GMF Works Toward the Future with Carbon Offsets
Great Mountain Forest’s recent participation in a carbon offset credit program is one piece of our working forest’s strategy that also encompasses income from our more traditional forest products, such as timber, witch hazel, and maple syrup.
Carbon Credits and Sequestration
Carbon credits are created when landowners receive credits with a financial value for trees—and carbon—left in the ground. This is called carbon sequestration, which is a valuable ecosystem service. Various forms of carbon are stored in the biomass of both living and dead tree trunks and branches, leaves, roots, soil, and other organic matter on the forest floor. High-quality forest products that are used for housing, boats, furniture, and musical instruments also store carbon over their useful life.
The Forest’s ability to keep carbon safely in the ground means that it won’t convert to carbon dioxide (CO2), a notable greenhouse gas. A greenhouse gas (GHG) absorbs and radiates heat back to the earth, causing the greenhouse effect.
Working with reputable environmental partner Bluesource, the GMF board and staff have ensured the forest meets all criteria to participate in a compliance carbon credit program and ensure active sustainable maintenance of the forest.
GMF’s carbon offset collaboration with the State of California (a state that has compliance carbon caps for businesses and industries) and The Climate Trust is estimated to generate 360,000 carbon offset credits over the next decade.
History of Carbon Offset Credits
Carbon credits for forests have their roots in the Kyoto Protocol in the late 1990’s. While that agreement didn’t gain the international consensus about climate change that it sought, it did call for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. That call has been answered over time by both governments and organizations around the world.
Fast forward, and a new currency in carbon has been established, known as carbon credits, which involve voluntary and compliance agreements to reduce the spewing of carbon in the atmosphere by industries, business entities, and countries.
Organizations and countries set limits on how much carbon they are permitted to produce in a given time frame.
These limits gave rise to cap and trade relationships between those whose carbon exceeded their legal pre-set limit (cap) and those who generated or released less carbon than their limit. These parties can sell their carbon remainder (trade). This allows the carbon over-producer to work toward a net-zero carbon emission level and achieve carbon neutrality.
Those who buy offsets in the form of carbon credits are meant to use them as a transitional tool as they develop the capacity to reduce their own carbon footprint over time and stay within their cap.
Selling carbon credits furthers GMF’s work in stewarding its trees and their carbon-storing capacity and allows it to contribute to comprehensive efforts to reduce GHGs. It allows GMF to answer a larger call to use our natural capital to reduce the planet’s carbon footprint.
Sustainable Forest Products
South of the Yale Camp, flanking the Chattleton Road, grows one of GMF’s more storied forest products—witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). One can identify the witch hazel shrub by its grey meandering branches and the surprising autumn bloom of its yellow tendrilled flowers—think of forsythia on a bad hair day. These flowers and the shrub’s seed pods appear after the leaves have fallen, making witch hazel all the more mysterious and dramatic.
Witch hazel is known for its medicinal qualities that Native peoples harnessed for their own use. These included easing sore muscles, treating wounds, and brewing a medicinal tea. The shrub contains flavonoids and tannins that are astringent and help stop bleeding.
Its name has less to do with black magic than its branches’ flexibility. The word “witch” derives its meaning from Middle English for wych or wyche, meaning pliant or flexible. It is thought that Mohegans showed English settlers how to use its Y-shaped branches for “dowsing,” which is the ability to find water underground, also called water witching.
Since 2002, GMF has harvested its annually certified organic witch hazel. GMF contracts with second-generation witch hazel harvester Eugene Buyak to chop the shrub the old-fashioned way—with an ax.
Rotating around the prolific witch hazel stands, which need a minimum of 10 years to regrow, Buyak harvests over a hundred tons of witch hazel each season. He chips the branches and stems in a specialized chipper and sells them to American Distilling, owner of Dickinson Brands.
T.N. Dickinson’s and Dickinson’s Original labels have been familiar sights in medicine cabinets since the late 1800s. They produce most of the distilled witch hazel in the U.S.
GMF’s witch hazel reaches consumers worldwide and is also a key ingredient in countless other cosmetics, skincare products, and over-the-counter medications.
Sustainable Forest Management
The thinning of a forest stand requires the removal of suppressed and diseased trees to provide growing space for better quality trees.
Harvest cuts require the removal of mature trees to promote the establishment of a new generation of trees and increase the diversity within a forested area.
Wildlife Habitat Improvement
Wildlife habitat improvement cuts help enhance an area to meet the biological needs of a wildlife species, such as food, cover and breeding grounds.