Did you know AMC forestland in Maine is helping to combat climate change?
It’s doing so by naturally storing—or sequestering—atmospheric carbon, says David Publicover, AMC’s forest ecologist and assistant director of research. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Storing carbon in forests, which take up more carbon than they release, helps reduce those greenhouse gases.
Recognizing the conservation value of that natural process, AMC permanently set aside 10,000 acres of the Katahdin Iron Works (KIW) property as an ecological reserve—in other words, no timber harvesting. In return, AMC received what are known as verified carbon offset credits, not unlike rebates, which it sold to a third party, the Climate Trust, a nonprofit organization that specializes in carbon financing.
AMC uses the resulting carbon- offset revenue to help support its conservation work in Maine. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of its 2014 credits, for example, went toward the organization’s 2015 purchase of its 4,311-acre Baker Mountain property, an important conservation asset in its own right. Easements on that property ensure permanent protection of the land’s ecological value.
The sale represented more than 100,000 tons of atmospheric carbon reductions, or the equivalent of taking 21,000 gasoline-powered cars off the road.
More than a third of AMC’s 70,000 acres of AMC’s Maine Woods Initiative (MWI) conservation and recreation land is designated as ecological reserve land, off-limits to harvesting. Several thousand additional acres, including older forests, river and pond buffers, wetlands, and particularly scenic spots, also are managed as no-harvest zones. “In total, over half of AMC’s land base is managed as natural area, with high levels of carbon sequestration,” Publicover says.
He also notes that AMC is considering other carbon-offset projects on its MWI lands. A little less than half of AMC’s MWI acreage is open to timber harvesting, and this forestry is done with an eye toward combatting climate change. One of AMC’s timber management goals is the restoration of older forests, which have “higher levels of carbon storage than is found in commercial forest lands,” Publicover says. “AMC puts a priority on the recruitment and retention of late-successional structures, such as large, old trees and high levels of standing and down dead wood. Those components of the forest are important reservoirs for carbon storage”—and important tools in reducing global carbon emissions.
AMC’s harvesting practices, which have earned the coveted Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for sustainability, help maintain native species diversity, making the forest less susceptible to the impacts of climate change. In addition, AMC’s ecological reserve land covers a range of habitats, from river valleys to subalpine mountaintops, “providing ample opportunity for plant and animal species to adjust their local ranges as the climate changes,” Publicover says.
As part of the credit arrangement, AMC will monitor the KIW project area to ensure climate benefits are maintained for a century.