WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program has awarded $30 million to the New England Forestry Foundation and its partners to help forest landowners implement climate-smart forest practices that also protect ecosystem health and biodiversity.

The partnership includes more than 20 companies, organizations and institutions from across Maine and New England that represent forest-related industries and have climate interests at the forefront of their concerns. The proposal is also strongly supported by New England’s congressional delegation.

“This award creates game-changing incentives for improving forest health, increasing carbon storage, and growing climate-oriented economic development and investment,” said Robert Perschel, executive director of the New England Forestry Foundation, in the Sept. 14 announcement.

The accepted proposal identifies the following goals:

  • Climate-smart forestry incentives for practices that accelerate carbon storage in working forests for a pilot group of forest landowners on large commercial forests, smaller family woodlots and First Nation woodlands across all five New England states;
  • Market-building for climate-smart forest products, with a focus on mass timber construction; and
  • Monitoring, verification, and reporting to document and ensure additive carbon benefits.

“We’re deeply grateful to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for recognizing the enormous potential of New England’s private forestlands to deliver urgently needed carbon removal through nature-based solutions at a nationally significant scale,” added Andrea Colnes, NEFF deputy director and climate fellow.

The Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities award funds a pilot project that will implement and demonstrate the impact of climate-smart forestry on 100,000 acres, and the foundation will work to leverage this investment to bring climate-smart forestry to more than 10 million acres of working forestland across New England using public and private funding sources, according to the press release.

New England’s forests contribute more than $13 billion annually to local and regional economies, sustaining over 50,000 jobs in the woods, mills, and supporting services, the press release said.

Additional reactions to the announcement include:

John Hagan, president, Our Climate Common:

“NEFF’s proposal is the kind of thinking we need to address the climate crisis. It is the kind of solution that will build broad social support across rural America for solving the climate crisis. It will be a model that can be used anywhere in the United States.”

Dan Lamontagne, president and CEO, Seven Islands Land Co., Bangor:

“Sustainably managed private forestlands, in conjunction with strong forest products markets, are an important part of a comprehensive strategy to support the success of rural economies and mitigate the effects of climate change. We are excited to be a partner with NEFF in this effort to improve the legacy of climate friendly benefits our region’s forests provide to society.”

Kyle Burdick, vice president, Baskahegan Co., Brookton:

“Baskahegan believes that improved forest management can store more carbon by manufacturing durable wooden goods when substituting for materials with large carbon footprints. We believe this can be done while simultaneously increasing climate resiliency of our forests, improving forest health, reducing carbon losses even further. Forests MUST play a key role in addressing the climate crisis. It is not enough to recognize the climate values of forest management as it is today.”

Dana Doran, executive director, Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, Augusta:

“By expanding the number of Master Logger Certified companies and supporting curriculum designed to improve knowledge of Climate Smart Solutions, this grant is critical to our future forest economy and the rural Maine communities that depend on it.”

Jim Robbins Sr., Robbins Lumber, Searsmont:

“This USDA grant will give us in the state of Maine an opportunity to engage and educate landowners, including many small landowners, about proper forest management and increase proper silviculture on all landowners. Maine forests have always been hampered in their growth because of too much regeneration leading to way too many stems per acre. This grant will give us the chance to properly thin out the forests and hopefully find markets for these thinnings. The result will be much healthier forests which will store more carbon and produce more fiber for the mills and therefore creating more jobs.”

Chris Fife, public affairs manager-Northeast, Weyerhaeuser:

“Weyerhaeuser is excited about the potential for this grant to increase the quantity and quality of climate-smart timber through silvicultural interventions to store more carbon as well as help grow the economies of rural, economically distressed forest-dependent communities in the region.”

Project partners include landowners, foresters and loggers.

Participating producers

Seven Islands
Weyerhaeuser
Wagner Forest Management Ltd.
Baskahegan Land Co.
Robbins Lumber
Passamaquoddy Forestry Department
Mi’kmaq Nation
Dr. Daigle, UMaine liaison to Penobscot Mi’Kmac and Passamaquoddy Nations
The Nature Conservancy (Maine lands)
Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership
Massachusetts Tree Farm Program
Hull Forestlands L.P.
Heyes Family Forests LLC
Appalachian Mountain Club

Participating loggers and foresters

Professional Logging Contractors Maine
Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands
Professional foresters & loggers

Commodity markets

Spiritos Properties LLC (mass timber developer)
Leers Weinzapfel Associates (architects)
Quantified Ventures (finance)
WoodWorks (mass timber)

Monitoring, verification and reporting

University of Maine
Liaison to Maine’s First Nations, including Penobscot Nation, Passamaquoddy Tribe, Mi’Kmaq Nation, and Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
University of Maine Advanced Structures & Composites Center
Forest Policy & Economics – School of Forest Resources
School of Forest Resources and Climate Change Institute
Office of Innovation and Economic Development
American Forest Foundation – Family Forest Carbon Program
Spatial Informatics Group
Thomas Walker, resource economist
Eric Kingsley, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC

Supporting organizations

Forest Stewards Guild
Mass Audubon
Our Climate Common
Highstead Foundation
Massachusetts Forest Alliance
Connecticut Forest & Park Association