Climate Forest Conservation Comes to New England—and the Downeast Lakes Land Trust Leads the Way

New England forests provide many ecosystem services, including watershed protection and climate mitigation, which would be expensive and virtually impossible to replace. In particular, New England forests sequester and store significant amounts of carbon, providing an effective and very cost effective strategy to combat climate change. Each year, the region’s forests absorb carbon equivalent to 23-43 percent of the region’s carbon emissions from electricity and heating.

Getting a fair monetary return for this significant societal benefit would help landowners defray the expense of owning the land and help them afford perpetual conservation. And yet, this goal seemed distant and unrealized—until now. Fortunately, a new law in California has opened up exciting new opportunities to receive compensation from the carbon value of our region’s forests, and the Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) in eastern Maine is leading the way:

“Our forests are of tremendous importance to local people for their livelihoods and their way of life—this new carbon offset market recognizes that they also have global importance,” explains DLLT Executive Director Mark Berry. “And the good news is that these monies will now be used to help us toward our goal of expanding community-led forest stewardship to over 55,000 acres around Grand Lakes Stream, Maine.”

“Forests provide incredible value to Maine communities and to the nation,” according to W&W Coordinator Emily Bateson. “The California program, and hopefully a national climate bill over time that recognizes the extraordinary value of our forested landscapes, will be integral in our battle to conserve our forests and the breathtaking economic, ecologic, and cultural benefits they provide.”

Forest Carbon Offset Introduction

The new California law requires polluters to reduce their carbon emissions over time, but allows them to use approved “offset” projects to meet up to eight percent of their emissions cap. In other words, emitters may offset emissions by conserving forests or reducing pollution elsewhere (up to eight percent) if it is cheaper than reducing pollution at the source.

Once conserved as part of a carbon offset scheme, the forest is put under improved management practices or converted to Wildlands to increase the forest carbon benefits and thus offset California emissions.

On March 8, the California Air Resources Board listed the first group of 25 compliance program offset projects and the Downeast Lakes Land Trust Farm Cove Carbon Project was one of only two forest offset projects listed.

W&W encourages and supports novel tactics to achieve land conservation in New England, including using carbon offsets to fund forest conservation. DLLT’s commitment to constructing lasting partnerships and encouraging forest carbon conservation directly embraces core W&W principles.

Downeast Lakes Land Trust is at the leading edge of using carbon offsets to fund forest conservation. Reprinted with permission from Downeast Lakes Land Trust

The carbon project on 19,118 acres in eastern Maine is an improved forest management project registered with the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and listed as an Early Action project with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. The project was developed in a partnership between Downeast Lakes Land Trust and Finite Carbon. Improved forest management projects maintain or increase forest carbon stocks above the level expected under typical commercial forest management.

This carbon project is within the 33,708-acre Farm Cove Community Forest owned and managed by the Downeast Lakes Land Trust for wildlife habitat, public recreation, and a sustainable timber economy. The project received an initial issuance of nearly 200,000 compliance-eligible carbon offsets from CAR.

Proceeds from the sale of Farm Cove forest carbon offsets will be used to help finance the Downeast Lakes Land Trust’s capital campaign to expand community-led forest stewardship to over 55,000 acres around the village of Grand Lake Stream, Maine. The 21,870-acre West Grand Lake Forest parcel is integral to a 1.4 million acre international corridor of conserved forests and wetlands between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada and essential to the trust’s vision of contributing to the long-term economic and environmental well-being of the Downeast Lakes region.

For more information, see http://www.downeastlakes.org/conservation/your-community-forests/forest-carbon-credits/. Text copyright Downeast Lakes Land Trust.