Addressing Forests & Land Use

What actions are needed to preserve forests as a carbon sink?

Photos courtesy of David Hobson

Comprehensive state climate action should address forests and land use, which are important pieces of the region’s emissions profile.

The Northeast's forests remain at risk, despite the market decline

In the last five years, the region's forests have sequestered 10% of overall emissions on average. Roughly 25% of forest land in the region is publically owned or protected by easements.5 That means at least 75% of the current forest land cover, which provides a valuable carbon “sink,” remains unprotected and subject to development pressure. Recent declines in the housing markets temporarily relieved some of the pressure to develop forested land, but little has happened in recent years to reverse the fundamental economics that drive land conversion patterns.

The role of forest carbon should be included in the region's climate policy efforts

Recent reforms to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) provide potential incentives for securing the carbon benefits of our forests, but forest management and preservation needs to be included in more direct climate policy initiatives.  States must actively pursue policies that will ensure that Northeast forests continue to help offset emissions in other sectors and don’t become a net source of emissions.  These include: (1) finding new ways to pay for land bonds; (2) mandating environmental reviews of greenhouse gas emissions from development, including those from land conversion; (3) increasing regional and multi-county coordinated planning; and (4) assisting local planning officials to understand and reduce land conversion emissions. 

5 May be overestimated due to difficulty in determining what percentage of eased land is forested.