Pursuing Sustainable Forestry Through Carbon

By Elizabeth Greener, Communications Director, American Forest Foundation, and Erin Gleason, Central Appalachian Director, American Forest Foundation

Since 2004, Pam Byrne and John Huerta have enjoyed retirement in the high altitudes of Elkins, West Virginia. Their 140-acre property provides access to their favorite hobbies and outdoor activities, from hiking and woodworking, to today, working to sustainably steward
their land.

Previously, parts of the property had ties to lumber and coal mining companies, with some of the stands being unsustainably harvested. Over the course of time, like much of the rest of West Virginia, invasive plants and thorny bushes, not to mention invasive pests, slowly began eating away at their natural landscape.

Without technical expertise, maintaining their mountainside became more than they could handle, full of uphill work. They wanted to encourage native species and for the property to be as healthy as possible—but realized they needed help to understand their woods and how best to improve it. They also knew they would need resources and manpower to complete any work as they were past their years of being able to handle the load alone.

They began to ask about options, wanting a program that supported the healthy growth of the trees on their property while also preserving the option for small harvests or thinnings in the future.

Luckily, Pam and John learned about the Family Forest Carbon Program.

The Family Forest Carbon Program is a new privately-led program, created by the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy to help landowners with small parcels care for their woods through active, sustainable management. Specifically, the program provides payments to implement forest practices that increase the carbon sequestered and stored on the land and the value of the trees over time. Enrollment includes expert consultation from a professional forester, a forest management plan customized to the landowner’s property, and support over the next two decades to transition to sustainable forestry.

To Pam and John, the program was a fit. While they already had a consulting forester, the Family Forest Carbon Program covered needed updates to their forest management plan. The annual payments—calculated based on the carbon sequestration rate of their woods—could be put towards new equipment and the work needed to combat the invasive species encroaching on their property.

Additionally, the Family Forest Carbon Program’s approach to improved forest management gave them the flexibility to continue pursuing their personal goals with woodworking while steadily improving the forests’ environmental quality over time.

In the long term, Pam and John hope to do their part to be good stewards. The history of Elkins, West Virginia is of rich wilderness and natural history. With the help of the Family Forest Carbon Program, the two are beginning a new trajectory for their land that will fulfill this tradition.

If you are a landowner with as little as 30 acres, or a forester with clients that would be a fit, find more information about enrollment at familyforestcarbon.org.