Turns Out, Money DOES Grow on Trees

Seven forest landowners in Kentucky recently received a total of $65,000 for the carbon dioxide their trees absorbed from the air. These people were the first to enroll in MACED’s Forest Opportunities Initiative (FOI), which helps private forest landowners practice sustainable forest management by providing education, financial assistance and new income options.

Hazard landowner Rodney Mullins is among those who received a payment. Mullins said, “I’m excited about this and see it as a real opportunity for forest landowners. I’m retired, so of course the money will help out. I feel like this payment is a reward for doing the right thing with my land.”

The initiative is based on a basic lesson from grade school science: trees absorb carbon dioxide, made up of carbon and oxygen, through photosynthesis. Trees use the carbon to build new wood, and release the oxygen back into the atmosphere. This carbon storage can now be purchased by those wishing to offset their carbon footprint. A carbon offset, also called a carbon credit, is equal to one metric ton of carbon dioxide.

The 5,006 acres included in the first pool of FOI participants took in and stored 14,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2007. Based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s online Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies calculator, that amount is equal to the emissions used to generate electricity for 2,000 homes for a year, or from burning 75 rail cars of coal.

The blue moon fund, based in Richmond, Virginia, purchased MACED’s first pool of carbon offsets. “Blue moon fund, by nature of the significant travel we do, wished to find an immediate way to begin accounting for and taking responsibility for our carbon footprint and MACED provided us with a means,” explains Diane Edgerton Miller, President and CEO. “MACED is leading the way in developing multiple-benefit forest carbon projects in Central Appalachia—a biodiversity hotspot in North America. We paid above-market prices because we believe so strongly in this process that we were willing to essentially subsidize its initiation. Once the true cost of carbon is accounted for in the marketplace we will likely feel that we actually got a bargain.”

To become enrolled in the FOI, landowners must provide proof of ownership and certification of sustainable forest management. A 15-year commitment to certification is required. Landowners hire consulting foresters to conduct a baseline inventory of the amount of carbon stored by trees on their land and to help with developing management plans. Says Chris Will, consulting forester, “The FOI has been beneficial to me and my company. More landowners are actively seeking out advice and purchasing the services of consulting foresters through the FOI. The end product is improved forest management on the ground.”

To date, MACED has enrolled 31 private landowners owning over 16,000 acres. Forty more landowners are actively pursuing enrollment for over 17,000 additional acres across Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.

Enrollment in the FOI is open to private forest landowners in the Appalachian region of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. To be eligible to sell carbon stored in 2009, baseline inventories must be conducted by the end of December 2009.

Offsets are available for purchase by people and organizations interested in reducing their impact on the environment while helping improve the livelihood of rural forest landowners. For more information, contact MACED.