Carbon Crediting – a Finance Tool for Land Trusts across the US

Why do land trusts matter?

Urban growth is projected to add close to 100 million acres of urban land to the United States by 2060.1 Much of that growth comes at the expense of natural areas and tree canopy – a 2018 study from the US Forest Service found that about 40% of new urban impervious cover (such as roads and buildings) came from areas that previously had trees.1 Forestland and open space at the urban/rural interface are under particular pressure from this rapid urban expansion. High levels of impervious surface are deleterious to human health and the environment, creating urban heat islands and increasing the risk of flooding.

Land trusts protect critical forestland at risk of development and reforest natural areas. As the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) notes, “Every piece of natural land that we protect means less carbon dioxide being pumped into the air we breathe, healthier soil for our crops, cleaner water from our taps, and more protected habitats for plants and wildlife.” There are currently 950 LTA-accredited land trusts that have together conserved over 61 million acres throughout the US.

Carbon Crediting can be a funding tool for land trusts

From Chattanooga to Pittsburgh, land trusts across the country are leveraging carbon crediting to protect urban forests. Over 340 acres of at-risk forests have been preserved through carbon crediting under the City Forest Credits (CFC) Tree Preservation Protocol by three LTA-accredited land conservancies, including the Alleghany Land Trust, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and Lookout Mountain Conservancy. By the end of this year, an additional 442 acres are expected to be preserved in six carbon projects led by three land trusts.

The CFC Tree Planting Protocol can also be used to credit reforestation and tree planting projects on urban lands or at the urban/rural gradient.

Want to find out more?

The following case studies profile land trust-led preservation carbon projects from start to finish, capturing the overall costs, level of effort, and benefits.

In addition, CFC joined Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Lookout Mountain Conservancy, and Finite Carbon at the LTA Rally Conference last month to lead a workshop on emerging carbon offset opportunities. The session slide deck is available on LTA’s website.

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  1. David J. Nowak, Eric J. Greenfield. Declining urban and community tree cover in the United StatesUrban Forestry & Urban Greening, 2018; 32: 32 DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2018.03.006