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A Q&A With AFF’s New Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, Michael Reed

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) is excited to welcome Michael Reed as the new Vice President of Policy. Before coming to AFF, Michael served as the Chief of Staff to Congressman Sanford D. Bishop (D-GA). With nearly 20 years of experience working for an appropriator specializing in agriculture and rural development issues, Michael comes to AFF ready to continue positioning AFF’s policy team as a leader on key forest policy issues.

We sat down with Michael to learn more about what he’s looking forward to in his new role at AFF. 

Favorite Tree—White Dogwood

Favorite Forest Activity— Walk in the woods

Favorite Wildlife Critter— Owl

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Determining a True Carbon Benefit Part 3: From Intention to Action

“I want my woods to be healthy.”

“I want to create better habitat for wildlife.”

“I want to pass on this land to my children and grandchildren.” 

Ask a family forest owner what drives them to own land and these are some of the most common phrases you will hear. But what do these desires have to do with measuring and calculating the carbon benefit of a forest carbon project? More than a ton, to say the least.

A forest carbon project pays forest owners to increase the carbon sequestered and stored in their forest. The project must measure the carbon impact before they are able to sell this carbon to companies in the form of verified carbon credits. 

To do this means measuring additionality or “Is the carbon generated from a forest carbon project because of the project or would it have happened absent the particular project or intervention?” 

To answer this question, most look to intention: Did the landowner intend to capture carbon in his/her trees regardless? While intention does play a role, it is often misinterpreted by those unfamiliar with the needs and behaviors of forest owners. 

Rather, to create a true carbon impact, a forest carbon project should factor intention into program design, yet measure real-life behavior. 

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Announcing the 2021 Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

Across the U.S, a dedicated group of 70,000 family forest owners are caring for their land –  improving wildlife habitat, lowering risk of catastrophic wildfires, protecting clean water, increasing carbon sequestration, and fostering their own connections to the land. These are the members of the American Tree Farm System, a nearly 80-year old program that  represents the largest, most engaged network of landowners  managing 19 million acres of forestland, meeting a rigorous set of sustainability standards. 

Each year, ATFS, which falls under the American Forest Foundation, celebrates the work being done by ATFS-certified landowners with the Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year (OTFY) award. This award recognizes landowners that have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to caring for their forests and leadership in educating communities about the importance of conservation on family-owned forests. 

Like many other organizations, AFF and ATFS had to adapt to the challenges of the global pandemic. The health and safety of our Tree Farmers and OTFY selection committee is the number one concern. After having identified eight regional Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year finalists early in 2020, for everyone’s safety we elected to defer the selection process to 2021. 

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Celebrating Women’s Equality Day with the Women of AFF

Historically viewed as a male-dominated field, the forest sector has faced challenges when it comes to increasing gender diversity, ironically due to the lack of representation in the field. Yet data indicates that more and more women are becoming responsible for managing their family’s land. It’s important that women landowners feel that they are being represented in the field and are provided with the resources and support they need to succeed.

On Women’s Equality Day, AFF recognizes the challenges that women have overcome and acknowledges the challenges that women continue to face in order to create a more equal society where the accomplishments of women are recognized and celebrated. 

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Family-Owned Forests and Carbon

Some of the most effective solutions to addressing our climate challenges lie in our existing land and forests. Forests have the potential to store even more carbon than they do today through sustainable forest management, which has been proven to play a significant role in sequestering more carbon.

In the U.S., the greatest opportunity to do this is in partnership family forest owners, who own the largest portion – 36% – of all forests.

Forest owners values align with the needs of our climate and environment – they care about their land and its future. But the majority of landowners struggle with the cost of forest management and conservation. Adding to this, the majority of family forest owners, those owning between 20 and 1,000 acres, have been left out of carbon markets – revenue streams that could help them overcome these costs.

To address this, the American Forest Foundation (AFF), with it’s partner The Nature Conservancy have launched the Family Forest Carbon Program, a new program that empowers America’s family forest owners to address climate change.

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Loan Guarantees to Help Scale Carbon Projects for Small Forest Holders

Capitol Hill has been buzzing with conversations, hearings, and round tables on how rural America can help address climate change. One such opportunity is via carbon markets for small forest holders.

Across the U.S., the largest portion of forests are owned by families and individuals in small parcels between 20 and 1,000 acres. For these small forest owners, carbon markets provide a voluntary avenue for action, rather than a regulatory approach. And, like timber markets, signal the value in keeping their forests as forests.

More importantly, carbon markets help landowners overcome cost barriers, allowing them to bring in income from their land that helps them implement improved management practices that they would normally not be able to afford.

The good news is that carbon markets are growing. Mark Carney, chief of the private sector Taskforce for Scaling Carbon Markets, has pointed out that voluntary carbon markets will need to scale 15-fold to meet growing demand fueled by net-zero pledges made by companies. This demand and the dollars associated with carbon credits could be channeled to family and individual forest owners.

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Launching an Innovative Collaboration Between Landowners and Consumers for Climate Change

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) and IvyCo, a financial technology startup, are launching an innovative collaboration to fight climate change by bringing together family forest owners and individual consumers through the Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP). This Program was co-created by AFF and The Nature Conservancy to bring together rural family forest owners and companies to address climate change. Together, IvyCo and the FFCP are working to address challenges in scaling the voluntary carbon markets to increase the potential of family forests as a critical natural climate solution.

IvyCo creates products to empower individuals to fight climate change with their everyday purchases. By connecting to an individual’s bank accounts through secure Open Banking technology, IvyCo analyzes spending patterns to help users understand their largest areas of climate impact. More than just educating about carbon intensive spending, IvyCo lets users round up their spare change to fund decarbonization efforts, including the FFCP. These micro-transaction round ups lead to a significant impact over time—every $11 raised for the FFCP leads to improved management of an acre of family-owned forests.

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Expanding Your Options to Make a Gift of Conservation

Have you ever been stumped on what to get the forest enthusiast in your life for their birthday or for an important milestone or celebration in their life? Do you feel like your employee recognition programs at work fail to have a lasting impact or inspire you to think to think about how you contribute to something larger than yourself? When someone you care about passes away, have you hoped you could send an immediate E-card to their loved ones and ensure that something tangible and meaningful was being done to remember them? Over the past year, the American Forest Foundation has begun working on solutions to these challenges – both from working with individual donors and in partnering with an increasing number of companies to help meet their sustainability and workplace recognition needs.

RECOGNIZE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE WITH A GIFT OF CONSERVATION

Currently, you can make a tribute or memorial gift in honor of someone you care about through the AFF website and a letter will be sent to the person informing them that a gift has been made in their honor. However, by early fall, you will be able to not only make an online gift, you will also be able to choose the option of purchasing an e-card as well as other opportunities where you can recognize the most important people in your life with a gift that will ensure the sustainability of America’s family-owned forests!

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Determining a True Carbon Benefit – Part 2: Baselines

Recently we dove into the complex, yet critically important concept of additionality to a forest carbon project. 

Ensuring additionality is essential to providing a credible and transparent climate benefit from our program.

Additionality asks, “Is the carbon generated from a forest carbon project because of the project or would it have happened absent the particular project or intervention?”  If it would have happened, regardless of the project, then the carbon is not additional – it is coincidental.  If, on the other hand, the carbon generated would not have happened but for the existence of the program, then the impact is indeed additional.

However, in a dynamic, complex system like forests, additionality is more than a yes or no question. What forest carbon projects must be able to do is to calculate how much of the carbon benefit is additional.  

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Q&A with Kedren Dillard, SFLR Landowner, ATFS-Certified Tree Farmer and AFF Board Member

As a forest landowner, Kedren Dillard and her family have spent decades working on improving and maintaining the land that has been in their family for generations. This deep connection between the land and her family has created an emotional connection that fuels the passion that Kedren and her family have to do right by the land. 

On that journey, they have had to overcome challenges to keep their forests as forests. One such challenge being heirs’ property-a property that is passed to family members by inheritance, usually without a will, or without an estate planning strategy resulting in a lack of clear ownership of the land. It has been estimated that nearly 80% of Black-owned farmland was lost between 1969 and 2001. 

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