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NEFF and Partners Apply for Game-Changing USDA Grant

Jul. 20, 2022
New England Forestry Foundation

Cutting carbon from our electricity and transportation sectors gets lots of attention, but protecting and growing natural carbon storage must play just as big a role in America’s climate plans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has prioritized this approach, and its Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program has created a $1 billion grant process to help forest landowners, farmers and ranchers implement carbon-storing practices.

The New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) has conducted research and modeling that shows applying Exemplary Forestry across much of New England and building with mass timber would achieve 30 Percent of the region’s 2050 carbon reduction goals while improving wildlife habitat, protecting air and water quality, and supporting forest recreation. The USDA program feels like a perfect fit for NEFF’s climate work, and so earlier this year, NEFF convened and coordinated a large group of impressive and interested partners, and together, submitted a $38 million proposal to USDA.

What Would the Grant Include?

If the USDA accepts NEFF’s proposal, funding would go to:

  1. Climate-smart forestry incentives for practices that accelerate carbon storage in working forests and products, achieved by a pilot group of forest landowners, on large commercial forests and First Nations woodlands primarily located in Maine, as well as smaller privately-owned woodlands across New England in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. This includes:
    • Direct payments to landowners, foresters, and loggers to implement heretofore uneconomic forest management practices that increase carbon storage in the forest and forest products, relative to Business as Usual
    • Training for foresters and loggers on implementing climate-smart practices on the ground
    • Expanded outreach to engage small private landowners
  2. Monitoring, verification, and reporting to document the carbon benefits of these practices once they’re in use
  3. Market-building for climate-smart forest products, i.e. mass timber construction

The USDA proposal process is ongoing and we expect to hear a decision in fall 2022.

Building Partnerships

NEFF is coordinating a partnership of more than 20 companies, organizations, and institutions that represent forestland owners, foresters, loggers, forest products manufacturers, mass timber developers, climate interests, universities, and financing partners. Foremost are those who own, manage, and sustainably harvest the forest—the producers who will implement climate-smart practices on the ground—including large commercial landowners, small woodlot owners, First Nations landowners, logging operators, and foresters.

To quantify, model, and track the resulting carbon benefits, the partnership includes academic research institutions, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses and consultancies that specialize in the relevant applied technical analyses. Green finance partners will develop innovative financing mechanisms to help scale the practices and products piloted through this program. At the far end of the supply chain, the partnership includes for-profit businesses that represent the end users of climate-smart forest products, including high-value wood for mass timber construction. In addition to committed project partners, we have invited a wider group of individuals and organizations to join an expert advisory panel that will help guide the project and evaluate its success.

Top image: NEFF’s Holmes Stream Community Forest, a working forest, photo by Michael Perlman