By Eric Tegethoff
Washington News Service
SEATTLE – The United States Department of Agriculture is offering assistance to woodland owners who want to improve the health of their forest lands.
The USDA is working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service or NRCS to help landowners in western Washington and Oregon assess the health of their plots and the viability of a carbon crediting program on their land.
District conservationist David Rose with the NRCS says the project is a great resource for landowners.
“In a lot of cases there’s a lot of folks that own private forest land and they honestly don’t know what to do with it,” says Rose. “And what this can do is to get some more information out there and these folks can find out that they can do plenty to manage their land.”
Landowners have until April 15 to apply for assistance.
The NRCS, in its second year of the five-year project, has nearly $2 million of funding available and is working closely with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation to provide assessments.
The project targets non-industrial private landowners. Rose says the 21,000 acres of private forest land in the two states is ideal for carbon sequestration, a process that helps offset the effects of burning fossil fuels.
Last year, Washington lawmakers rejected Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal for a carbon cap-and-trade program that would have made sequestering profitable.
However, Rose says forest landowners with a carbon-capturing plan already in place could still reap the benefits of a carbon market.
“There’s a lot of positives to be looked as we go through this,” says Rose. “And I think it could very well be the type of thing that opens up even more opportunities in the future.”
The program is available to private landowners in Cowlitz, Clark, King, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Mason, Kitsap and Grays Harbor counties.