RE:TV video below.