Family Forest Blog

Updates to the Family Forest Carbon Program’s Forest Management Practices

Ian Forte, Senior Forestry Manager, Central Apps

June 25, 2024

Image of a healthy forest and trail

The Family Forest Carbon Program offers forest management plans that are optimized for every region.

Sustainable Forest Management Practices for More Regions

As the Family Forest Carbon Program continually expands availability into new regions every year, new forest management practices are developed, tested and optimized to provide the most value to the landowner and the environment. Tree species vary between regions, and the practices available in each region depend on those species. In 2023, the program’s availability expanded into the Midwest and species eligibility expanded to include Oak-Hickory forests.

Qualifying Tree Species

In the northeastern states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, qualifying forests must be at least 50% composed of northern hardwoods that include maple, beech, birch, and ash. Qualifying forests must have a minimum stocking of 60 square feet per acre, a minimum quadratic mean diameter of 8 inches, and a minimum volume of 2,000 board feet per acre.

In the Appalachian states of Alabama, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia, the species that qualify for the Family Forest Carbon Program are Laurentian-Acadian hardwoods, Northern hardwoods, Appalachian northern hardwoods and Appalachian (Hemlock) northern hardwoods. Qualifying forest’s volume level must be at least 4,000 board feet per acre.

And in the midwestern states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, eligible forests must have hardwoods such as maple-beech-birch or oak-hickory comprising at least 50% of the forest’s basal area and a minimum stocking of 90 square feet per acre.

Forest Management Practices

In both the Appalachians and the Midwest, the Growing Mature Forests practice is available. This practice provides enrolled landowners with an improved commercial and environmental timber value and allows them to maintain a working forest during program enrollment. High-grading is prohibited but sustainable, pre-approved harvests not exceeding 25% of their total enrolled basal area or a 10% reduction of the forest’s Quadratic Mean Diameter may be allowed. Prior to a harvest, landowners work with a 3rd party forester to quantify those trees to be harvested through a pre-harvest report.  A post-harvest report will also be finalized upon completion of the harvest.

Northeastern qualifying landowners can choose between two forest management practices, depending on the landowner’s goals for their land. Northeastern landowners who want to simply grow their trees choose the Grow Older Forests practice. Landowners who’d like to be more active in managing their forest choose the Enhance Your Woodland practice.

The Grow Older Forests practice allows forest stands and trees to grow into larger size classes, sustainably over the long term and for the retention of higher carbon sequestering trees over the entire 20-year enrollment period. Timber harvests are prohibited during enrollment and any harvest requires pre-approval from the program forester. Those harvests can only be intended for salvage after a storm, pest or pathogen control, to enable seedlings or saplings to grow, or to install fencing or tree shelters to control moose and deer, or as part of their personal allotment.

The Enhance Your Woodland practice is for forest owners who want to actively manage their woodland during the 20-year contract period, such as through thinning or gap harvesting. Landowners work with their forester to determine the best objectives for each tree stand. Timber harvesting cannot exceed 25% per acre in an annual harvest or cumulative harvests, and not more than 15% of the entire enrolled forest. The forester works with the landowner to measure the Quadradic Mean Diameter of the harvest area pre- and post-harvest. There is a limit on gaps in the forest canopy and on patches between unharvested forest. There is also a minimum number of large trees required per acre in harvest areas.


Managing a hardwood forest involves several considerations, including ecological health, biodiversity, timber production, and recreational use. Here's a general guide to managing such a forest:

  1. Understand the Ecology: Northern hardwood forests (for example) consist of tree species like maple, oak, birch, beech, and ash. Understand the ecological requirements of these species, including soil type, moisture levels, and light requirements.

  2. Forest Inventory: Conduct a thorough inventory of the forest to assess its current state, including tree species composition, age distribution, density, and health. This information will inform management decisions.

  3. Set Objectives: Determine your management objectives. These could include timber production, wildlife habitat enhancement, recreational opportunities, carbon sequestration, or a combination of these and other goals.

  4. Silvicultural Practices:

    1. Thinning: Implement selective thinning to improve tree health and growth. Remove diseased, damaged, or suppressed trees to promote the growth of healthier individuals.

    2. Regeneration: Plan for natural or artificial regeneration of desirable tree species. This may involve creating canopy gaps to allow for natural regeneration or planting seedlings.

    3. Habitat Management: Consider the habitat needs of wildlife species in the forest. Maintain a diversity of tree ages and structures to provide habitat for various species.

    4. Prescribed Burning: In some cases, prescribed burning can be used to control understory vegetation, reduce fuel loads, and promote the growth of fire-adapted species.

  5. Manage Invasive Species: Monitor and control invasive species that can threaten the health and biodiversity of the forest. This may involve mechanical removal, herbicide application, or other control methods.

  6. Water Management: Implement practices to protect water quality and manage hydrology within the forest. This includes protecting riparian zones, minimizing soil erosion, and managing drainage.

  7. Monitor and Adapt: Continuously monitor the forest ecosystem and management activities to assess their effectiveness. Adapt management strategies as needed based on monitoring results, changing conditions, and new information.

  8. Consider Multiple Benefits: Aim for a holistic approach to forest management that considers not only timber production but also biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, water quality, and recreational values.

  9. Legal and Ethical Considerations: Ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations governing forest management, including harvesting practices, habitat protection, and water quality standards. Additionally, consider the ethical implications of management decisions, including the well-being of future generations and the broader ecosystem.

  10. Engage Stakeholders: Involve stakeholders such as local communities, conservation organizations, and government agencies in the management process. Collaboration can help garner support for management efforts and ensure that diverse perspectives are considered.

By following these guidelines and adapting them to the specific characteristics of your forest, you can effectively manage a northern hardwood forest for ecological health, biodiversity, and multiple uses.

How To Qualify and Receive Benefits

The Family Forest Carbon Program provides landowners with annual payments and a professional forester who helps with developing a forest management plan customized for the landowner’s goals, like invasive plant species management, that will provide landowners with the tools needed for implementation. The program results in a more resilient and valuable forest for the landowner. Other benefits to the landowner and their community include cleaner air and water, and improved biodiversity and wildlife habitat. For more information on how you can benefit, visit

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