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TerraPass’ first forestry project

Although forestry-based carbon offsets have long been popular with consumers, TerraPass has never offered them. The idea of locking up carbon in trees makes sense — after all, 20% of the climate change problem comes from deforestation — but we were never able to find projects that met our quality guidelines. That has changed.

Before we introduce our first potential forestry project, it’s worth reviewing some of those guidelines:

* TerraPass will only sell carbon reductions that take place in the present, rather than years in the future, because you’re using them to offset emissions that are happening now.
* All TerraPass projects must be verified against credible third-party standards.
* All carbon reductions must be permanent.

The increasing interest in offsets means that there are more and more ways to reduce carbon emissions using rigorous offset protocols. TerraPass has always been an innovator among offset companies and we want to continue that role and support new project types as they emerge.

Many forestry projects involve tree-planting (needs no explanation) or avoided deforestation (paying people not to cut down trees). The Climate Action Reserve (CAR) recently developed an offset protocol that allows for “conservation-based forest management.” Put simply, this means that instead of the forest being harvested for timber according to practices that make the most money, the forest will now be managed in a way that achieves broad environmental gains — specifically, but not exclusively, carbon sequestration — while still allowing the landowner to harvest limited amounts of timber.

In a 2009 customer survey, 85% of our customers indicated that they “would like included” or “definitely want included” some kind of forestry project. Today we’re asking for your comments on our first such project. As always, no new project will be admitted to the portfolio until it has been through third-party validation, internal diligence, and our stakeholder comment period. This is something still unique among offset providers; we give our customers the opportunity to ask questions and make comments *before* we commit a project to our retail portfolio.

The McCloud River Forest project is located on approximately 9,200 acres near McCloud, California on the slopes of Mount Shasta. The property, which runs along eight miles of the famed McCloud River, supports a complex mixed conifer forest, aspen groves, rare mountain meadows, spawning streams for threatened trout, and abundant wildlife. The conservation plan was designed by the Pacific Forest Trust, a non-profit dedicated to sustaining America’s forests. Under the conservation plan, the landowners are managing the forest for both increased tree growth and for a range of other environmental benefits. These supplemental aims include maintaining and enhancing native species and forest composition, protecting rare and sensitive habitats for threatened species, and increasing stream buffers to benefit water quality and wildlife diversity. Read more about the project and let us know what you think.

A central concern with forestry projects is ensuring their permanence — you’ve made a reduction this year, but what if that tree is chopped or burned down in ten years? For McCloud River, we’ve made some further commitments to ensure that the benefits can’t be reversed. First, the company managing the project has reserved a percentage of offsets from the project to act as a buffer if damage occurs to a portion of the forest. Second, TerraPass will guarantee that if any reductions are reversed in the future and can’t be replaced by the buffer, we will replace them with equivalent offsets.

We’re also staying true to our other quality guidelines: CAR publishes some of the most respected and widely used offset standards in the voluntary market. Most importantly, we never sell offsets from far in the future. Due to improved management practices at the McCloud River Forest, the carbon reductions are happening *now*.

There are a lot of complex questions around forestry management, and we expect you to have a lot of feedback. Please read our project information report and then email any questions or comments to projects@terrapass.com. As always, we’ll make our responses available in a public report.

One final housekeeping note: as always, feel free to leave comments here on the blog. But if you want us to include your feedback and our response in our published report, please email it to us at projects@terrapass.com. Thanks!

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