published : 2023-08-24

U.S. Invests $150 Million to Enable Small Forest Owners to Trade Carbon Credits

A novel federal grant program strived to aid owners of forestland, smaller than 2,500 acres, to monetize their environmental credits by interacting with interested corporations.

A drone shot of a huddled small forestland providing a high-angle view on the vibrant green canopy showing the density and extent of the forest. (Taken with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro)

The Biden government has resolved to invest $150 million to support small forestland owners in partnering with businesses willing to compensate them for carbon offsets, thereby trading environmental credits.

The announcement was publicized by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at a convention of Black landowners in coastal Georgia, pointing out that carbon offset programs, profiting large acreage proprietors till now, should also benefit small landowners.

Technical assistance, often challenging to find and afford, is crucial for these small, privately held forest owners to pursue their goals, according to Vilsack.

This grant, resultant of comprehensive climate legislation passed a year ago, is designated to aid underserved landowners, including veterans, fledgling farmers, and families owning up to 2,500 acres.

The objective here is to increase forest conservation across America to combat climate change, tapping into the growing market of environmental credits, wherein companies counterbalance their carbon emissions by supporting tree growth and conservation.

A close-up of a person's hand holding and examining a leaf, signifying forest inspection and care for nature. This could be Tom Vilsack or any other small forestland owner. (Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

For smaller family tract owners, selling carbon offsets opens up an alternative income source, over lumber harvesting or land selling to developers.

While corporations are committing billions of dollars to environmental credits, limited landowners often face challenging barriers, claims Rita Hite, head of the American Forest Foundation. Hurdles include technical ones such as forested property inventory, land management plans creation, and calculation of property's carbon value and financial ones.

To participate in these markets, previously, landowners were required to own at least 5,000 acres.

Efforts have been underway for four years by the American Forest Foundation and the Nature Conservancy to cover costs for family landowners desiring to sell their land's carbon offsets.

Nonprofits like these, along with state forestry agencies and university agricultural extension services, are eligible to apply for grants of up to $25 million under the Biden administration's program.

A picture of John Littles or similar representative standing in a cozy, naturally lit room, holding a blueprint or plan of land management, showing their engagement with the sustainable cause. (Taken with a Nikon D850)

These funds could be used to hire professionals who would aid landowners in land management plans and bridge the gap between landowners and corporations seeking environmental credits.

John Littles, spearheading the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Network, appreciates the grants, lamenting that people of color and owners of small acreages are often neglected in such programs.

Despite this, Littles remains apprehensive about the demand for the program and whether small acreage owners will gain enough from these conservation credits.

Rita Hite advises landowners of limited acreage not to expect substantial profits from selling environmental credits, mentioning that an average benefit of $10 per acre per year is common.

Though not a path to wealth, it could at least offset the taxes for the landowners.