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Stabenow, Braun Introduce New Bipartisan Bill to Help Family Foresters Develop Climate Solutions, Access Economic Opportunity

The Rural Forests Markets Act will address changing climate, create revenue for small-scale foresters, and invest in rural America

WASHINGTON- Today, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources, introduced the bipartisan Rural Forests Markets Act to help small-scale, family foresters access new economic opportunities through climate solutions like carbon markets. This is the latest piece of bipartisan climate legislation from the Senators, who introduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act in June.

“Big or small, our forests are an important part of the solution to the climate crisis,” said Ranking Member Stabenow. "For too long, environmental market opportunities have been out of reach for many family foresters due to high upfront costs. Our bipartisan bill is a win-win for forest owners and the environment."

“As President Trump noted during his State of The Union Address, sustainable forest management represents both a win for conservationists and a great climate solution” said Senator Braun. “The Rural Forests Markets Act is a low overhead climate solution that takes advantage of private investment to notch a win for small family foresters and the environment.”

As companies increasingly express interest in offsetting their environmental footprint through carbon and other environmental markets, foresters are tapping into those opportunities and being financially rewarded for the voluntary, sustainable steps they’re taking in managing their land. However, small-scale and family-owned forests are often left out due to high upfront costs. These small, family-owned woodlands make up 36% of U.S. forests.  

The bipartisan Rural Forest Markets Act provides a federal loan guarantee to support innovative projects that help small forest owners address the warming climate and other environmental challenges by adopting sustainable land management practices. Project developers are already using private capital to band together small foresters, provide expertise, and offset the upfront financial costs producers face in participating in these innovative marketplaces. By establishing a federal loan guarantee to back these private investments, new capital and forestry jobs will flow to rural communities and landowners, all while improving the environment and storing more carbon in our forests. 

The Rural Forest Markets Act:

  • Establishes the Rural Forest Market Investment Program that offers guaranteed loans up to $150 million for nonprofits and companies to help small and family foresters create and sell forest credits for storing carbon or providing other environmental benefits.
  • Provides a climate solution by encouraging forestland owners to adopt voluntary land management practices that draw carbon out of the air and stores it in forests.
  • Creates new revenue streams for small-scale, family foresters by making it possible to generate innovative credits they can sell in established environmental marketplaces.
  • Brings investment into rural communities by reducing the financial risk to private investors who can contribute the upfront financing that makes these projects possible. 

The bill text is available here. A fact sheet is available here.

The bill is supported by over a dozen forestry, conservation, and sportsmen groups, including the Nature Conservancy, Hardwood Federation, American Forest Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, the National Wildlife Federation, American Forest and Paper Association, American Wood Council, American Forests, and more.

Josh Parrish, Director of the American Forest Carbon Initiative at the Nature Conservancy: “One in four rural Americans own forests and these family forests are integral to our rural economy. Carbon markets present a potential new income source for rural landowners but are largely off-limits to family forest owners due to the high cost of entering the market. Thanks to Senators Stabenow and Braun, the Rural Forests Markets Act would open carbon markets to family forest owners, giving them the opportunity to make an important contribution to mitigating climate change.”

Dana Lee Cole, Executive Director of the Hardwood Federation: “Private landowners are an important source of fiber for the hardwood industry. The Rural Forest Markets Act will strengthen and expand the supply chain for the future.” 

Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation: “Across the U.S., families and private individuals own the largest portion – 36% - of our forests, making them a critical component to tackling climate change and ensuring the vitality of our rural forests and communities. Yet these owners face significant barriers when it comes to being able to care for their forests, most notably cost. Markets, such as carbon markets, can help defray the cost of forest stewardship that might otherwise not be affordable to landowners, ultimately making a meaningful impact on the climate. The American Forest Foundation applauds Senator Stabenow and Senator Braun in helping open new markets for forest owners with the introduction of the Rural Forest Markets Act.”

Becky Humphries, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation: “The National Wild Turkey Federation appreciates Senators Stabenow’s and Braun’s support for creating markets to benefit family forest owners.  During my time as Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Senator Stabenow showed unwavering support for forestry practices that keep our forests healthy.  Providing a path for family forest owners to benefit from carbon markets will continue to ensure that forests remain forests.”

Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation: “America’s public and private forests provide essential wildlife habitat, protect healthy watersheds and clean drinking water, and serve as natural carbon-sinks. This innovative legislation from Senators Braun and Stabenow will empower rural forest owners to play a leading role in advancing natural climate solutions that sequester carbon and bolster resilience.”

Robert Glowinski, American Wood Council President & CEO: “Strong forest product markets encourage forest owners to reinvest in keeping their forests healthy. This bill will open markets that enable landowners to keep their lands forested, thereby contributing to carbon emissions reductions and avoiding encroachment of development. Additionally, there is growing recognition that using wood from responsibly managed forests is part of the carbon solution. One study found that substituting wood for other materials used in buildings and bridges could prevent 14 to 31 percent of global carbon emissions. Of the major building materials, only wood products are renewable and sequester carbon for the life of the buildings in which we live, work and learn.”

Jad Daley, President & CEO of American Forests: “The Rural Forest Markets Act would help unlock the private capital needed to increase the amount of carbon dioxide captured and stored by smaller, family-owned forests. That would be a win for the environment and rural economies. Given the immense scale of family forest ownership across America, this represents a big step forward to realize the scientifically-proven potential to nearly double natural carbon capture in U.S. forests and forest products, currently 15% of U.S carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.”