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New conservation project helps Northwest Oregon family forests unlock their potential

HILLSBORO, Ore. – (Aug. 26, 2016) — Small woodland owners in Northwest Oregon are unlocking their forest’s potential to sequester carbon, thanks to a new project with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), and the Pinchot Institute.

This five-year project can help family forests across 21,000 acres in Northwest Oregon and Western Washington bolster the health and vigor of their trees, while also providing options for a regional carbon crediting program.

Family forestland owners like John and Cathy Dummer of Washington County, Oregon, are improving forest health with financial incentives from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.The project, called “Unlocking Carbon Markets for Non-Industrial Private Forestland Owners in the Pacific Northwest” was made possible through USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The project broke ground in 2015 and will continue through the end of 2018.

NRCS funding is still available, so interested woodland owners should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn more and to apply.

Here’s how the project works: NRCS provides financial incentives to help qualified woodland owners hire a consultant to prepare a forest management plan. Once they have a plan in place, landowners may also receive NRCS funding to help them do pre-commercial thinning, slash treatments, native shrub planting, and other conservation practices identified in their forest management plan. Foresters with ODF assist landowners with technical advice and recommendations as they implement their plans.

At the same time, the Pinchot Institute for Conservation offers landowners a free assessment of their forest’s carbon storage potential and opportunities to generate additional income through carbon credits. Landowners can contact the Pinchot Institute to schedule a carbon assessment whether or not they have a forest management plan.

The general concept with a carbon crediting program is that healthy, well-managed forests sequester more carbon from the air and stores it over time. If the forest stores more carbon than an average acre of forestland in the region over a number of years, landowners can potentially sell that carbon as a credit.

By targeting small woodland owners in one specific region, this project can reduce the transaction costs for carbon credit trading, making it a more affordable and practical option for small landowners to participate.

John and Cathy Dummer, who serve as the co-presidents of the Washington County Small Woodland Owners Association, are participating in the project. They recently thinned 39-acres of their forestland on Pumpkin Ridge, made possible through financial incentives from NRCS and with local expertise of ODF.

“It was pretty dark in here before the thinning; it had pretty much reached closure at the top of the canopy,” Cathy said. “There wasn’t much light getting in here, so there weren’t many shrubs or undergrowth on the ground.”

“Forest health is one of our goals; and one of our objectives was to do a thinning project,” John said. “We want to make sure the trees we have are healthy. If we have too many trees, they’re taking up more resources and competing too much with one another. By thinning the forest, we allow more sunlight and water for the existing trees. They’re going to be healthier in the long-run.”

But now, after the thinning project, the Dummer’s are much happier with their woods, and they feel they made a valuable investment for their future. The Dummer’s are also considering doing a carbon inventory to see what their options are for potential carbon crediting, since their forest is now on track to store more carbon through accelerating growth long into the future.

Read more about John and Cathy Dummer’s forest health project on the NRCS Oregon website. For more about this RCPP project visit http://www.pinchot.org/gp/RCPP.

 

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