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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

Environment Northeast

Family Forest Foundation

Family Forests of Oregon  

Forest Guild

Forest Landowners of California

Forest Resources Association

Fountains America

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

Monadnock Conservancy 

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

Woodlands Carbon