Press Release: Blazing a New Trail for Forests and the Carbon Market


Blazing a New Trail for Forests and the Carbon Market

Unique Collaboration of Companies, Landowners, and Conservation Organizations Report on Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Working to Improve Forest Management and Conserve Forests in the Southern United States Utilizing the Carbon Market

Asheville, North Carolina – Ten years ago, a unique collaborative was initiated between the forest products industry, retailers, private landowners, and conservation organizations that strove to discover how the carbon market could improve forests management and protect forests on private lands in the Southern US. Ultimately the project led to increased protection for thousands of acres of forests  in the southern Appalachians and spawned several new initiatives across the region.

A new report released today, “Carbon Canopy: Lessons from Nearly a Decade of Developing Forest Carbon Projects in Southern Appalachia,” includes valuable technical, economic and social knowledge that was gained and should serve as a road map for those interested in utilizing the carbon market to protect forests and improve management in working forest landscapes.

“Carbon Canopy was a first of its kind project in the Southern US and blazed a trail for those interested in utilizing ecosystem services like carbon sequestration as a tool for conservation,” said Danna Smith, Executive Director at Dogwood Alliance. “We were so inspired by all of the organizations and companies that came together and believe what we learned will help improve practices in the woods and begin to place greater value on all of the incredible benefits our standing forests provide.”

The Carbon Canopy was a pioneering effort in the world’s largest wood producing region, to experiment with demonstrating the value of standing forests as a vital tool in the fight to mitigate climate change. It was one of the first projects in the country to meet the rigorous standards of the California carbon market climate policies. It required a lot of testing of different landowners, sizes, models, and certifiers.

The first successful project was with the Forestland Group on an almost 10,000 acre tract in southwestern Virginia, and since that project they have applied the model to put nearly a quarter of a million more acres of forestland in that region into carbon management.

With any pioneering effort there are a lot of valuable lessons, here are the key takeaways:

  • The value of forest carbon is not fully recognized by government policies or markets
  • Costs for doing carbon projects are prohibitive for most landowners
  • Landowners need technical support for project development
  • Other programs outside of the current offset model need to be developed
  • There is great power in non-traditional collaborations, such as the corporate-nonprofit partnership forged during Carbon Canopy
  • In terms of carbon credits (and for many other reasons), forests are more valuable when trees are left in the ground, rather than clearcut

In addition to the Carbon Canopy project leading to almost 250,000 acres of forests receiving increased protection, it gave rise to new projects designed to tackle some of the biggest obstacles the group faced. The Rainforest Alliance, Domtar, Staples, Columbia Forest Products and others launched the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance to work with small landowners in the region to overcome the barriers of cost and technical knowledge and increase the amount of working forests that are managed responsibly, and ultimately achieve certification.

“Southern forests are remarkable for their resilience, biodiversity, and beauty,” Appalachian Woodlands Alliance project manager Andrew Goldberg said. “Landowners know this–Carbon Canopy and the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance provide an added incentive to landowners to manage their forests responsibly, so generations of southerners can enjoy this unique, beautiful landscape.”

Additionally, Dogwood Alliance, working with another unique set of partners, launched the Wetlands Forest Initiative to prioritize conservation and protection in the coastal plains and in forests along rivers in the South. This is the region hardest hit by paper and wood pellet production and has some of the country’s highest carbon values and are critical to protecting our region’s most vulnerable communities from the worst impacts of climate change.

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Download the full report here

Watch short videos featuring Staples, Columbia Forest Products, Forestland Group, and Dogwood Alliance exploring some of the challenges and lessons learned through the project.

Contact: Scot Quaranda, [email protected], 828.242.3596


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