Tribe Reinvests Funds from Project to Create Employment Opportunities
Ancestral Homeland in the Heart of Arizona
Home to the White Mountain Apache Tribe, The Fort Apache Indian Reservation stretches across 1.68 million acres in Eastern Arizona. It contains 400 miles of clean running rivers, streams, and over 26 lakes.
Their forestland contains some of the richest habitats in the state for wildlife such as elk, Mexican Spotted Owl, Mexican wolf, and the Apache Trout—a species brought back from the brink of extinction through the efforts of the Tribe and its partners.
Open to the public, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation offers recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, skiing, ice-fishing, hunting, gaming, camping, and fly fishing. Their reservation starts at 2,600 feet above sea level on the southwest side, and ranges up to 11,400 feet on the peak of Mt. Baldy, a mountain range considered sacred by Tribe members. It also contains diverse vegetation and topography, transitioning from juniper and desert shrub to spruce-fir forest. Given the diversity of ecosystems in their landholdings, complex - and often costly - land management practices are required to maintain their strong tradition of responsible land stewardship.
White Mountain Apache Tribe Enters the Carbon Market
The Tribe was faced with the challenge of establishing an ambitious new conservation program in an era of budget cuts. They recognized that entering the carbon market offered a way to increase carbon stocks to help fight climate change while balancing their complex land management needs. Additionally, it would provide sustainable revenue that could be reinvested in the Tribe.
Building on strong practices and knowledge already in place, the White Mountain Apaches selected SIG Carbon to help navigate the technicalities of a large-scale forest carbon offset project. Over the course of two projects, SIG Carbon served as a guide, helping to navigate California’s carbon market regulations.
Status of the Project
The first project on which we provided project development services, covered nearly 90,000 acres and was the largest improved forest management carbon project under California’s cap-and-trade compliance regulatory program at the time of credit issuance. It registered over 4.45 million Air Resource Board credits.
Inspired by the success of the initial project, the Tribe asked SIG Carbon to lead the development and execution of a second, even larger project. The second project was approximately 120,000 acres and issued 6+ million Air Resource Board Credits.
The goal of both projects was to increase and conserve carbon stocks through the implementation of sustainable forest management. To achieve this goal, a series of new practices were rolled out across the Reservation. Reforestation was needed in some areas. Aggressive harvesting and fire fuel management was needed in others, requiring a delicate balance between fire management and carbon sequestration.
Given that forest carbon offset projects are legally required to be 100 years long, inter-generational buy-in was required to help ensure sustainability. Over the course of two forest carbon offset projects, the White Mountain Apache Tribe registered over 11 million Air Resource Board credits with California’s statewide cap-and-trade program.
SIG Carbon's project development services included:
Financial analysis of the anticipated growth and harvesting regimes that captured all costs and returns given the legal, physical, and biological constraints
Assessment of how the Tribe could maximize revenue from a large carbon project, while identifying new ways for timber mill employees to earn income while maintaining or increasing carbon stocks
Management of all aspects of project development, including inventory design, inventory contracting and quality assurance, project verification guidance, carbon modeling, and maximizing revenue from structured carbon sale off takes
Long-term Measuring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) management to ensure the delicate balance between forest carbon sales, timber revenue, and fire mitigation is optimized
Land Management Strategy
Revenue has enabled the Tribe to refine and improve land management strategies for their diverse landholdings. As a result, biodiversity has improved.
Internal Capacity Building
Tribe members have been trained to perform annual forest monitoring with a carbon-specific inventory protocol and are investigating GIS training, as well as applications of remote sensing and UAS (drone) for project monitoring.
Responsible Land Stewardship
Tribal members now utilize new platforms to document forest pest encroachment, visualize wildfire risks and prescribe burns that can best preserve wildland-urban interfaces.
An increased level of ownership of these projects gives members the equity and tools to independently integrate carbon management into their long-term tribal planning.