Group: Forest Zone Would Slow Warming
The Forest Ecology Network proposes paying landowners to use specified forestry practices.
by Clarke Canfield, The Associated Press
February 18, 2009
PORTLAND Millions of acres of the state's woods would be designated as a special forest zone in order to draw more pollution from the air and slow the impact of climate change under a campaign proposed by a Maine environmental group.
Jonathan Carter, director of the Forest Ecology Network, said Tuesday that he hopes such a designation would be the first step toward a national effort to mitigate the effects of what he called the "climate disaster" of global warming.
The thrust of the plan is to encourage landowners to manage their forests in a way that would maximize how much carbon would be drawn out of the air to counteract the pollution emitted by power plants, vehicles and other sources, Carter said.
His proposal would use federal funds to pay landowners to manage their lands using specified forestry practices. Foresters recommend eliminating clear-cutting, using methods that don't cause erosion and chopping down old and dead trees.
"The climate catastrophe is upon us. The question is not whether we can stop it, but how to mitigate it and adapt to the inevitable change," Carter said at a news conference.
Maine is the nation's most heavily forested state. More than 17.7 million acres, or 90 percent of the state land base, are covered with trees, according to the Maine Forest Service.
Under the Forest Ecology Network's proposal, about 10.2 million acres would be put into what Carter is calling a designated "national carbon sequestration forest." Maine's woods, he said, could double their level of carbon storage, which would remove a huge amount of carbon from the atmosphere.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air as part of the photosynthesis process in making wood, Carter said. At the same time, the process helps reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere that is contributing to global warming, he said.
Carbon absorption rates can be affected by the age, health and density of the trees as well as soil conditions.
Besides helping the trees and easing climate change, the plan will also help the forestry industry by resulting in higher-quality timber and better forestry management, Carter said.
He has met with small woodlot owners, conservation groups, the Maine Forest Society and the state forester to discuss the plan. He plans to travel to Washington this month to talk about the plan with Maine's congressional delegation and other members of Congress.
Alec Giffen, head of the Maine Forest Service, said forest management can play a vital role in reducing greenhouse gases. But one big challenge, he said, is how to increase the amount of carbon that trees remove from the air while also maintaining the amount of timber harvested.
"It can be done, and we've done it before," Giffen said.
Carter has not presented his idea to the state's largest landowners yet, but said he wants to work with them.
A call to the Maine Forest Products Council, which represents Maine's largest landowners, wasn't immediately returned.