Commentary: One in Four Rural Americans Can Be a Part of the #Climate Solution – Through Their Forests — The Daily Yonder #ActOnClimate

Rows of recent planted of young pine trees. Photo via the University of Michigan

From The Daily Yonder (Tom Martin):

The Biden administration has an opportunity to help small forest owners become a more significant part of the carbon markets, earn an income on their land, and help with carbon sequestration.

The Biden administration has set its climate change policy agenda, with a broad call to engage rural America. But one approach lacking a laser focus is on incentivizing rural forest owners to use their land for capturing and storing carbon.

America’s forests and forest products already capture and store more than 750 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of nearly 15 percent of annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. With the right policies that enable voluntary action, the nation’s forests can do even more, with some estimates saying the U.S. could double this important contribution to climate mitigation.

“With the right tools and partnerships, American agriculture and forestry can lead the world in solutions that will increase climate resilience, sequester carbon, enhance agricultural productivity, and maintain critical environmental benefits,” the U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, said in a new progress report on using forests and agriculture to mitigate the impact of climate change.

One of those “right tools” must be action by the government to jumpstart carbon markets for small forest owners.

Families and individuals own the largest portion of forests – 36% – across the U.S. Research from the American Forest Foundation (AFF) and the U.S. Forest Service has found that these owners want to improve forest health, but the vast majority are not employing best practices due to the high costs associated with forest management.

Helping small forest owners access carbon markets would allow them to generate income from their land that can then be poured back into the trees for increased conservation and carbon capture. And generating income from carbon markets would provide a much-needed financial boost for forest owners, as many lack resources to sufficiently maintain their forests. One in three family forest owners has an annual income of less than $50,000.

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