A new guide released by The Nature Conservancy and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science describes 10 forest management practices that can increase carbon stocks within 20 years (and usually sooner) in hardwood forests in New England and New York. “Healthy Forests for Our Future: A Management Guide to Increase Carbon Storage in Northeast Forests” was developed to aid landowners and foresters in making decisions and introduce them to programs that can help cover the costs of "climate smart" forest management.
“There is broad recognition of the power of forests to help us prevent and prepare for climate change. Forest management is one of a suite of natural climate solutions: actions to protect, restore, and better manage our forests, farms, wetlands, and grasslands to reduce and remove carbon emissions,” said Jim Shallow, director of strategic conservation initiatives for The Nature Conservancy in Vermont.
In 2018 a study on the potential of Natural Climate Solutions in the United States estimated that these actions could remove 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, greater than the combined carbon emissions from all cars and trucks on the road in the United States.
For landowners and the professionals who manage forests, it is not always clear what management choices balance the need to increase carbon stocks (store more carbon pollution pulled from the air in trees and soils) with the other forest values we depend on, including their significance in protecting clean drinking water, providing habitat for wildlife, and producing wood products.
“Our forests play an outsized role in capturing and storing carbon and buffering against broad impacts of climate change. Adaptive approaches to how forests are managed can help the forest itself be more resilient to the impacts of climate change. This new guide is a great resource for landowners and forest managers who are looking for practices they can implement to both safeguard their forests and secure the carbon benefits they provide,” said Michael Snyder, commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation.
The guide was developed using the best available science and extensive input from stakeholders—including foresters, landowners, loggers, scientists, state agencies, and conservation organizations—to narrow a broad set of practices to this short list of “climate-smart” forest management choices.
The guide groups these practices into four categories: protect forests, grow new trees and forests, reduce stressors, and manage forests. For each practice, the guide provides a practice description, information about practice considerations, expected benefits, and—though the practices were chosen independently of whether each practice was economically viable, or whether a funding source was available—potential funding opportunities.
Family forest landowners in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York who adopt three of the guide's climate-smart forest practices will soon be eligible for support under the Family Forest Carbon Program, a program being brought to New England by the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy in 2022.
A grant program has enabled a few landowners to pilot these practices on the ground in Massachusetts and Vermont. “…this is about more than simplistic solutions like "just leaving forests alone". There are many ways that we humans can improve our interactions with forests while still being able to utilize the forest products that we need. In my project, TNC's program has allowed the landowner to invest in the future of what will grow in her forest by protecting tree regeneration from the stresses of deer over-browsing and invasive plant infestations,” said Lincoln Fish, one of the private consulting foresters participating in the pilot program. “A forest that is well taken care of will give back many times over in the long run.”
With the release of the “Healthy Forests for our Future Guide,” forest landowners and managers have a new tool as they make decisions that will determine the future of our forests.
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 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.