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Family Forest Carbon Program Open to Small Forest Holders in West Virginia

The American Forest Foundation, a national conservation organization that works with family forest owners, and The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization, today announced expansion plans for their Family Forest Carbon Program, which empowers America’s rural family forest owners to improve forest health while addressing climate change.

The Family Forest Carbon Program will open enrollment to landowners with as little as 30 acres up to 2,400 acres. It will be the first carbon program in West Virginia to offer enrollment to owners of small forest parcels.

Families and individuals collectively own the largest portion — 39% — of U.S. forests. However, less than one percent of the land in existing forest carbon projects are on properties under 1,000 acres in size. This is mostly due to high upfront costs, complexity and contract length.

“Family forest owners care about their land and want to do the right thing,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of AFF. “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. The Family Forest Carbon Program is designed to be an all-around resource for small landowners — providing them with guidance and support, as well as funding to be able to achieve their goals and make a meaningful conservation impact along the way.”

The Family Forest Carbon Program provides payments to family and individual landowners with small forest holdings to implement scientifically proven forest practices that increase the carbon sequestered and stored on the land. In addition, the program provides expert consultation from foresters to every landowner and creates a forest management plan customized for the landowner’s property.

Landowners can log on to familyforestcarbon.org, select their property, and see if their forest conditions and personal goals match with the requirements for enrollment. Enrollment is being offered for one of two improved management practices: Growing Mature Forests by engaging in sustainable harvesting practices; or Enhancing Future Forests by improving new forest growth by managing invasive species and undergrowth. Landowners can make a 10- or 20-year commitment based on the forest practice adopted. Payments to the landowner are determined by property size and forest conditions.

“West Virginia has an incredible ecological, carbon and timber resource in its forests. Carbon markets are an effective mechanism to allow small-scale forest operations to tap into the economic opportunities linked to the carbon sequestration and storage potential of U.S. forests,” said Thomas Minney, Executive Director with The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia. “Healthier forests not only produce more carbon and wood products, but they also maintain clean water and provide better habitat for fish and wildlife. We are excited to see this expansion based on years of hard work from those involved.”

The carbon captured by enrolled landowners will be measured and verified through a new carbon accounting methodology developed by TNC and AFF under Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard that is on track to be approved by the end of the year. This new methodology advances the accuracy of the carbon calculation to ensure the program is providing a true climate benefit. The program then sells the carbon as verified carbon credits to companies who are taking a comprehensive approach to their climate goals–first reducing emissions before working to neutralize those they cannot eliminate.

The Family Forest Carbon Program was first launched in Pennsylvania in 2020.

Beyond the Central Appalachian area, the program will expand to two new regions – the Upper Midwest and the Northeast in 2022.

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