04.14.21

Stabenow, Braun Introduce New Bipartisan Bill to Help Family Foresters Develop Climate Solutions, Take Advantage of Economic Benefits

The Rural Forest Markets Act will address changing climate, create revenue for foresters, and invest in rural America

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced the bipartisan Rural Forest Markets Act to remove barriers for small-scale, family foresters and help them benefit from new economic opportunities through climate solutions like carbon markets. The bill is the latest bipartisan climate-smart forestry legislation to come out of the committee after the REPLANT Act was introduced last month.

“Big or small, our forests are an important part of addressing the climate crisis,” said Chairwoman Stabenow. "For too long, there have been barriers that prevent family foresters from being able to take advantage of the economic benefits of the carbon reduction efforts they’ve been doing. Our bipartisan bill changes that by removing those barriers and ensuring that they can tap into new markets and be rewarded for their climate-smart practices.”

“As a tree farmer myself, I know sustainable forest management represents both a win for conservationists and all Americans. I’m proud to join Chairwoman Stabenow to reintroduce the Rural Forests Markets Act because it’s a low overhead climate solution that takes advantage of private investment to notch a win for small family foresters and the environment,” said Senator Braun.

As companies increasingly express interest in offsetting their 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 have faced barriers 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 of 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 store 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 markets.
  • 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.

In addition to Senators Stabenow and Braun, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

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

“Family forest owners own the largest portion – 36 percent – of the forests in the U.S., making them a critical component to addressing climate change through natural climate solutions,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “Yet, they have thus far been misunderstood, undervalued or forgotten when it comes to how they can contribute. Carbon markets are a key mechanism that can ignite their participation in our climate fight but does so in a way that leverages private sector investment, bringing more dollars to rural America. We appreciate Senator Stabenow and Braun’s leadership on the Rural Forest Markets Act which will help catalyze more carbon projects, such as the Family Forest Carbon Program for family forest owners.”

"With one in four rural Americans owning forest lands, family forests are a critical driver of local economies across the nation," said Josh Parrish, director of the American Forest Carbon Initiative at The Nature Conservancy. "Opening carbon markets to family forest owners will not only present a new income source, it will empower them to act on climate. This act will help drive the adoption of climate-friendly forest practices by small family landowners that will help boost investment in rural communities. We are grateful to the senators for working together to advance bipartisan legislation that will be good for America's rural families, local economies and the planet."

“By ensuring forest owners are a part of national efforts to naturally sequester carbon, we can simultaneously meet our climate goals while also improving wildlife habitat and strengthening rural economies,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Chairwoman Stabenow and Senator Braun’s innovative, bipartisan bill is a testament to their dedication to advancing carbon markets and supporting natural climate solutions.”

“The National Wild Turkey Federation appreciates Senators Stabenow’s and Braun’s support for creating markets to benefit family forest owners,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation. “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.”

“The Rural Forest Markets Act would help unlock the private capital needed to increase the amount of carbon dioxide removed from our air and stored by family-owned forests, which together represent the largest forest ownership in the U.S. That would be a major win for the environment and rural economies,” said Jad Daley, President & CEO of American Forests. “Given the immense scale of family forest ownership across America, this represents a big step forward to realize the scientifically proven and untapped potential of nearly doubling natural carbon storage in U.S. forests and forest products and making a significant contribution toward stabilizing our climate through carbon dioxide removal. Investment in our nation’s family forests will yield benefits for communities and our climate for generations to come.”

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