Posted: January 11, 2022

The Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP) recently expanded to cover all of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and western Maryland.

The FFCP was created by the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy to enroll forest landowners with as little as 30 acres up to 2,400 acres to be paid under program guidelines for carbon sequestration on their property. The program expansion increased the number of included counties from 29 to 127, with the eligible area in the Central Appalachians expanding from 4,028,626 acres to 14,228,771 acres.

I enrolled about half of my forestland in 2020. In my case, much of what is enrolled is ridgetop mountain land that is useful to wildlife but cannot be managed as a source of sustainable timber. Since all of my forestland is certified American Tree Farm, it was easy for me to meet or exceed the program’s requirements. But, if a landowner needs an updated Forest Management Plan to qualify, they will write one at no cost to the landowner.

For landowners interested in improving the health of their forest and finding new revenue streams to cover property taxes and expenses to maintain their forestland as a forest, this carbon program can help. The program is an opportunity for landowners to be paid to care for their forestland in ways that also sequester and store more carbon. The carbon that is captured is leased to companies that are looking to neutralize emissions they cannot eliminate. The funds that support this program come from a growing list companies, including a new partnership with REI Co-op announced in October 2021.

The FFCP is specifically intended for small woodland owners. The program provides annual payments to families or individuals to implement scientifically proven forest practices that increase the carbon sequestered and stored on the land. The program also provides expert consultation from foresters who will create a forest management plan customized for a landowner’s property, if they don’t have one.

Landowners can log on to www.familyforestcarbon.org to learn more and determine if their property is eligible. Enrollment is offered for either of two management practices:

  • Growing Mature Forests, a 20-year contract to delay harvesting and engage in sustainable management practices, or
  • Enhancing Future Forests, a 10-year contract to manage invasive species and undergrowth to encourage the next generation of trees.

Some limited and salvage harvesting is allowed within sustainable harvesting requirements of the contract, including for personal use. Payments to the landowner are determined by enrolled property size and forest conditions and are guaranteed throughout the contract period, regardless of carbon credit sales.

The Family Forest Carbon Program was first launched in a few select counties of Pennsylvania as part of a pilot project. As it expanded, 268 landowners representing about 43,000 acres have received a visit from a forester. So far, more than 60 Pennsylvania forest landowners, accounting for nearly 10,000 acres, have enrolled. Landowners are excited to have found an alternative revenue source that helps them pay taxes or take on new habitat projects. Other landowners new to forest management are finding value in assistance with a management plan.

As mentioned earlier, I enrolled about half of my tree farm in FFCP’s Growing Mature Forests program a year ago. While some areas of my tree farm don’t meet the program requirements because they are being managed for early successional habitat and warbler programs, FFCP was a good fit for meeting my forest management goals on the enrolled part of my property. Find out more at www.familyforestcarbon.org.

For more information about the PA Tree Farm program, visit their webpage at www.paforestry.org/treefarm.

By John Hoover, PA Tree Farm Committee Chair

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802