Forest business opportunities can be climate solutions: Study
The new report suggests ways to diversify revenue for the industry
MADISON, Wis -- With a heavy emphasis on keeping “forests as forests” Wisconsin’s Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change Report contains a number of suggested routes to diversify revenue sources for the forest products industry. The value of forests in carbon retention and the need to preserve and grow Wisconsin forests were two main focuses of a main chapter of the report.
The report proposed an emphasis on a number of opportunities to diversify the revenue streams in the forest products sector. The report noted the long term trend of forest lands being divided into smaller tracts. Maintaining larger and more economically viable forest tracts is reinforced by less volatile long term economic opportunities.
Among the new and expanding business opportunities is the sale of carbon credits. To date, this has only been feasible for large forest landowners where auditing and monitoring can be done efficiently. But there are new programs being tested nationally in which smaller landowners are working with The Nature Conservancy and American Forests Foundation to sell credits together in a cooperative arrangement.
The Task Force report suggests that legislation may be necessary in Wisconsin to classify carbon as a forest product. This would allow carbon sales to be covered in forest management plans, according to Matt Dallman of the Nature Conservancy, who is Vice Chair of the Wisconsin Council on Forestry.
The Council on Forestry had submitted a July 31 letter to Governor Tony Evers with a number of suggestions for the report, including an emphasis on carbon sequestration. Among the benefits for the state from carrying out the suggestions would be “jobs, rural prosperity, water quality, wildlife habitat, and recreation,” according to the letter (from Tom Tittle of Steigerwaldt Land Services and Dr. Adena Rissman, Associate Professor of Forestry and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison (both members of the Council on Forestry).
That was among measures suggested in the report that would require either legislation or funding. So it was promising to see both a Republican and Democratic legislator on the task force: State Senator Mark Miller, (D) Monona, and State Representative Mike Kuglitsch (R), of New Berlin.
A priority goal of the report was to support “wood product utilization”. It suggested that the state prioritize “research, development, and commercialization of Wisconsin-grown mass timber, cross-laminated timber, biochar, and other innovative wood-based technologies to store carbon.” (Wood products used in construction have the potential to store carbon for the life of the building.)
Another emphasis was moving to increase Wisconsin tree populations through tree planting in rural areas and urban forestry. In rural areas it suggested “programs providing financial assistance (e.g., property tax incentives) for both public and private landowners to encourage underplanting in forest stands that are not fully stocked”.
The full text of the report can be found at: https://climatechange.wi.gov/Documents/Final%20Report/USCA-WisconsinTaskForceonClimateChange_20201207-LowRes.pdf
The Forestry section can be found on pages 86-91 of the report.