The Rural Forests Market Act is climate-friendly bipartisan legislation that helps small forest owners sell their carbon sequestration while helping to create thousands of jobs.
The Rural Forests Market Act is set to change the future for small, family-owned forests across the United States. These forests make up an astounding 36 percent of all forests in the country, and this bill may be just the relief needed to make these trees a vital part of a greener, sustainable and carbon-free future. Trees store carbon, making them an extraordinarily valuable resource in the move toward a sustainable future.
The bill was designed to remove barriers for small forest owners (landowners with between 20 and 1,000 acres of forest who often face high upfront costs to be paid for carbon sequestration) and make access to economic opportunities — most importantly carbon markets — easier. More and more large companies are looking for ways to offset their carbon emissions through green forest solutions. This bill will establish the Rural Forest Market Investment Program, which will provide federal loan guarantees up to $150 million. This type of loan guarantee will support current private investors that have banded together to finance smaller farmers, providing additional capital for new forestry jobs. The end result is more carbon stored in more trees.
Sponsored by U.S. Senators Mike Braun (Indiana), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Angus King (Maine), and Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), the bill is the latest legislation set in motion by the committee to support the recent Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees (REPLANT) Act. REPLANT is designed to help the Forest Service plant more than 1 billion trees in national forests, a goal that will create more than 49,000 jobs in the next decade. The 11 southern states (where large pine forests dominate private lands), as well the Congressional sponsors’ home states of Indiana, West Virginia, Maine, and Michigan, have large numbers of family foresters and are likely to see the significant economic impact if the legislation is passed.
“Big or small, our forests are an important part of addressing the climate crisis,” Senator Stabenow said. “For too long, there have been barriers that prevent family foresters from being able to take advantage of the economic benefits of the carbon reduction efforts they’ve been doing. Our bipartisan bill changes that by removing those barriers and ensuring that they can tap into new markets and be rewarded for their climate-smart practices.”
Senator Braun, a tree farmer by trade, considers the bill a huge win for all.
“I know sustainable forest management represents both a win for conservationists and all Americans,” he said. “It is a low-overhead climate solution that takes advantage of private investment to notch a win for small family foresters and the environment.”
The Rural Forests Market Act is a prime example of the new federal administration’s climate-friendly, bipartisan legislation. Designed to create economic opportunity as well, it is receiving swift, across-the-board support from non-profits, including the Nature Conservancy, the American Forest Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation, American Forests, and the American Forest and Paper Association. It’s a three-fold victory for the environment: it encourages forestland owners to draw carbon out of the air and store it in the trees; it creates new revenue streams for such landowners and it brings investment into smaller towns and rural regions by reducing financial risk.
“Family forests are a critical driver of local economies across the nation. Opening carbon markets to family forest owners will not only present a new income source, it will empower them to act on climate. This act will help drive the adoption of climate-friendly forest practices by small family landowners that will help boost investment in rural communities,” said the Nature Conservancy’s Josh Parrish, director of the organization’s American Forest Carbon Initiative. “We are grateful to the senators for working together to advance bipartisan legislation that will be good for America’s rural families, local economies, and the planet.”