30 Percent Solution, Climate-Smart Commodities

NEFF Launches Commercial Landowners Climate-Smart Forestry Incentives Program

Apr. 24, 2024
Laurens Owens Lambert

The first phase of NEFF’s climate-smart forestry incentive program for commercial landowners is underway! Our team is now soliciting proposals from commercial forest landowners interested in piloting the implementation of climate-smart forestry practices with the intention of improving forest health and productivity.

In May 2023, NEFF received a paradigm-shifting, $30 million Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities award from the USDA, and is now anchoring a five-year pilot project in New England to build a climate-smart, forest-based economy as a powerful tool for climate action.

NEFF’s Climate-Smart Commodities project funds climate-smart forestry incentives for forest practices that accelerate carbon storage for a pilot group of forest landowners on large commercial forests, smaller family woodlots and Tribal Nation woodlands.

NEFF has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting commercial forest landowners across New England to participate in the first round or Design Phase of the program. The Design Phase RFP defines large commercial landowners as those owning 10,000 or more acres, and solicits projects involving approximately 300-2,000 acres of land. Overall, this program will provide approximately $10.5 million in climate-smart forestry incentives on commercial forestlands across the region. These funds will be awarded based on three rounds of projects, with RFPs issued on the following approximate schedule, to be adjusted as needed: April 2024 for the Design Phase and then early in 2025 and 2026.

The goal of the Design Phase is to develop, test and refine the program, and this initial round will specifically help test NEFF’s approach to the design of our incentives for landowners; refine the climate-smart forest practices landowners will implement; and inform the measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification work needed to track and model carbon and ecological outcomes of the program.
NEFF’s Climate-Smart Commodities team intends for the first round of projects to address the following components of the incentive program, with participants selected in part for their willingness to participate in the Design Phase.

  • Forestry Practices and Forest Types: Landowners who demonstrate several of the qualifying forest practices across a range of forest types and stand conditions to maximize the information to be gained from this first round of projects.
  • Modeling: Landowners who will collaborate with NEFF and its partner organizations on designing, testing, and conducting relevant modeling work.
  • MMRV: Landowners with whom NEFF can develop and test the measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification systems needed to assess the carbon outcomes associated with the program.
  • Incentive Design: Landowners NEFF can involve in a collaborative process to design the incentive program, including cost per forest-management practice, contract design, and interface with loggers and foresters for incentive payments.
  • Incentives and Trainings for Loggers and Foresters: Landowners who support engagement of foresters and loggers trained and/or certified in applying climate-smart forest practices.

The NEFF team will use lessons learned from the Design Phase to shape the next two larger rounds of commercial climate-smart forestry incentives within our overall Climate-Smart Commodities project.

The other portions of NEFF’s landowner incentives program are also making progress. In Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, NEFF is now running its incentive program for family forest owners in partnership with American Forest Foundation through its Family Forest Carbon Program. NEFF will launch an incentive program for smaller-acreage forest landowners in southern New England in fall 2024, and the Tribal Nations incentive program has begun and will unfold through 2024.

Beyond incentives for landowners, NEFF’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities project includes several other key areas of work: Building market demand for climate-smart forest products, with a focus on mass timber construction; providing climate-smart forestry incentives and training to foresters and loggers; and monitoring, verification, and reporting to document and ensure the program’s additive carbon benefit.

The Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities pilot project is an important first step in accomplishing NEFF’s 30 Percent Solution, which aims to fully leverage New England’s forests in the fight against climate change by combining four forest-based climate solutions, including significantly expanding the use of NEFF’s own approach to climate-smart forestry, Exemplary Forestry. NEFF’s analysis suggests the 30 Percent Solution could pull enough CO2 from the atmosphere to provide 30 percent of the emissions reductions we need to meet the region’s net-zero goals.