The American Forest Foundation (AFF), a national conservation organization that works with family woodland owners, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a global conservation organization, today announced their joint program, the Family Forest Carbon Program, is now open for enrollment to Vermont’s rural small woodlot owners with as little as 30 acres.
The Family Forest Carbon Program provides annual payments to family and individual landowners with small forest holdings to implement scientifically proven climate-friendly forest practices that increase the carbon sequestered and stored on the land. In addition, the program provides expert consultation from foresters and creates a customized forest management plan for those who need them.
Families and individuals collectively own the largest portion—39 percent—of U.S. forests in parcels of ten to 2,000 acres. In Vermont, three out of every five acres (62%) of forested land is owned family forest ownerships. A majority of the family forest ownerships in Vermont own less than 50 acres of forested land.
Yet historically, carbon markets have generally only been accessible to large land holders with properties of 5,000 acres or more. As of 2019, less than one percent of the land in forest carbon projects were on properties under 1,000 acres in size. This is mostly due to high upfront costs, complexity, and contract length.
“Family forest owners care about their land and want to do the right thing,” said Richard Campbell, Montpelier-based National Director of Landowner Engagement for the Family Forest Carbon Program at the American Forest Foundation. “But most run into roadblocks, like the high cost of management and finding the right technical assistance, that prevent them taking active steps to improve their forest. The Family Forest Carbon Program is designed to democratize access to a critical revenue stream that can help them achieve their personal conservation goals and make a meaningful impact for our planet.”
Enrollment to the Family Forest Carbon Program is being offered for 20 years for one of two improved management practices: Enhance Your Woodland, which supports growing a more robust forest through sustainable management and harvesting; or Grow Older Forests, which grows an older forest by deferring harvests for the length of the contract. Both practices were developed in consultation with a team of regional forestry, wildlife, and climate experts in line with the Healthy Forests for Our Future guidelines. Both practices will not only support increased carbon sequestration and storage but will also build resiliency against the already-occurring impacts of climate change, as well as create needed habitat for at-risk wildlife and bird species.
“Vermont's forests provide a wide range of critical benefits for our communitites, wildlife and planet. The Family Forest Carbon allows small-scale forest owners to tap into carbon markets and technical resources to help them sustainably manage their forests in order to balance all of these benefits,” said Jim Shallow, Director of Strategic Conservation Initiatives, The Nature Conservancy in Vermont.
The carbon sequestered by enrolled properties will be measured and verified through a new carbon accounting methodology developed by TNC and AFF under Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard that is on track to be approved this year. This new methodology advances the accuracy of the carbon calculation to ensure the program is providing a true and transparent climate benefit. The program then sells the carbon as verified carbon credits to companies who are taking a comprehensive approach to their climate goals—first reducing emissions before working to neutralize those they cannot eliminate.
Landowners can log on to familyforestcarbon.org, select their property, and see if their forest conditions and personal goals match with the requirements for enrollment.
The Family Forest Carbon Program is also opening for enrollment in western Massachusetts and eastern New York. It has been open in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and parts of Maryland since 2020, and will be expanding into the upper Midwest later this year and into the South in 2023.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.