- Keeping Maine's Forests
Maine’s Implementation Committee of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) has collaborated with Keeping Maine’s Forests (KMF) to study Maine’s SFI‐certified landowners’ participation in carbon credit programs. Forestlands must be certified as sustainably managed to be eligible for the California carbon credit market, and millions of acres of Maine’s commercial forest lands are enrolled in the SFI program, yet none have enrolled in potentially lucrative carbon credit programs. The KMF study enlists the expertise of a panel of advisors from the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, Maine land managers and forestry experts, and a professional carbon project developer to find out why.
Maine forest landowners are growing more wood than they harvest, and the carbon in the state’s forests has increased in volume by almost 5% from 2004 to 2012.1 Over eight million acres in Maine is managed according to the sustainability standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc. (SFI), and/or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), or the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) — a key eligibility criterion for carbon credit programs. Yet, none of the 6.3 million acres of SFI‐certified lands in Maine are enrolled in a carbon credit program — not for lack of interest, because all of Maine’s SFI participants have considered carbon credits. Maine landowners who participate in other certification programs or adhere to a sustainable long‐term management plan approved by a state or federal agency have enrolled tens of thousands of acres in carbon agreements worth millions of dollars.
This paper examines the degree to which forests managed to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s (SFI) standards in Maine are enrolled in carbon credit programs; analyzes the opportunities and constraints these programs represent for landowners; and examines the strengths and weaknesses of different landowner types when considering enrolling land in a carbon credit program. The study examines the value that sustainability certification adds to the process of obtaining carbon credits, and how changes to the protocol for obtaining carbon credits might enhance the incentives to enroll land.