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October 18 & 19, 2007

Preston County, West Virginia
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New Volunteers Meg, Andrea and Eva at the Rowlesburg VFW building

Sustainable Forestry and Carbon Sequestration Presentation at AFHA Stakeholders Meeting

Wildlife Management Specialist Richard Constantino from FORECON Inc. gave a presentation on carbon sequestration and sustainable forestry at the AFHA Stakeholders meeting on October 19th.  He also discussed forestry offset projects that participate in the capping of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, particularly the Chicago Carbon Exchange (CCX).  He presented the exchange of carbon credits as an incentive for keeping forested land forested.

Constantino reported that the amount of forested land lost to development is worrisome in face of global warming.  45 million forested acres are deforested per year internationally, and one million of that loss is in the U.S.  He identified four methods of preventing such loss: afforestation, reforestation, sustainable forest management, and conservation.  Afforested land is a new planting since 1990.  Reforested land is the regeneration of a forested area.  Sustainable forestry involves harvesting wood and allowing for new growth to populate the vacancy.  Conservation efforts try to prevent development on large tracts of forested land and sustain old growth forests.

Afforestation and sustainable land management have the capacity to sequester an increasing amount of carbon from the atmosphere, thereby actively lowering the presence of GHG in an effort to combat global warming. 

Since younger trees have a higher increment of growth than older trees, they have an increasing intake of carbon.  Older trees, on the other hand, plateau and do not pull an increasing amount of carbon from the air.  When trees are harvested, the accumulated carbon depreciates over time. As forests are harvested or thinned, some carbon remains in the wood products, and some is stored at a positive increment in the new growth.  In the case of thinning, young trees will have access to sun and will grow.  Some operations may even plant new trees in place of the harvest.  The combination of harvested wood and new growth trees leads to an over-all increase of carbon storage.

Constantino explained the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases is based both on reducing emissions at the source, and offsetting emissions by storing carbon such as in growing forests. Because forests can store 50% more carbon than the atmosphere, they are useful tools for attempting to maintain equivalency between carbon emission and carbon storage. 

Internationally, Constantino said, many nations have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Kyoto Protocol. While the United States did not sign this agreement, many companies are seeking to reduce their emissions voluntarily. Carbon exchanges exist internationally. The Chicago Carbon Exchange (CCX) may be the U.S. model in the future.  Members sign up with the CCX voluntarily and agree to make corporate-wide reductions on the carbon output.  They can purchase up to 20% of that reduction in carbon credits either from those under the cap or from forests.  The remaining reduction must be reducing or cleaning up source emissions. The CCX operates like a stock or commodities exchange and is based on the concept of equivalency, working towards an over-all decrease in GHG emissions.

Companies like Forecon are members of the CCX who can measure and sell the forest-based credits on the CCX on behalf of their clients. The carbon credits of forests are measured by a "base year" approach in which the intake of carbon should increase from the first evaluation.  Carbon credits (or stocks) are gained based on an increase of the increment of growth combined with the depreciated carbon storage.  CCX members buy them for the going price, which is currently $2.50 for one metric ton.

Discussion about the presentation raised some concerns regarding the operations and effects of the CCX.  For example, pine forest has a much larger growth rate than hardwood forest, and some people were concerned that the economic incentive would compel land managers to convert all forest to pine.  According to Constantino, however, the cost of converting land to pine forest seems to greatly exceed any economic benefits from the carbon exchange.  In fact, the new growth that does provide economic incentive encourages bio-diversity: age diversity provides more food for the wildlife and also allows many species access to sun.

Another concern was that this program is not applicable or beneficial to small land owners, who hold most of West Virginia's forested land.  Constantino agreed that this program was currently not feasible for small landowners, but brought up the possibility of a future co-operative between several small land-owners who could get their forests evaluated all together.  Also, he pointed out the value of this program as an incentive in areas where development is threatening forested land uses. By providing an additional economic incentive to maintain forested land, the loss of forests to development may be reduced.

Constantino came to discuss a possible path for forestry's role in working against global warming.  He said that the existance of global warming is no longer a question.  The question is "what do we do about it."  According to Constantino's presentation, forested land should be a key player in the reduction of GHG.  Forestry can have a working relationship with those corporations willing to cap emissions through an exchange such the CCX.


Richard Constantino can be reached at, or through the Forecon website,


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