Congress Urged to Include Forests in Climate Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/22/2009 – The American Forest Foundation and The Trust for Public Land today urged Congress to fully engage U.S. forests as a Senate Committee began considering climate change legislation.

“We commend Senator Harkin and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in calling this hearing on the critically important role of private U.S. forestland in responding to the challenge of climate change. There’s no way we can meet our nation’s climate goals without engaging forests,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation (AFF), adding, “80 percent of domestic carbon offsets will come from forests, and without forests the costs of the federal climate bill will skyrocket.”

“In fact, the U.S. EPA reports that U.S. forests currently absorb 10 percent of all carbon emissions generated in the country every year and this could double to 20 percent with the right programs in place,” said Jad Daley, Director of Climate Programs for The Trust for Public Land. Daley added, “including forests in a climate bill is nonnegotiable. And by including forests, we get many other public benefits like clean air, water filtration, rural jobs and wildlife habitat.”

Jo Pierce is a family forest owner from Baldwin, Maine, who is proud to count his family’s history on the land back for 200 years. He’s worried about forest fragmentation, and it is no wonder since he gets five or six requests every year to sell part of his family land. But he’s not selling-he wants to continue managing his farm and woodlots sustainably as his family has done for six generations. “There are 10 million family forest owners like me across America, who want to do their part on climate change, and we can start today with the right programs in place, ” said Pierce. The amount of U.S. forestland that is lost each year is roughly the size of Delaware.

The sustainable practices on Pierce’s land earned him the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award. He testified before the Committee representing the Forest-Climate Working Group, a diverse coalition of nearly 30 organizations-representing landowners, conservation and wildlife interests, industry, and foresters-that has agreed upon a common platform:

  • Forest Carbon Offsets. The legislation must establish environmentally sound offset markets that are flexible enough to engage a broad range of forest owners. This is the most readily available carbon offset available; we don’t need to wait for new technologies.
  • Carbon Storage Incentives. We should provide additional incentives for carbon-storage activities (planting denuded areas, replanting, longer crop rotations) by smaller forest owners who may not be able to afford the upfront costs of participating in the carbon markets.
  • Resources for Adaptation. The forest-carbon potential in some areas is already at risk due to climate-induced stress such as drought, more wildfires, and invasive pests. To help landowners adjust to these changing conditions, and to capture the full carbon storage potential of our nation’s forests, the legislation should provide resources for forest adaptation activities.

Forests in some areas are already being hard hit. “The sugar maple season in Vermont has been altered by warmer temperatures and entire Western slopes have been denuded by the Western pine bark beetle,” Daley said.

Another factor, well-known to many rural communities, is the record-low timber slump that’s making it harder than ever to make a living from sustainable forestry. “If we can get an added income stream to these struggling family forest owners, from carbon offsets or additional incentives, more forest owners will be able to stay on their land,” said Pierce. “Keeping forests working as healthy forests is good for both rural jobs and for controlling climate change.”

“America’s forests have a lot to offer in solving climate change,” said AFF’s Martin, “and we can’t ignore this climate solution in our own backyard.”

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations and public finance to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has protected more than 2.5 million acres since it was created in 1972.

The American Forest Foundation is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization that was chartered in 1981 with the purpose of encouraging the long-term sustainability of America’s forests, restoring wildlife habitat, and developing quality environmental education programs, to assure that Americans today, and in the future, enjoy healthy, growing forests. Visit