Vermont Landowners Can Earn Revenues from Forest Carbon Projects!

By, Zachariah Ralph

 

On Saturday June 16th, while everyone else was watching the hot air balloons launch in Quechee, a mix of land owners, conservationist, foresters, and environmentalists gathered at the Forest Center at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. They gathered as they have been gathering for the last 6 months on the 3rd Saturday of the month for Sustainable Woodstock’s “Carbon Work-Study Discussion Group.” This month they met to hear a presentation from Dr. William Keeton about a recently released report, which he collaborated on, Forest Carbon Market Analysis and Assessment of Opportunities for Vermont’s Private Forestland Owners.

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Previously the group had discussed the history of forest management  and different perspectives of the forest from a landowner, logger, and forester. The group also learned about compliance and voluntary carbon markets, about the importance of land management in order to prevent forest fragmentation and parcelisation, and discussed VT’s Use Value Appraisal(UVA) program. All of this so that the group could fully understand this month’s presentation.

 

This month’s presenter was Dr. William Keeton, director of the Carbon Dynamics Laboratory, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at UVM. When learning about forest management for carbon storage and sequestration it is almost inevitable that readers will come across Keeton. For more than 15 years, Keeton has been researching the carbon dynamics in forests with monitoring plots in Jericho and Woodstock, VT.

Last August Keeton presented on his research and gave tours of his monitoring plot on Mt Tom to a group of 60 people, majority of which had not learned about science since high school. Interest in the event led to a longer series designed to explore the intricacies of how and why to manage forests for carbon. For this reason, Sustainable Woodstock with support from the National Park Service, VT Coverts, and the VT Woodlands association developed an 8-month long work-study group about carbon.

Dr. Keeton, William VanDoren, Charles Kerchner, and Mackenzie Fuqua wrote the report. The “Forest Carbon Market Analysis” report is an in-depth look at Vermont forest’s feasibility for entering into the carbon market, and makes a strong argument for why Vermont should be more active in the carbon market. The gist of the presentation was that the rest of the world and especially China are aggressively pursuing and participating in carbon markets and that Vermont is not, but should be because landowners can make more money from their land and create additional benefits including flood resiliency and protecting forest blocs.

In Vermont, landowners have the potential of earning net revenues of $943,284 over ten years, after expenses, from managing their forests for carbon. Skepticism of how a state, which is already over 80% forested, can increase carbon sequestration to such an extent that it would be profitable enough to sell on the carbon market has led to VT’s lackluster presence in the carbon market.

Keeton explained that fixed costs for carbon measurement practices require larger parcels of managed land, 5,000 acres or more, in order to earn revenues. Private landowners with 5,000 or more acres of land, of which there are six in VT, have the option of developing a carbon project and selling the credits into the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) cap-and-trade program. Landowners with smaller parcels are able to aggregate their forests with adjacent properties and sell carbon credits into the voluntary carbon markets. The report identified 140,000 acres of VT woodlands not yet conserved, which have the greatest potential for revenues, and 328,461 acres of land with 500 acres or more and at least 450 acres of which are forested.

Concisely, Vermont is ripe for managing our forests for carbon. Carbon management plans help conserve land, create flood resiliency, and preserve larger forests blocs. With these additional benefits in mind, which also have huge financial benefits including decreased property tax rates from our UVA policy, and savings from storm and flooding mitigation, and revenues from selling carbon credits, managing forests for carbon in Vermont is not only feasible but should also be very attractive for Vermont landowners.

Keep an eye out for events this Fall in Woodstock for the release of Dr. Keeton’s new book, Ecology and Recovery of Eastern Old-Growth Forests. Also join us on July 21st 1:30-3:00 at the Forest Center of Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Historic park for a presentation by Dartmouth graduate student Ashley Lang about the role of fungi in sequestering and storing carbon in our next Carbon Work-study Discussion Group!

Just Do One Thing: Attend a Carbon Work-Study discussion.

 

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