Forestry, Wetlands, and Habitat *A* Syst (FAS115)


November 6, 2015 - Author: Allen Krizek

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The Forest, Wetlands and Habitat◆A◆Syst (FWH◆A◆Syst) tool will assist you in developing and implementing a management plan that prevents contamination of groundwater and surface water resources and maintains your forest, wetland or habitat. The FWH◆A◆Syst will assess your current management practices and identify alternative management practices that, when implemented, will ensure that you are following Michigan’s Sustainable Soil and Water Quality Practices on Forest Land and the American Forest Foundation Standards of Sustainability. .

The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) is a comprehensive, proactive and voluntary environmental pollution prevention program. It takes a systems approach to assist producers in evaluating their farms for environmental risks. The systems include Forest, Wetlands and Habitat; Livestock; Farmstead; and Cropping. The on-site risk evaluation uses specific tools for each system: The FWH◆A◆Syst for forests, wetlands and habitat; the comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) or Livestock◆A◆ Syst for the livestock system; the Farm◆A◆ Syst for the farmstead system; and the Crop◆A◆ Syst for the cropping system. Environmentally assured systems are eligible for various incentives and recognitions.

The Michigan Right to Farm Act authorized the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development to develop and adopt Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) for farms and farm operations in Michigan. These voluntary practices are based on available technology and scientific research to promote sound environmental stewardship. The FWH◆A◆Syst is consistent with the identified practices.

The Michigan Right to Forest Act, Public Act 676 of 2002, was enacted to protect those who practice forestry from nuisance lawsuits if their practices conform to Generally Accepted Forest Management Practices (GAFMPs). These GAFMPs were developed by a 19-member Forest Management Advisory Committee whose charge was to assist the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in “balancing the environmental, social and economic issues surrounding forest management.” The GAFMPs are organized into the categories of visual change, noise, removal of vegetation and the use of chemicals. The current Right to Forest GAFMPs are posted on the MDNR, Forest Management Advisory Committee website:,4570,7-153- 65134_65140---,00.html

Producers who complete the FWH◆A◆Syst will be able to determine what management and recordkeeping changes (if any) will be needed for their forest management systems to be environmentally assured through MAEAP. Once a producer develops and implements a Forest Management Plan (FMP) to address the risks indicated by the FWH◆A◆Syst assessment, they can contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to request a MAEAP FWH System verification (517- 284-5609). An MDARD inspector will schedule a site visit to complete the verification process.

Public Act 451 of 1994, Part 82 “Conservation Practices” ensures the confidentiality of the producer information you provide to MDARD for system verification. Any information connected with the development, implementation or verification of a conservation plan or conservation practice is confidential.

The owner of a MAEAP verified system will be eligible for incentives and can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their forest management system is sustainable. Verified systems are positioned to achieve regulatory compliance with state and federal environmental laws.

Similar incentives are available for producers who have environmentally assured their Cropping, Livestock and Farmstead Systems. Contact your local Conservation District, Michigan State University Extension, or Natural Resources Conservation Service representative for a list of currently available incentives and information on how to get started.

What is the Forest, Wetlands and Habitat Assessment System?

The Forest, Wetlands and Habitat◆ A◆Syst (FWH◆A◆Syst) is a series of risk questions that help you assess how effectively your management protects the environment and incorporates best management practices. The risk questions are grouped into eight sections:

  • FWH System Improvement Action Plan
    1. Sustainable Non-Agriculture Land Management
    2. Compliance With Laws
    3. Protect Special Sites
    4. Reforestation and Afforestation
    5. Air, Water and Soil Protection
    6. Habitat Restoration and Development
    7. Forest Aesthetics
    8. Forest Product Harvesting and Other Management Activities

Each section corresponds to a standard of sustainability endorsed by the American Forest Foundation Tree Farm System. The risk questions in each section correspond to the principles for each standard. The risk question answers indicate whether management practices have a low, medium or high risk of contributing to unsustainable or environmentally harmful management. Landowners are generally recommended to adopt the low-risk management practices. The questions that address management practices that are regulated by state or federal law indicate illegal practices with black bold print. Risk questions that address management practices covered by the Michigan Right to Forest Act indicate the risk level required for consistency with the identified practices with bold blue italic print.

Finally, a blue box indicates the management level(s) required for MAEAP verification.

MAEAP management requirements are aligned with state and federal environmental regulations, the Michigan Right to Forest Practices (GAFMPs), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Sustainable Soil and Water Quality Practices on Forest Land and the American Forest Foundation Tree Farm Sustainable Forestry Certification Standards. The records of evidence that correspond to the question are listed in the far right column. Most if not all, of this evidence (in the landowner’s forest, wetlands and habitat management plan) are listed in the far right column. This evidence will provide the basis for awarding environmental assurance through MAEAP. Your forest and natural resource representative, both public and private, can assist you to make the appropriate management changes to become environmentally assured through MAEAP.

How Does FWH ◆ A ◆Syst Work?

Answer the risk questions by selecting the answer that best describes management practices used on your property. Indicate your risk level in the column to the right.

Skip any questions that do not apply to your forest management system. After completing each section of risk questions, list the practices that present a high risk in the FWH System Improvement Action Plan, which is printed inside the front cover of this bulletin. Also include any medium-risk practices that do not meet MAEAP verification requirements.

In the FWH Systems Improvement Action Plan List:

  • Management practice(s) that you plan to implement that will reduce the identified risk.
  • Sources of technical and financial assistance.
  • Target date for accomplishing the changes.

American Tree Farm System

The FWH◆ A◆ Syst builds upon the American Tree Farm System’s Standards of Sustainability (American Forest Foundation, 2015) and adapts it for Michigan landowners. MAEAP encourages forestland owners to also enroll separately in the American Tree Farm System as it provides third-party certification and other services for forestland owners, at no additional cost. Interested landowners can learn more about the American Tree Farm System and their Standards for Sustainability at

A Few Final Words

The key to FWH◆ A◆ Syst is that you implement the actions you have identified to reduce the environmental risks. Some of the stewardship practices that will reduce risks may cost very little and take very little time to implement. Other practices may involve additional costs and may not be implemented for a few years. It is important, however, to have a plan to follow. Once you have developed a plan and have implemented changes to address the risks, you are ready for MAEAP verification for your FWH System.


Tags: fisheries & wildlife, forestry, lakes, natural resources, streams & watersheds

Related Topic Areas

Natural Resources, Fisheries & Wildlife, Forestry, Lakes, Streams & Watersheds

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