Forests present the largest opportunity for carbon sequestration in the North American land sector, and currently absorb and sequester 10% of total U.S. carbon emissions each year. Of the 750 million acres of forests in the U.S., over half is privately owned, with 61% of private ownership (265 million acres) in the hands of individuals and families in tracts over 10 acres in size. Unfortunately, the U.S. is slowly losing its forests, and many remaining forests are in a degraded state due to unsustainable harvesting, forest health issues including fires, and expanding development.
The Nature Conservancy Scales Program to Bolster Forest Growth and Carbon Sequestration
"Natural climate solutions offer enormous potential across each and every state of the U.S.; sequestering more carbon in our natural and working lands can also create rural jobs and support livelihoods, clean our water and air and help halt biodiversity loss.”
Director, The Nature Conservancy Working Woodlands Program
In partnership with a wide range of private landowners, the Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Pennsylvania launched a new program, Working Woodlands, in 2009 to accelerate largescale forest protection and sustainable management by offering a new value proposition to forest landowners through forest certification and carbon markets. The Pennsylvania Working Woodlands program targets key landowner segments with a value proposition that includes forest protection in the form of a working forest easement and agreement, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and access to carbon markets. This model can help landowners achieve higher performing forests, with better growth rates that produce higher value wood products. Meanwhile, the forest is able to capture and store more carbon through improved forest practices. The additional carbon is quantified, verified and sold to organizations or companies that wish to offset their carbon footprint, and the majority of the benefits flow to the landowner.
To date, in Pennsylvania alone over 62,000 acres have been protected, restoration has been accelerated on 5,000 acres, and almost 3.5 million tons of carbon will be sequestered over the life of the projects. Now, the model has been implemented in Tennessee, Michigan, and New York, with 8 other states in early stages of project development. TNC aims to have 1 million acres in the program by 2025, sequestering an estimated 50 million tons over the life of the projects.