By John Dillon
A chunk of northern Vermont forest will soon help reduce greenhouse gas pollution in California.
The idea is that companies will pay to reduce their carbon footprint by buying the carbon sequestered in a forest on the other side of the country. But determining how much carbon is being stored, and then enrolling in that expanding carbon market, is far from simple. It involves a lot of time, money and long hours walking the woods.
Forester Charlie Stabolsepszy turned off a logging road and tramped uphill on a mountainside in northern Franklin County. He was headed for a point marked on his GPS, where he’d begin a carbon inventory.
He was at the base of Burnt Mountain, where the air was cool, the breeze was light, and the songbirds seemed to be celebrating their first glimpse of sunshine in days. The 5,400 acre parcel has been owned for years by the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
The woods were once logged but are now being managed as forever wild – eventually even the logging road will grow over to trees. All those trees are now part of an emerging system designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The Burnt Mountain tract will be the first in Vermont to be enrolled in the regulated California carbon market.
“We saw it as an opportunity to hang on to the property, and to think about how we might manage the property as a core area, in an unmanaged condition,” said Heather Furman, director of the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
Brattleboro – Despite the importance of the forestry industry to Vermont’s economy, fundamental shifts in the market for low-grade wood threaten the survival of many small businesses and the viability of the state’s forests.
“We manage our forests for all kinds of things including durable wood products,” said Michael Snyder, Commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation. “We specialize in high-grade, high-value-added wood products. In fact, they are world renowned. But in order to grow that high-quality product, we need to manage the woods.”
And managing the woods entails – just like cultivating a garden – pulling the weeds, said Paul Frederick, Wood Utilization and Wood Energy Project Leader for the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. “We need to weed out the garden to let the healthier trees utilize the space. If we don’t have the markets for the soft wood, that work is very difficult.”