10:09am

Mon December 5, 2011
Mountain Kentucky

Forest Owners have New Incentive to Maintain Land

There are now record levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, and scientists are predicting drastic temperature changes as a result. An initiative in parts of Appalachia is giving landowners incentives to maintain their forests correctly, so they store as much extra carbon dioxide as possible.

All trees store carbon dioxide, but in order to store the maximum amounts, a forest has to be properly maintained. Program manager Scott Shouse says that’s an expensive prospect for many forest owners.

“But now, the truth is it actually costs money,” he said. “If we want them to go in there and take care of invasive species, do good management so the forest is in good health, so you have good timber quality, good wildlife management, we want that maintained across a broad landscape, then those people are going to have to invest their own money to do management.”

As trees grow, they store carbon dioxide in the new wood. So, the idea behind the Appalachian Carbon Partnership is that landowners are compensated for the amount of additional carbon dioxide that is stored in their forests every year, and that money helps to provide incentives for them to maintain the land.

Tim Hensley owns about 200 acres in Madison County, Kentucky. He enrolled in the program three years ago.

“There’s a lot of benefit for the individual landowner as well as for ecology and the planet as a whole to not be trying to sell off the timber in our forests and to have another way to make money from the forest without having to cut your trees down is quite an advantage to us forest landowners,” he said.

Hensley had to invest about $1,500 upfront to take inventory of his forest, but he says he recouped that cost with his first carbon payment.

So far, about 30,000 acres in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee are enrolled in the program. Businesses and individuals can also purchase carbon allowances from the partnership to offset their own carbon usage.