Legislation rewards small landowners for carbon reduction
(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen has introduced the Forest Carbon Incentives Program Act of 2009 (S. 1576), which will provide incentives for small forest landowners to adopt forest management practices that will increase the land's capacity to store more carbon. The legislation calls for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to manage the program and create guidelines that would help landowners maximize the value of their land through carbon storage and conservation.
"As we build a clean energy economy, we must create incentives for small landowners to adopt practices that will lead to greater carbon storage," said Shaheen. "The Forest Carbon Incentives Program can be implemented quickly so that landowners in New Hampshire and nationwide can get a return on their land and the forests that they maintain during this economic downturn."
"The New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association is supportive of the Forest Carbon Incentives Program Act," said Jasen Stock, executive director of the NHTOA. "We especially like the voluntary market-based approach to this and the fact that is creates incentives for active, sustainable forest management. This is good for New Hampshire's forest community and travel and tourism industries."
"Senator Shaheen's legislation will ensure that we fully tap the climate change mitigation benefits of U.S. forests," said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation, a non-profit family forest conservation organization. "This bipartisan legislation will give small family forest owners, who own over one-quarter of the nation's private forests, a chance to help solve our climate change problems and at the same time help keep these families on the land and keep their forests working."
"We cannot successfully meet the climate challenge without tapping the remarkable potential for America's forests to absorb one-fifth of our carbon emissions," said Jad Daley, climate director for The Trust for Public Land. "Senator Shaheen's innovative proposal would provide an essential tool to meet this goal."
The bill calls for a Forest Carbon Incentives Program to be established under the USDA to provide supplemental incentives for carbon reductions through U.S. private forests. These incentives would provide an opportunity for forest landowners to adopt management practices that deliver proven emissions reductions, and be compensated for storing carbon. In addition to helping landowners maximize the value of their forests, the bill creates opportunities for landowners to gain further financial incentives by entering into permanent conservation easements.
Today, U.S. forests sequester 10 percent of annual U.S. carbon emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we can double this capacity, sequester up to 20 percent of annual U.S. emissions, if the proper incentives and systems are in place. Though there is climate legislation that targets larger-scale land owners through a carbon offsets program, this bill targets approximately 25 percent of the private forest owners who would not qualify for other proposed programs.
The bill was cosponsored by Sens. Snowe, Sanders, Collins, Merkley, Wyden, Leahy, and Schumer. Supporting organizations include:
Alliance for Community Trees
American Forest Foundation
Androscoggin River Watershed Council
Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments
Appalachian Mountain Club
Black Hills Forest Resource Association
Colorado Timber Industry Association
Family Forest Foundation
Family Forests of Oregon
Forest Landowners of California
Forest Resources Association
Harris Center for Conservation Education
Kentucky Forest Industries Association
Land Trust Alliance
Louisiana Forestry Association
Lyme Timber Company
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Maine Forest Service
Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
Maryland Forestry Association
Minnesota Forestry Association
National Association of Forest Service Retirees
National Association of Gateway Communities
National Association of State Foresters
National Wild Turkey Federation
National Woodland Owners Association
New England Wood Pellet and Propell Energy
New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands
New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association
Northern Forest Alliance
Northern Forest Center
Northland Forest Products
Oregon Small Woodlands Association
Pinchot Institute for Conservation
Society of American Foresters
Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
Southern Environmental Law Center
The Nature Conservancy
The Trust for Public Land
The Wilderness Society
Vermont Land Trust
Vermont Woodlands Association
Wagner Forest Management
Washington Farm Forestry Association