Being part of the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association (ATFA) allows timber producers to maximize the use of their land and timber.
TREASURE stands for timber, recreation, environment, aesthetics, sustainable, usable and resources and is the goal of ATFA, which was established in 1974 as a voluntary program to promote good forest stewardship through multiple-use management.
The Alabama Natural Resource Council (ANRC), a conglomerate of state, federal and private organizations representing forestry and assisting landowners, owns the TREASURE Forest certification program. ATFA is a member of the council and works closely with it to help landowners become certified TREASURE Forest owners.
Last year, the organization became affiliated with the Alabama Farmers Federation. Current ATFA President and Tallapoosa County Federation board member John Farrow said the organizations formed the perfect marriage.
“I’ve seen and done it all when it comes to forestry,” he said. “Dealing with two family-friendly organizations makes business as smooth as possible.”
Alabama Farmers Federation Forestry Division Director Rick Oates also is ATFA director. He said the council meets quarterly to consider nominations, which require written management plans from landowners.
Oates described the red, white and blue acorn-shaped TREASURE Forest sign as more than a piece of metal. It’s a badge of honor for landowners, he said.
“It’s a demonstration they’re managing their property in a responsible way,” he said. “It’s an award for good stewardship through an enterprising outlook for the future of their land.”
Stewardship Coordinator for the Alabama Forestry Commission Allen Varner said there are 2,072 certified forests covering 1.92 million acres in Alabama, accounting for 11 percent of Alabama’s 22.8 million acres of timber land.
Starting the certification process is easy, depending on the landowner’s time and energy, Varner said.
“We meet a landowner who has concerns about their property and wants to know how to manage it,” he said. “We provide a 10-year forest management plan that acts like a road map.”
Oates said TREASURE Forest membership could open a lot of doors for landowners.
“They can create a wildlife refuge, a tree farm, improve existing timber or a combination of all these things through ATFA,” he said.
Marengo County Farmers Federation President and ATFA member Meador Jones knows first hand the value of being a TREASURE Forest member.
When a tornado struck part of his 1,500-acre farm in 2011, his ATFA affiliation helped him get more for his damaged timber.
“I had just become Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, so I inquired if there was any advantage to that timber,” Jones said. “I immediately got three times as much as the salvage price because my timber was from an FSC certified forest.”
While FSC certification is different from TREASURE Forest certification, Jones said being a member of the ATFA exposed him to the opportunities available for his land.
“FSC can be attained by getting a registered forester who has the credentials to prove the land meets the requirements to be an FSC forest,” he said. “It’s pretty expensive for a consulting forester to do it, but by virtue of being in TREASURE Forest, you can have it done for a minimal cost compared to an outside consultant.”
ATFA is starting to grow its membership, and interested applicants can contact Oates or a local forester through USDA’s Farm Service Agency for more information or visit ATFA.net for more details.