In 2013 California launched the carbon offset program as part of a larger initiative to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 60% of 1990 emissions. Under this initiative, California established emission limits for regulated entities. These limits decrease each year. If a regulated entity emits more than it is allowed, it can offset up to 8% of its allowed carbon dioxide by purchasing carbon offsets from LRCT and other landowners.
In the spring of 2018, LRCT worked with a project developer to register 8,000 acres of its owned conserved properties in a forest carbon project with California. LRCT’s properties contain more carbon than the surrounding forests as established by the US Forest Service, and this additional carbon can be sold as carbon offsets in the State of California’s Carbon Offset program. The additional stored carbon of LRCT’s forests is equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of 80,000 automobiles. Now that the project is registered, LRCT may not harvest the amount of carbon that was issued as carbon offsets, however, LRCT may harvest the growth of the forest each year if it chooses to do so.
LRCT will use its carbon offset revenue to cover the cost of installing solar panels on LRCT’s headquarters, support long-term stewardship and land management needs, protect wildlife habitat, water resources, provide recreational opportunities, and capture carbon dioxide in its growing forests. To ensure that carbon storage is permanent, the LRCT must manage its project forests sustainably and inventory their carbon content periodically for 100 years. LRCT expects California to complete the final stage of the project, including its project verification and the awarding of LRCT’s carbon offsets, to happen later in 2020.
The LRCT joins other New England conservation groups, including the Appalachian Mountain Club and New England Forestry Foundation in participating in the California Carbon Offset program to support forest conservation and to help protect the planet.
Ensuring Carbon Content
Two key steps in the registration process for a forest carbon project are the forest inventory and its verification steps. You may notice signs of the inventory work when visiting LRCT properties, so that you’ll understand what you’re seeing, we want to tell you a little about the process.
During the inventory, the forest carbon project developer (in LRCT’s case, Finite Carbon), establishes a set of permanent circular plot sites, evenly spaced throughout the project site. Each plot site has a radius of 37.2 feet, and the plots are centered on a metal rod secured into the ground. There are 192 plot sites a quarter mile apart from one another on the LRCT-owned lands that are part of the forest carbon project.
Within each plot, foresters measure the height and diameter of all living and standing dead trees larger than five inches at breast height. These trees are numbered and marked with paint and in some cases, with a metal tag. Inventory of three plots requires a day’s work by a skilled forester. After the measurements have been completed, Finite Carbon uses the measurements to calculate the carbon content of each plot and then uses a statistical process to determine the carbon content of the entire project area.