PROJECT TYPE: Improved Forest Management STANDARD: Voluntary Market, American Carbon Registry LOCATION: Vermont STATUS: Project development PARTNERS:
The Vermont Land Trust
Cold Hollow to Canada
The Nature Conservancy
University of Vermont
Vermont’s Small Land Owners Band Together
The Cold Hollow Mountains
The Cold Hollow Mountains are centrally located within Vermont’s Northern Forest. The Mountain range is part of an extended network of habitat that extends from New York up to Nova Scotia by way of Vermont. It supports far-traveling wildlife populations such as black bear, moose and bobcat.
The mountains also sit at the heart of the largest intact broadleaf forest in the world. Within that forest land, it’s believed that up to 90% of breeding for bird species such as the Black-throated Blue Warbler, Canada Warbler, Wood Thrush, Bicknell's Thrush, and others, takes place. The broadleaf forest also serves as a major carbon sink, storing billions of tons of carbon. In 2018, The Vermont Climate Action Commission estimated that the state’s forests capture 50% of emissions emitted by Vermonters.
New Study Proves Viability of Multi-owner Project
Nearly 80% of Vermont’s forested land is owned by families, most of whom have relatively small parcels that have been passed down from generation to generation. In order to keep their forests as forests, and be able to afford responsible land stewardship, Vermont’s landowners face difficult decisions. Practicing sustainable forestry requires time, expertise and funds. For economic reasons, forests are often converted to non-forest uses, sub-divided into smaller plots, or logged.
In an effort to support landowners’ desire to find economically viable ways to preserve their lands, the Vermont Land Trust, with the backing of the High Meadows Fund and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, commissioned a study on the feasibility of small landowners leveraging the carbon market through a statewide program.
The key question they were interested in answering: How can stored carbon be aggregated across multiple forestland owners and forest parcels, to be sold as one entity to the voluntary carbon market?
Vermont Land Trust in partnership with the University of Vermont and SIG Carbon, analyzed the land, the market, and potential participants, to determine the viability of the new project in the Green Mountain State. SIG Carbon helped identify key attributes and datasets that could help determine the right land parcels for the project.
One of the key findings of the study was that entering the carbon market was typically prohibitive for small landowners (those with less than 3,500 acres). This was due to the upfront costs associated with inventorying land, as well as the ongoing monitoring requirements - all necessary parts of the monetization process. However, by banding together, those costs can be pooled, making them more manageable.
Confident that a pooled, multi-owner project would be successful, Vermont Land Trust assembled ten landowners with twelve parcels of land into the nation’s first cooperative carbon program. Partnering with The Nature Conservancy and SIG Carbon, land owners were aggregated into a single project.
Status of the Project
Approximately 8,600 total acres are enrolled in the CHC aggregated carbon project. Under the carbon agreements, the landowners will deploy stewardship and land management practices that increase carbon sequestration to earn their carbon credits. These practices include allowing trees to grow older, restoring wetlands, and thinning that helps the understory to grow and sequester carbon. At the same time, the forestland owners will continue to benefit financially from continued timber harvest and other forest uses, including maple sugaring.
Principal buyers of the carbon credits supplied by the project include Gratitude Railroad and Amazon, the anchor investor in the project, as a part of its climate pledge goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.
Working in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, SIG Carbon provided the following services:
Provision of cost-sharing and legal aggregation framework
Forest carbon growth and yield modeling, as well as carbon quantification services, to analyze the carbon storage potential of priority land parcels spanning 9,000 acres, from over 1,000 variable radius plots
Management of all aspects of project development: inventory design, inventory contracting and quality assurance, project documentation, registry communication as well as the on-site verification process
Pilot for Others to Follow
This first-of-its-kind project successfully united ten landowners and over 8,600 acres, generating carbon credits as one entity for sale in the voluntary carbon market under the American Carbon Registry standard. This project provided a roadmap to help guide private landowners on carbon project eligibility, enrollment, and integration with other forest management programs and plans.
Enhances forest management strategies to help increase carbon sequestration. Environmental benefits include, biodiversity, clean water and air, flood resilience, and a healthy and connected wildlife habitat.
Forests Remain Forests
Landowners are expected to earn between $25 to $47 per acre per year for the first 10 years of the project. Amazon has committed $10 million to restore and conserve four million acres of forest in the Appalachians. This investment will help remove over 18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while helping to conserve family-owned forest lands.
Market Entry for Small Landowners
Landowners pooled resources and split transactions costs. With SIG Carbon taking on performance risk and covering project development costs, small landowners were able to enter the market without upfront out-of-pocket costs.