TerraPass’ first forestry project

Written by pete


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 [email protected]. 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 [email protected]. Thanks!

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  1. S. Robinson

    Please be aware that the current version of the CAR forest protocols allow widespread clearcutting (evenaged management) as well as conversion of natural forests and forest ecosystems to tree plantations. We all know that this is not right and there are efforts to highlight this issue and resolve it. However, for now, that is what the protocols allow. People seeking to purchase high quality carbon projects should be aware of those facts. And that this makes projects susceptible the credibility issues. Additionally forest owners can carve out one small area of their vast holdings and call them projects and get money while accelerating the clearcutting in the rest of their vast acreage. This makes the current protocols the current Ponzi scheme and worse yet doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions from clearcutting or save more carbon when we need it.

  2. TerraPass

    A quick reminder: by all means feel free to leave comments here on the blog, but please email them to us at [email protected] if you want to submit them as part of community review process. Otherwise, we have a hard time knowing what is meant as formal feedback.

  3. Keith

    What ever happened to the “additional” criteria for carbon offsets. Seems to me that conservation-based forestry management doesn’t add anything additional–the forests are already there, aren’t they? Please explain how this is any way additional.

  4. Angus

    A quick thank you to Mr Robinson, and another to Terrapass for asking & posting comments. I see no reason to doubt Mr Robinson’s assertions, and those suggest that this plan has little if any value. Clear cutting and mono-crop tree plantations are not progress- the greed-heads can manage that on their own. Please post and tell me this isn’t as bad as it looks, Adam.

  5. Adam Stein

    Hi Angus,
    Please read the project information report to learn about the extensive environmental benefits delivered by this project. Ms. Robinson’s comments were directed at the CAR forestry offset protocol; they were not about the McCloud project in particular.
    To be clear: McCloud is not a mono-crop plantation (it’s not a tree-planting project at all). McCloud is under a conservation easement that requires preservation of native species. And the CAR offset protocol itself requires preservation of native species.
    More generally, the Sierra Club, the Pacific Forest Trust, the California chapter of the NRDC, and other green groups have expressed their support for the CAR forestry protocol. Some other groups have expressed criticism. The issue, at root, is that the forestry offset protocol by definition deals with lands that are in private hands, usually being managed for profit. The goal of the protocol is to spur improvements beyond that status quo, and that necessarily entails dealing with the reality of current land management practices.
    But all that is just background. We feel that the McCloud project itself offers exceptional environmental benefits, including carbon reduction, habitat protection, wildlife diversity, improved water quality, and more.
    We will, of course, be providing a full response to all feedback at the end of the comment period. We thank people who have commented so far, and encourage others to read the project information report and send your thoughts to [email protected].

  6. Bryan

    Some things are unclear, even after reading the project info report. It sounds like the easement was in place before the property was sold. Wouldn’t the easement carry with the property? If so, wouldn’t the benefit of the carbon offset project represent the difference between the easement and the carbon offset management techniques (and not the difference between BAU and carbon offset)?

  7. TerraPass

    Clearly we’re going to have to work out a better system in the future, but for now another friendly reminder: if you would like a response to your feedback, please email it to us at [email protected]. Thank you!

  8. Anonymous

    Quibbling here, but your original post said:
    “A quick reminder: by all means feel free to leave comments here on the blog, but please email them to us at [email protected] if you want to submit them as part of community review process. Otherwise, we have a hard time knowing what is meant as formal feedback.”
    I don’t have a comment. I have a question. I wouldn’t consider commenting unless I were better informed (hence, my question). If the projects email is for questions as well as comments, I suggest you make it clear in your in your advisory. All the same, I’ll be happy to send my question via email.

  9. TerraPass

    If you have any feedback at all — questions, comments, or otherwise — that you would like to include in the public review process, please send us an email.