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Saving the earth

Seeing the climate-change forest for the carbon-storing trees.
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  February 25, 2009

Former Green gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Carter's 120 acres in Lexington township will be the first-ever officially designated "carbon sequestration forest." It remains to be seen whether they will also be the only one.

Carter, in his role as director of the Forest Ecology Network (FEN), is spearheading a major climate-change and forest-restoration campaign that aims to harness trees' ability to store carbon — desirable because carbon dioxide is one of the most damaging greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

"Just through proper management," Carter says we can double or triple the amount of carbon sequestration happening in our woods. "Forests are a major part of the solution" to what Carter refers to as "the climate catastrophe."

The FEN isn't the first entity to propose the idea of using forests for carbon storage — scientists have been studying the idea for years — but the group does aim to be a national catalyst on the issue. This week, Carter is traveling to Washington, DC, to meet with Maine's congressional delegation as well as some other well-placed politicians (such as Colorado Democratic senator and outdoor enthusiast Mark Udall), to push the idea of federal incentives for landowners to better manage their forests, with carbon sequestration in mind. The FEN also suggests that Governor John Baldacci declare all state-owned land as designated for carbon sequestration.

"Better forest management" entails selective cutting (after a tree-by-tree assessment), increased stocking (especially of maple, beech, and birch trees), reduced soil erosion, and increasing the average forest's age. In Maine, where more than 17 million acres are forested, these types of management practices could have a major effect (especially given that 25 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions into our atmosphere come via deforestation, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization).

While small landowners like Carter already employ many sustainable forest-management practices, it's the larger business owners who will take convincing. To that end, Carter met last week with the Maine Forest Products Council, which represents the lumber industry.

"While it is clear they have a long way to go before they would abandon [current foresting practices] for management designed to maximize carbon storage — at least they didn't close the door," Carter wrote in an e-mail to the Phoenix. "Landowners will redirect their forest practices only if it improves bottom-line profits, not bottom-line carbon storage."

He's hoping we can find a way to do both.

  Topics: News Features , green, Jonathan Carter, Lexington,  More more >
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