Management Practices and Policy Options
The forest products sector is Oregon’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions – and private forest management is particularly concerning. While improved federal lands management under the Northwest Forest Plan has yielded (though not maximized) climate benefits, private forestry practices continue to release massive amounts of carbon due to more intensive logging. Furthermore, many of the common practices that contribute to carbon emissions also destroy habitat for fish and wildlife, pollute water, reduce summer streamflow, and make cities and towns more vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire, all while failing to create economic opportunity in nearby communities.
Fortunately, the “climate-smart” management practices outlined in this white paper could make our state’s private forests a more significant net carbon sink. In other words, better practices would make private forests an asset, rather than a liability, in the race against the climate crisis. Climate-smart management practices also offer locally tangible benefits like support for biodiversity, better water quality and quantity, improved fire resilience, and greater public health and economic equity.
Existing efforts to make climate-smart forestry the norm in Oregon range from market-based approaches, like reinstating the severance tax, to broader and arguably more ambitious proposals that would create mechanisms for local communities to purchase private forest lands and manage them for public benefits. Three additional models that deserve attention and are explored in this white paper include: fees on industrial timber production, with proceeds invested in climate-smart forestry; climate easements that reward landowners who practice climate-smart forestry; and, the creation of community forest programs that provide local, family-sustaining jobs. These three models all have precedent in existing environmental programs including the Portland Clean Energy Fund, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) easement program, and Washington State’s numerous community forestry initiatives.
None of the policy options offered here are meant to replace stronger regulations on forest practices, which are greatly needed; rather, the options presented could provide additional climate, environmental, and societal benefits. Furthermore, the intersection of climate change with racial and social injustice demands climate policy measures that place equity and justice front and center. The options provided in this white paper are designed to provide priority benefits to disadvantaged and adversely impacted communities.
Read the white paper to learn more, and feel free to contact the author.
Author: John Seng