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A Family Affair: Carbon Program Targets Smaller Landowners

The Nature Conservancy and the American Forest Foundation have partnered to create the Family Forest Carbon Program, a new carbon capture project targeted at smaller landowners. It will pay those who adhere to practices designed to store carbon on their property. 

Landowners with as little as 30 acres can now apply for the program in Vermont, Massachusetts, eastern New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and parts of Maryland. Expansion to the South and upper Midwest is expected next year. The program aims to increase woodland resiliency, improve wildlife habitat (particularly for endangered birds), and help mitigate a changing climate.

“Family Forest Carbon allows small-scale forest owners to tap into carbon markets and technical resources to help them sustainably manage their forests in order to balance all of these benefits,” said Jim Shallow, director of strategic conservation initiatives of The Nature Conservancy in Vermont.

Photo Courtesy Family Forest Carbon Program

The Family Forest Carbon Program pays out annually, providing a forest management plan from an expert if requested. Landowners can enroll in one of two programs, Enhance Your Woodland or Grow Older Forests. 

Enhance Your Woodland supports growing forests through management and harvesting. It pays $200 per acre across 20 years. Grow Older Forests defers harvesting for the 20 years of the contract, earning landowners $300 per acre. Interest in both programs has been significant, with more than 10,000 acres already enrolled in Vermont alone

These new programs are essential since similar ones have only been accessible to those with at least 5,000 acres or more. But families and individuals collectively own 39% of U.S. forests, with many parcels as small as 10 acres. With more than a third of American forestland at stake, the Family Forest Carbon Program is critical to accessing a vital part of the canopy needed to store carbon.

Photo Courtesy Family Forest Carbon Program

“Family forest owners care about their land and want to do the right thing,” said Richard Campbell, the national director of landowner engagement for the Family Forest Carbon Program at the American Forest Foundation. 

“But most run into roadblocks, like the high cost of management and finding the right technical assistance, that prevent them taking active steps to improve their forest,” said Campbell. “The Family Forest Carbon Program is designed to democratize access to a critical revenue stream that can help them achieve their personal conservation goals and make a meaningful impact for our planet.”

To enroll, landowners should log into where they can enter their address and see if they meet the enrollment requirements.

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