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$30 Million USDA Climate-Smart Commodities Award to Increase Carbon Storage in New England’s Forests

Sep. 14, 2022
New England Forestry Foundation Lauren Owens Lambert

Media Contact: Andrea Colnes, NEFF Deputy Director & Climate Fellow, acolnes@newenglandforestry.org

September 14, 2022 – Marking a transformative investment in our region’s forests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program has awarded $30 million to the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) and its partners to help forest landowners implement climate-smart forest practices that also protect ecosystem health and biodiversity. The partnership includes more than 20 companies, organizations, and institutions from across New England that represent forest-related industries and have climate interests at the forefront of their concerns. The proposal is also strongly supported by New England’s congressional delegation.

“This award creates game-changing incentives for improving forest health, increasing carbon storage, and growing climate-oriented economic development and investment,” said Robert Perschel, Executive Director of the New England Forestry Foundation.

The accepted proposal identifies the following goals:

  • Climate-smart forestry incentives for practices that accelerate carbon storage in working forests for a pilot group of forest landowners across all six New England states, including on large commercial forests, smaller family woodlots and First Nation woodlands
  • Market-building for climate-smart forest products, with a focus on mass timber construction
  • Monitoring, verification, and reporting to document and ensure additive carbon benefits

“Of the seventy awards given out today, we’re honored to receive one of the handful that went to forestry,” said NEFF Senior Forest Science and Policy Fellow Alec Giffen. “This transformational award will allow us to fund landowners and foresters to practice forestry that mitigates climate change, improves forest productivity, and improves wildlife habitat, so this is a win-win-win. Given that it funds a pilot project we can build on, this also represents the start of an even bigger transformation for New England’s forested landscape.”

The USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities award funds a pilot project that will implement and demonstrate the impact of climate-smart forestry on 100,000 acres, and NEFF will work to leverage this investment to bring climate-smart forestry to more than 10 million acres of working forestland across New England using public and private funding sources.

“We’re deeply grateful to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for recognizing the enormous potential of New England’s private forestlands to deliver urgently needed carbon removal through nature-based solutions at a nationally significant scale,” adds Andrea Colnes, NEFF Deputy Director and Climate Fellow.

New England’s forests contribute more than $13 billion annually to local and regional economies, sustaining over 50,000 jobs in the woods, mills, and supporting services.

Visit NEFF’s Climate-Smart Commodities webpage to learn more about the pilot program.

Additional Reactions

John Hagan, President, Our Climate Common
“NEFF’s proposal is the kind of thinking we need to address the climate crisis. It is the kind of solution that will build broad social support across rural America for solving the climate crisis. It will be a model that can be used anywhere in the United States.”

Dan Lamontagne, President and CEO, Seven Islands Land Company
“Sustainably managed private forestlands, in conjunction with strong forest products markets, are an important part of a comprehensive strategy to support the success of rural economies and mitigate the effects of climate change. We are excited to be a partner with NEFF in this effort to improve the legacy of climate friendly benefits our region’s forests provide to society.”

Kyle Burdick, Vice President, Baskahegan Company
“Baskahegan believes that improved forest management can store more carbon by manufacturing durable wooden goods when substituting for materials with large carbon footprints. We believe this can be done while simultaneously increasing climate resiliency of our forests, improving forest health, reducing carbon losses even further. Forests MUST play a key role in addressing the climate crisis. It is not enough to recognize the climate values of forest management as it is today.”

Dana Doran, Executive Director, Professional Logging Contractors of Maine
“By expanding the number of Master Logger Certified companies and supporting curriculum designed to improve knowledge of Climate Smart Solutions, this grant is critical to our future forest economy and the rural Maine communities that depend on it.”’

Jim Robbins, Sr., Robbins Lumber
“This USDA grant will give us in the State of Maine an opportunity to engage and educate landowners, including many small landowners, about proper forest management and increase proper silviculture on all landowners. Maine forests have always been hampered in their growth because of too much regeneration leading to way too many stems per acre. This grant will give us the chance to properly thin out the forests and hopefully find markets for these thinnings. The result will be much healthier forests which will store more carbon and produce more fiber for the mills and therefore creating more jobs.”

Chris Fife, Public Affairs Manager-Northeast, Weyerhaeuser
“Weyerhaeuser is excited about the potential for this grant to increase the quantity and quality of climate-smart timber through silvicultural interventions to store more carbon as well as help grow the economies of rural, economically distressed forest-dependent communities in the region.

Project Partners

Landowners, Foresters, Loggers: Participating Producers

  • Seven Islands
  • Weyerhaeuser
  • Wagner Forest Management, Ltd.
  • Baskahegan Land Company
  • Robbins Lumber
  • Passamaquoddy Forestry Department
  • Mi’kmaq Nation
  • The Nature Conservancy (Maine lands)
  • Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership
  • Massachusetts Tree Farm Program
  • Hull Forestlands, L.P.
  • Heyes Family Forests LLC
  • Appalachian Mountain Club

Landowners, Foresters, Loggers: Participating Loggers & Foresters

  • Professional Logging Contractors Maine
  • Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands
  • Professional foresters & loggers

Commodity Markets

  • Spiritos Properties, LLC (Mass Timber Developer)
  • Leers Weinzapfel Associates (Architects)
  • Quantified Ventures (Finance)
  • WoodWorks (Mass Timber)

University of Maine Assistance With Program Design and Implementation

  • University of Maine: Dr. John Daigle, Liaison to Maine’s Penobscot Nation, Passamaquoddy Tribe and Mi’kmaq Nation
  • University of Maine Advanced Structures & Composites Center
  • Forest Policy & Economics – School of Forest Resources
  • School of Forest Resources and Climate Change Institute
  • Office of Innovation and Economic Development

Monitoring, Verification & Reporting

  • American Forest Foundation – Family Forest Carbon Program
  • Spatial Informatics Group
  • Thomas Walker, Resource Economist
  • Eric Kingsley, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions, LLC

Supporting Organizations

  • Forest Stewards Guild
  • Mass Audubon
  • Our Climate Common
  • Highstead Foundation
  • Massachusetts Forest Alliance
  • Connecticut Forest & Park Association

About the New England Forestry Foundation

Through the application of its core expertise in conserving forestlands and advancing Exemplary Forestry, the New England Forestry Foundation helps the people of New England to sustain their way of life, protect forest wildlife habitat and ecosystem services, and mitigate and adapt to climate change. In partnership with land owners, New England Forestry Foundation has conserved more than 1.2 million acres of forest since its founding in 1944, including one out of every three acres of forestland protected in New England since 1999. It also owns and manages more than 150 Community Forests across the region.