, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 445-462
Date: 24 Oct 2010

Mitigating Climate Change Through Small-Scale Forestry in the USA: Opportunities and Challenges

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Abstract

Forest management for carbon sequestration is a low-cost, low-technology, relatively easy way to help mitigate global climate change that can be adopted now while additional long-term solutions are developed. Carbon-oriented management of forests also offers forest owners an opportunity to obtain a new source of income, and commonly has environmental co-benefits. The USA is developing climate change policy that recognizes forestry as a source of offsets in carbon markets, and the emissions trading programs and standards that have developed to date offer opportunities for afforestation, reforestation, reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and improved forest management projects. Private forest owners are key players in carbon markets because they own over half of the forest land in the USA and carbon offsetting from public forest land is rare. However, a number of environmental, economic, and social constraints currently limit carbon market participation by forest owners. Key issues include: the low price of carbon and high cost of market entry; whether small landowners can gain market access; how to meet requirements such as management plans and certification; and whether managing for carbon is consistent with other forest management goals. This paper provides an overview of current and emerging opportunities for family forest owners to contribute to climate change mitigation in the USA, and explores ways of overcoming some of the challenges so that they can take advantage of these opportunities.

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