In the August 7, 2017 file photo, Mount Katahdin is seen at dawn, just west of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, a site administered by the U.S. Interior Department near Patten, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

The Nature Conservancy in Maine has become the latest conservation group to announce its participation in what’s known as a carbon offset project to address climate change.

The project signals a long-term commitment to improve forest management with bigger trees on 125,000 acres along the St. John River. The trees essentially serve as storage for carbon.

Polluting companies that want to reduce emissions then purchase carbon offsets on a cap-and-trade market set up by the state of California and Canadian provinces. In return, the Nature Conservancy receives a portion of the revenue.

Forest Program Director Mark Berry says it’s too early to know how much will be generated.

“We may see the sales of offsets play out over the next ten years or more,” he says. “But we anticipate this putting our ownership of that large forest property on a much stronger financial footing and generating some significant revenues to support our work.”

Berry says other conservation-minded groups, including the Downeast Lakes Land Trust, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Appalachian Mountain Club are also participating in similar projects.

But he says there’s a bigger opportunity than carbon offsets to consider, and that’s the importance of Maine forests in tackling climate change.

“Our forests currently store a tremendous amount of carbon in the trees and in the soil, and what we do with our forests is at least as important and perhaps a good deal more important than what we do here in Maine with regard to emissions from energy use,” Berry says. “So the future of our forests will have a big impact on the future of our climate.”

Timber harvests will continue on the St. John holdings, but will be focused on improving stand structure and accelerating timber stocking. The expectation is that future harvest will be able to generate a higher number of sawtimber for a variety of forest projects.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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