Maine Forests: A Natural Climate Solution

Some climate solutions are simpler than we imagine. For example, keeping forests as forests! Last month, we welcomed Karin Tilberg, President and CEO of the Forest Society of Maine, to learn about the powerful role of Maine’s forests in mitigating climate change.

Trees sequester carbon dioxide, storing carbon in their wood and in the forest soil. The term ‘carbon sequestration’ refers to the process of taking up carbon and storing it — in this case, by trees. This prevents carbon gasses from moving up into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

Photo credit: Jake Metzler

A key aspect in Maine achieving carbon neutrality by 2045? Maintaining our forests! Currently, Maine loses 10,000 acres of natural lands every year. That number is expected to increase as Maine becomes increasingly attractive in a warming world. Data on real estate transactions shows that development pressure around the edges of forested landscapes and in gateway communities to the North Woods is growing.

Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s climate action plan, aspires to increase the amount of conserved land in the state to 30% by 2030 (referred to as 30 by 30). In 2022, Maine was at 22%. Around 50,000 acres were conserved annually in 2021 and 2022, but we need to accelerate the rate of conservation to achieve 30% by 2030.

Efforts are underway to develop programs to incentivize timber management practices that increase carbon storage, especially by small woodlot owners. Maine has a lot of small woodlot owners, especially in the southern half of the state. The goal is to prevent conversion of forestland to other uses by making forest management for carbon sequestration accessible and cost-effective.

To learn more about carbon sequestration, carbon off-set programs, and more, we encourage you to watch the recorded webinar ‘Maine Forests: A Natural Climate Solution’ with Karin Tilberg.

For more information about carbon sequestration, see the Maine Forest Carbon Task Force Report and Healthy Forests for our Future.

The Forest Society of Maine (FSM) is a statewide land trust established in 1984 to conserve Maine’s forestlands to sustain the economic, ecological, cultural and recreational values of the Maine Woods. It has conserved over one million acres of forestland — most located in the uniquely intact forested landscape of Maine’s North Woods. Conservation easements are FSM’s primary conservation tool.

This webinar was part of the monthly CREA speaker series.

Karin Tilberg President/CEO of The Forest Society of Maine (Photo Credit: The Forest Society of Maine)

How was the MOFGA Forest Management Event with Steve Pelletier?

By Nick Whatley, BTLT Board Member

On September 14, a group of 25 folks gathered at Crystal Spring Farm for a forest walk with MOFGA and BTLT to discuss forest management strategies with added emphasis on carbon storage and sequestration. Our guide was Steve Pelletier, a seasoned ecologist and license forester, who shared his perspective grown from a lifetime of forest ecology management. He gave us all plenty to think about when it comes to carbon, and the key takeaway when creating a forest management plan is that the answer always starts with “it depends”. When considering management strategies it is important to recognize at the start that we are entering an already existing system and must establish a clear understanding of our goals before making decisions that will affect the forest. At Crystal Spring Farm, we have the existing goals of recreational trail use, forest ecosystem health, and control of invasives. With the acute awareness that many of us now have of the climate crisis and the necessity of taking effective action, forest carbon storage and sequestration has come to the forefront of forest management goals.

So how can we balance these goals?

Steve showed us a little bit about how to read a forest by asking lots of questions. What kind of trees are growing? Is the canopy overly dense or just right? What does the understory look like? What creatures are living there? Are there cavity trees that are providing shelter for birds? Are there older less healthy trees that can be removed in order to release younger trees below? What, if any, is the commercial value of trees that may be cut? In many cases, Steve pointed out that a tree may have more value decomposing on the forest floor or left standing both to soil health and wildlife habitat.

Steve also explained carbon sequestration in the forest. There is a finite amount of sunlight in any given area that can contribute to photosynthesis. Plants convert sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to sugars that feed the tree and flow through to the root system and soil as well. The healthier this system is, the better the result. In short, carbon sequestration is the removal of CO2 from the air and the storage takes place as plant tissue (wood) and soil hummus. Forests are already providing this important “service” and perhaps we can contribute to greater carbon sequestration with improved management plans.

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