Pesticide Requirements On Certified MFL Lands

What do buckthorn, spongy moth and heterobasidion root disease all have in common? Although very different forest pests, they can all potentially be treated with pesticides. A pesticide, as defined in the Forest Stewardship Council® Pesticide Policy, is any substance or mixture of substances of chemical or biological ingredients intended for repelling, destroying or controlling any pest or regulating plant growth.

More specifically, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are the pesticides most commonly encountered in forestry applications. They are often prescribed as part of a robust Integrated Pest Management strategy to manage forest pests. For landowners participating in the Managed Forest Law (MFL) Certified Group, specific forest certification requirements are associated with pesticide use on their certified lands.

The MFL Certified Group is certified under the Forest Stewardship Council® standards and the American Tree Farm System® standards. Both forest certification programs have pesticide requirements, but conforming to the Forest Stewardship Council® standards will also conform to the American Tree Farm System® standards. The key aspects of the Forest Stewardship Council® standard that require MFL Certified Group member action or attention are:

  • Use Integrated Pest Management,
  • Try to use non-chemical control methods,
  • Consult the Forest Stewardship Council® Highly Hazardous Pesticide List,
  • Use the least hazardous chemical when pesticides are necessary,
  • Don’t use pesticides that Forest Stewardship Council® prohibits,
  • Do an Environmental and Social Risk Assessment, and
  • Report your pesticide use.

Integrated Pest Management considers various prevention and control tactics such as avoiding the introduction of pests; manual, mechanical, chemical or biological control; burning; and re-introducing native species. Every situation is different, and an Integrated Pest Management strategy often involves multiple methods. There are excellent resources to help landowners explore their options, from the DNR website to Wisconsin’s Forestry Best Management Practices for Invasive Species, the UW-Extension or seeking by professional assistance. Do you have other resources that you use? Please consider sharing them by emailing

Implementing Integrated Pest Management will inform the decision whether to use pesticides. If they are to be used, there are three key actions for the MFL Certified Group member. The first is to consult the Forest Stewardship Council® Highly Hazardous Pesticide List to determine if the chosen pesticide is listed. The list has three categories: hazardous, highly hazardous and prohibited. Prohibited pesticides are not allowed on certified lands. Pesticides that aren’t listed should be considered before using hazardous pesticides; highly hazardous pesticides are a last resort.

The second key action when applying pesticides on certified lands is to do an Environmental and Social Risk Assessment. Template Environmental and Social Risk Assessments have been completed for many common forestry pesticides, available on the MFL Certified Group Pesticide Use webpage. MFL Certified Group members should review the Environmental and Social Risk Assessment to consider the risks and benefits of their chosen pesticide during the project planning.

Landowners can apply most pesticides on their property. The exception is for restricted use pesticides that the US EPA regulates – note that this is different than Forest Stewardship Council® prohibited pesticides, which shouldn’t be applied on certified lands anyway. Landowners may also consider hiring a certified and licensed pesticide applicator. It is the law to use and handle pesticides in accordance with the pesticide label regardless of who is applying the herbicides.

The project doesn’t stop after the pesticides have been applied. Landowners should monitor the pesticide application to evaluate the effectiveness and impacts. These observations will feed back into the Integrated Pest Management strategy to refine the next actions because forest pest management is rarely one-and-done.

MFL Certified Group members must also report their pesticide use to the DNR. There are three options available to do so. The preferred reporting method is our online form, but landowners may also submit the information by e-mail to or by mail to MFL Pesticide Report, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921. Reporting serves to maintain a record of the application, another forest certification requirement and is provided as a summary (i.e., no identifiable information) to Forest Stewardship Council® for their ongoing monitoring of pesticide use on certified lands worldwide. The required data points for reporting are:

  • Landowner name,
  • MFL order number,
  • Year pesticide was applied,
  • Name of pesticide,
  • Name of active ingredient,
  • Amount applied,
  • Total area treated (acres), and
  • Reason for use.

Lastly, a training video was recently posted to the MFL Certified Group Pesticide Use webpage, particularly focusing on the Forest Stewardship Council® Hazardous Pesticides List, Environmental and Social Risk Assessment, and pesticide reporting. While the original audience was foresters and MFL plan writers, the content isn’t too technical for landowners and hopefully can demystify these topics.

With thoughtful planning, consideration of risks, careful application and follow-up monitoring and reporting, pesticides can be an effective tool in managing certified MFL land. Questions regarding pesticide use on MFL can be sent to

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