WHEN WE GO TO A FOREST to hike, bike or fish, it’s usually a forest that is owned by the government. But most forestland — 60% — in the United States is privately-owned, often by a family, company or nonprofit organization. And although those forests are usually off limits to the public, we benefit from them in other ways. Most notably, the trees and soil in them help slow climate change. If managed properly, privately-owned forests could capture and store 35% (up from 13%) of the carbon dioxide emissions needed for the U.S. to reach its 2030 emissions reduction goal.
But managing a forest well takes money, which many private forestland owners do not have. Money to collect seedlings for climate-resilient trees. Or money to buy the equipment needed to harvest wood in an environmentally friendly way. Lack of funding is the number one reason why private individuals and entities do not manage their forests in a way that will lead to capturing and storing a lot of carbon, according to the U.S. Forest Service and others.
One way to address the funding gap is to offer landowners a tax credit, similar to the credit for doing renewable energy projects, like installing solar panels and wind turbines. Renewable energy production in the U.S. doubled between 2005 and 2015, largely because of that tax credit.
A tax credit for private forestland owners is included in the Growing Climate Solutions Act, passed by the Senate in June. It also is part of the agriculture and forestry strategy being created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in part because it would help the 21 million private forestland owners, including Black family farmers and others, who have been underserved by the agency’s programs.
American Forests offered technical expertise to those creating the legislation and strategy, as we believe in the tremendous power of nature to help slow climate change.