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Small Forests Big Potential

A unique project that empowers family forest owners to protect their woodlands for generations to come


In the U.S., forests occupy roughly one-third of land cover and serve as the nation’s largest terrestrial carbon sink, offsetting around 15% of the country’s annual emissions. However studies show these existing forests could store even more carbon if managed better. Families and individuals collectively own the largest portion of US forests; 1 in 4 rural Americans own between 20 and 1,000 acres. While many of these people want their land to remain as a forest in the future, few have the necessary income to do so. Nearly two-thirds of family forest owners have a household income of less than $100,000, meaning they struggle with the high cost of forest management and conservation.

United States
Improved Forest Management

Sustainable Development Goals

6. Clean Water and Sanitation

Cleaner drinking water

and flood control thanks to strengthened ecosystems

8. Decent work and economic growth

7,500 landowners

will benefit from sustainable income streams that promote forest protection

13. Climate Action

19.5 million tonnes of CO2e

mitigated until 2057 (expected)

15. Life on land

236,336 hectares

protected and sustainably managed

17. Partnerships for the goals

Enhanced cooperation

between local landowners, conservation groups and private sector organisations

The Solution

The American Forest Foundation, a U.S.-based conservation organization, and The Nature Conservancy launched the pioneering Family Forest Carbon Program to make it possible for family lands, deemed too small for traditional carbon projects, to participate in the carbon market. Across the country, the project will work with 7,500 landowners and almost 600,000 acres through to 2028. In order to measure the amount of carbon sequestered, the program has created an innovative methodology that uses regularly updated, observed baselines to compare 'business-as-usual' scenarios. This helps to precisely measure the changes occurring specifically due to the project, increasing confidence that the carbon savings are truly additional.


The Impact

This project is helping to unlock the full potential of carbon storage in American forests. It removes the barriers previously hindering landowners to sustainably manage and protect their forests by providing them with trusted tools and information, and new income streams so more carbon is sequestered in their forests. If just 20% of family landowners implemented sustainable practices on their land by 2030, they would sequester an additional 50 million metric tons a year!

Project ID: 303363
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