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Task Force Eyes Carbon Sequestration Potential Of Maine's Forests

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press file
In this Aug. 7, 2017 file photo, the full moon sets behind Hunt Mountain on a privately owned tract of land surrounded by land that now comprises the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument near Patten, Maine.

A new state task force will convene for the first time on Friday to look for ways that the state’s 86,000 woodland owners can help the state meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.

“There’s a keen interest for sure among landowners, in carbon. And I get a lot of calls from people — from smaller owners — that say ‘Gee, I’ve got a small parcel of land. I know there’s carbon in my trees, how do I participate?’” says Tom Doak, executive director of the Maine Woodland Owners Association, who was appointed to the task force by Gov. Janet Mills.

Doak says efforts to preserve forestland, including working forest, would get a boost if small- and medium-size land owners could benefit from carbon market programs, under which landowners are compensated for retaining a certain level of carbon locked away inside the trees, and cut lumber.

But so far, Doak says, those programs have proven cost-prohibitive for small property owners. And he says other solutions should be sought as well.

“Are there incentives that could lead landowners to doing certain practices that would benefit the climate and sequester more carbon without having to be in a carbon market?” he says.

Maine is the most heavily forested state in the nation, with trees growing over almost 90% of it.

According to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the state’s forests sequester an amount of carbon equivalent to 60% of the its annual carbon emissions, and about a third of that total forestland is held in small acreage lots.

The task force is required to make recommendations to Mills by September.