Pine savanna at Virginia's Piney Grove Preserve.
Piney Grove Pine savanna at Virginia's Piney Grove Preserve. © Robert B. Clontz / TNC

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Lawmakers Propose Expanding Family Forests’ Climate Role

Legislation would ease rural families’ access to carbon markets.

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have introduced legislation to expand rural forest owners’ role in combating climate change.

The Rural Forest Markets Act aims to help small-scale, family forest owners access new economic opportunities and increase their forests’ carbon sequestration and storage. The Senate version introduced in April is sponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Angus King, I-Maine, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. The House version introduced in June is sponsored by Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.

"Opening carbon markets to family forest owners will not only present a new income source, it will empower them to act on climate. "

Director, TNC's American Forest Carbon Initiative

It would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue up to $150 million in guarantees for loans and bonds to help create carbon markets for small and family forest owners, such as the Family Forest Carbon Program. The department issues such guarantees for traditional agriculture markets, and the act would expand those guarantees to nontraditional markets like carbon and water.

The following is a statement by Cecilia Clavet, senior policy adviser at The Nature Conservancy:

“With one in four rural Americans owning forest lands, family forests are a critical driver of local economies across the nation. Opening carbon markets to family forest owners will not only present a new income source, it will empower them to act on climate.

“This act will help drive the adoption of climate-friendly forest practices by small family landowners that will help boost investment in rural communities. We are grateful to the lawmakers for working together to advance bipartisan legislation that will be good for America's rural families, local economies and the planet."

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 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 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.