Small tree farms are now eligible to sell carbon credits, which can supplement or even replace logging income. But to many owners, getting into the market looks pretty daunting. In a recent article in the New York Times, Erica Goode explains how the obstacles can be overcome.
“Lately, [Eve] Lonnquist, 59 and recently retired, has been thinking about the future of her family’s land. Like many small-forest owners, they draw some income from logging and would like to keep doing so. But they would also like to see the forest, with its stands of Douglas fir, alder and cherry, protected from clear-cutting or being sold off to developers.
“ ‘For us, the property is our family’s history,’ she said.
“More than half of the 751 million acres of forestland in the United States are privately owned, most by people like Ms. Lonnquist, with holdings of 1,000 acres or less. These family forests, environmental groups argue, represent a large, untapped resource for combating the effects of climate change.
“Conserving the trees and profiting from them might seem incompatible. But Ms. Lonnquist is hoping to do both by capitalizing on the forest’s ability to clean the air, turning the carbon stored in the forest into credits that can then be sold to polluters who want or need to offset their carbon footprints.
“ ‘Trees are the No. 1 way in which carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and stored in vegetation over the long term,’ said Brian Kittler, the western regional office director for the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, which has a program in Oregon to help the owners of family forests develop potentially profitable carbon projects. …
“The carbon credits from Ms. Lonnquist’s forest could bring an estimated $235,000 over the first six years, and about $6,000 a year after that, said Kyle Holland, the managing director of Ecological Carbon Offset Partners, a California firm that helps small-forest owners enter the carbon markets. …
“Recent developments in forestry may help make the prospect more appealing by lowering the initial costs to landholders. Mr. Holland’s company, for example, has developed a digital tool — a smartphone equipped with a laser to measure distance and an inclinometer to measure height — that he believes will greatly reduce the expense of conducting a forest inventory, which typically costs $40,000 to $100,000 or more, depending about the amount of land.
“With the specialized smartphone, landholders can take an inventory themselves, photographing and measuring the diameters and heights of their trees. The photos and data are sent to the company’s office in California, where an expert forester goes through the images, identifying the species and checking for damage to the branches or crowns, among other things. Probability models are used to calculate the amount of carbon stored in the forest.”
Hmmm. I wonder if this smartphone app could also be used by towns like Arlington, where John and other volunteers are conducting a tree inventory, not for selling carbon credits but for beautification plans.
More at the New York Times, here.
Photo: American Forest Foundation