The North America Natural Climate Solutions team sat down with Eli Enman, owner of Sleepy Hollow to learn about his business model and participation in the Family Forest Carbon Program.
Eli Enman: We own 800 acres of forested land in Huntington, Vermont. We run a cross-country ski area on the property, plus it’s a popular spot for mountain biking and hiking. It’s a pretty location, so we also own a venue for weddings and a bed and breakfast. Recreation is an integral part of our business model. But we’re always looking for ways to diversify our revenue so we can help the forest thrive for generations to come.
When we heard about the Family Forest Carbon Program, we were excited. I took a look and talked to our forester about it, and he was excited as well. So, we decided to jump on board. One of the biggest incentives was the money that we get for implementing the sustainable forestry practices that produce carbon credits. We enrolled 712.25 acres and will get $140K over 20 years, which is a good chunk of change.
Making Sure FFCP Was the Right Fit
We’re enrolled in Vermont’s current use program, which provides a property tax reduction in exchange for implementing a forest management plan and following some basic guidelines. So, it was important for us to make sure this 20 year-contract with FFCP fits in with the current use program, which it does.
We were also conscious of how our decision impacted the local forestry products market. Our neighbor, Tim, has been logging on our property for the past seven or eight years, cutting trees for his local firewood business. It was important to me that he be able to continue some logging. He’d planned out the next couple of years and where he was going with his business. If I’d signed up for a forest carbon program and then told him, suddenly, he couldn’t log that would have thrown his whole business off. Fortunately, joining FFCP doesn’t impact him that much. We implemented the Enhance Your Woodland practice, which is designed for active forest management by thinning or gap harvesting. This means he’ll be doing about 15% less logging in one stand than he had been doing. It makes me happy to know he can stay in business and continue to work. Forestry products are important as well as the benefits to the environment. It’s a balance.
Contributing to Climate Solutions
Personally, our whole family is really cognizant of global warming and the natural environment and doing our part to protect it. It’s been a theme my whole life: doing things the best way we can to make a difference. Climate change has become more of an issue and of course, skiing is a winter sport, dependent on snow and cold temperatures. You definitely see the impact with that part of our business—the ups and downs in the temperature, or a big snow followed by huge rainstorms.
We’re also doing everything we can to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels: We’ve put in heat pumps, purchased an electric skid steer to do plowing, and recently invested in a new electric snow groomer. We bought our last diesel groomer pretty much brand new in 2000, and we didn’t want to do that again—run a new diesel groomer for 20 more years. I always feel bad when we are driving the diesel, and we’re spewing diesel fumes in the skiers’ faces. The electric groomer is quieter and a lot cleaner for the air. But it is significantly more expensive. Our hearts were saying yes to the electric groomer, but sometimes you can only do so much financially. Fortunately, part of our calculation was knowing we had money coming in from FFCP that could go toward the extra cost of this new groomer. It wasn’t the only factor, but it was a very important factor. It made it a lot easier financially.
Long term, my goal is good stewardship of this forest. There are a lot of people who come out and use the property, and it’s important for wildlife and all that too. For us it’s going forward with that balanced approach; knowing we’re going to be storing carbon on the property and that people can enjoy it through ski and biking and hiking. If all goes according to plan, we will renew our contract in 20 years. That’s our goal.
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