Family Forest Carbon Project- Forest Carbon Scientist and Insetting Expert

I have been working as a science consultant for the American Forest Foundation (AFF) since February 2018 on a unique and innovative project called the Family Forest Carbon Program (FCCP).  FFCP is a partnership between AFF and The Nature Conservancy that aims to create a program to incentivize the protection and enhancement of forest carbon by family forest owners, who make up the largest portion of U.S. forests owners and hold 38 percent, or 290 million acres, of all the forestland in America.

FFCP is tapping into the potential of family forest owners by providing a simple (for the landowners) prescription to alter forest practices for better forest health, resiliency, productivity, and carbon outcomes.  We are doing this by creating an innovative carbon methodology that uses paired sampling to measure and monitor carbon outcomes at the program landscape level as opposed to individual landowner level.  This allows accurate carbon quantification at the program level without imposing huge monitoring costs on the landowner (the average size of a family ownership (of those with 10+ acres or more) is 67.2 acres).  The concept note on the methodology was approved by Verra (the nonprofit that oversees the Verified Carbon Standard) in April 2020 and the draft methodology will be coming out in summer 2020.  

Why is this important? Small family landowners are feeling the stress of climate change-induced increased drought, insects, disease and fire threatening the health and resiliency of their forests. Most family forest owners aren’t generating regular income from their land, yet there are expenses that come with sustainably managing their property to improve forest health and productivity.  In addition, it’s estimated that billions of tons of carbon currently stored in family forests are also threatened by development—the conversion of forestland to other uses such as fields for livestock, housing, commercial development or even parking lots.  FFCP gives family landowners practical actions to improve forest health and resilience while protecting carbon that are environmentally and economically sustainable.

Who will pay for this?  In addition to many co-benefits, there is a tangible difference in atmospheric CO2 that can be achieved through investments in natural climate solutions.  Though the US currently scheduled to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in November 202, many corporations are setting science-based targets to be in line with the reductions needed to keep global warming under 1.5°C.  The other role I am playing in this project is to help sort out the accounting rules for reporting so that corporations can invest in FFCP projects within their supply chain (also known as an inset or intervention).  I am representing AFF on the World Resources Institute GHG Protocol Land Sector Technical Working Group. In this way, FFCP can help family landowners fund beneficial forest practices by connecting them with corporate investors.