Climate Change


Forest Values / Carbon Markets Conference LogoIn February 2009, Blandin Foundation’s Vital Forests / Vital Communities Initiative hosted a conference, Forest Values and Carbon Markets: Opportunities for Minnesota.

One outcome of the conference was a webinar that drilled deeper into the implications of carbon markets for forests and forest practices in Minnesota.

With the technical assistance of U of M Extension Educator Eli Sagor, the webinar was delivered on April 8, 2009, and is presented here in four segments:

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Conference presenters Mark Seeley and Lee Frelich of the University of Minnesota recently sat in front of Eli Sagor’s camera to answer the half dozen climate change Speak UP! questions from the Feb. 2009 Forest Values and Carbon Markets conference.

The video runs just over 7 minutes.

During the productivity tour of Finland last fall, we had the chance to visit Metla, the Finnish Forest Research Institute. Not surprisingly, they too are grappling with climate change, its impact on forests, and how new opportunities that might arise amidst changing climatic conditions. I encourage you to check out a great article, Boreal ecosystems, forest research and climate change, on Metla’s new online bulletin.

fvcm_logoEarlier this week I shared some reflections on the Forest Values & Carbon Markets conference held last week in partnership with over 30 organizations who have signed up for the “Next Million Acre” goal of increasing by one million the number of acres of family forest land under sustainable management. Here’s an update on next steps:

  • The conference web page has been updated with all of the PowerPoint presentations and reports, including the Manomet report.
  • We are planning a series of on-line activities to advance the dialog and discussion begun at the conference. We were energized by the participants’ smart and sparky questions – especially about the implications of carbon markets for forest management. These activities are likely to include a webinar, as well as presenters’ written and video responses to audience questions. Watch this space for details. In the meantime, you might be interested in seeing the aggregated list of QUESTIONS submitted.
  • A final summative report of the event, including the real-time audience opinion questions we asked and answered during the day, is being prepared. We’ll make that available just as soon as possible.
  • Photos from the conference, including the field tour, are available on our website.
  • And speaking of the field tour, here’s a link to Eli’s blog post, Silviculture and Carbon in the Cloquet Woods.
  • Yesterday, MPR aired a detailed report by Stephanie Hamphill, who attended the conference, about forest management and carbon trading. Check it out!

fvcm conference logoI made it home safely from Cloquet, after we decided to adjourn the Forest Values/Carbon Markets conference a bit early, on account of the weather. Once I heard I-94W had been closed, I thought ‘Safety First’ was a good idea.

On the drive back to Grand Rapids, my colleague Matt Rezac and I listened to the radio report on the heavy snowfall expected in St. Paul through the night. MPR’s Tom Crann was describing a “singularity” that had taken place somewhere in southern Minnesota of the kind Lee Frelich talked about as an example of global climate change: a lightening -laced snowstorm that split a tree and smoke-stained a house. Luckily, no one was injured.

The only conference-related injury that I know about was reported by Bob Krepp. Bob, as Sec/Treasurer of the Great Lakes Forestry Alliance, had graciously agreed to fill in for Stefan Bergmann on the Respondent Panel at the aborted final Speak Up! session. As he left, Bob told me, “I’ve got a head ache. Literally. I came here thinking I knew more than I think I know now.”

Cheryl Miller, Project Coordinator for the MN Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration Initiative introduced herself to me as we were packing up. I’m so glad she did, because though I knew her by reputation, we had never met. Cheryl said she thought that what we all needed next was a 2-3 day regional conference for deep discussion of the whole set of issues around global climate change – policy, science, forest management, economics.

Potential regional partners might include the Midwest Governor’s Association or the GLFA. When I mentioned this idea to Mike Kilgore, he recalled a similar effort involving Canadian colleagues, some 7-8 years ago. The participants of the Seeing the Forest AND the Trees study tour met colleagues in Thunder Bay who might be interested.

A couple of people caught my ear to say they wished the discussion of the role of human activity in global warming had been more objective. They pointed out that the Society of American Foresters’ position statement on global warming omits any reference to human agency, and they didn’t think such a statement would pass muster with the membership.

While I thought Dean Current’s panel with Lee Frelich and Mark Seeley had entertained quite a thorough and thoughtful discussion of the question, these folks’ comments were a good reminder that differences of opinion persist. And as Jim Bowyer emphasized in his question to the panel, how one understands climate change has implications for what we focus on going ahead – reducing emissions or helping our own and other species adapt.

On the science front, my personal favorite new fun-fact-to-know-and-tell from the conference was Lee Frelich’s story about the abundant White Pine seedling “Class of 1992” that sprouted so prolifically in southern Minnesota that cold summer following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

Mark Jacobs, Mike Kilgore and I shook our heads over the apparent forced choice the Manomet Center’s Minnesota North Woods Carbon Partnership case study presents forest managers contemplating participation in carbon off-set markets: manage either for carbon credits or fiber. How can that choice be squared with interest in increasing productivity (understood in quantitative and qualitative terms across a full range of benefits)?

Katie Fernholz told me she doesn’t think it’s productive to focus on whether or not we like cap-and-trade or off-set markets. “They’re coming,” she said. Rather, she thinks it makes more sense to focus on how to ensure these markets are structured and used in ways that maximize their effectiveness and benefits to our forests and forest-dependent communities. To that end, she felt good about giving this forestry audience a chance to hear from Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson and Bruce Miller about how our farming brothers and sisters are already participating in carbon markets.

I mused aloud about how the financial and housing markets’ collapse makes the complexity of carbon offset markets feel problematic. Dealing with “additionality” and “leakage” looked particularly daunting – and potentially politically toxic. Mustn’t there be a simpler, better way? Minnesota Environmental Partnership Executive Steve Morse who overheard, said he thought carbon taxes might be preferable. Or, as one conference attendee wrote on their Speak Up card, “How about emphasizing reducing consumption of our natural resources as an option to reduce carbon emissions?”

Celebrating the success of the new 2c Managed Forest Land tax program took center stage at lunch

Celebrating the success of the new 2c Managed Forest Land tax program took center stage at lunch

Over the next few days our conference team will be working hard to organize some dialogue-cum-ask-the-experts-online interaction to take the discussion we began in Cloquet online. That will give all of us a chance to think together about the many good questions captured on your Speak Up! cards.

Our team also will gather and post all of the power points and many photos and even video footage captured of the field tours, the kick-off banquet presentations, and conference evaluation reports. Maybe even Eli Sagor’s Twitter “tweets.” After our online reflection discussion we’ll complete a conference summary report to share.

Thanks to all of you who came to Cloquet to talk about climate change, and drove home in a snowstorm. Like Bob Krepp, my head hurts – but in a good way. Charting the best path ahead is a challenge worthy of what we can all do together.

I am getting ready to head over to CLoquet for this evening’s kick-off of the latest in our series of Family Forest conferences: Forest Values & Carbon Markets: Opportunities for Minnesota. Interest in the topic has been overwhelming – we’re oversubscribed. However, we’re committed to sharing as much of the conference as possible online, including through a follow-up conference wrap-up, and by posting presentations on our website.

One conference highlight will be presentation and discussion of a new report entitled “Minnesota North Woods Carbon Credit Partnership.” Developed by project partners Aitkin and Cass County Land Departments, Dovetail Partners, Inc., and Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, the goal of the Partnership is to develop a carbon credit accounting system that works for Minnesota’s North Woods, including considerations for carbon storage associated with active forest management, long-lived wood products, and peatland restoration and management. The system was developed to meet the requirements of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) and the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). We will post the full report on our website after its release at the conference.

I had just finished my initial read-through of this still hot-off-the-press report when I received from Great Lakes Forestry Alliance Executive Director Stefan Bergmann a press release outlining central climate change policy themes for the forestry sector. Developed by the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition (WFLC), an informal network of forestry professionals in America’s western states, these themes include 10 principles for developing forest climate change policies at the regional, state and local levels across America’s west. The goal of the framework is to mitigate rising temperatures through forest management strategies that are adapted to climate trends thus helping forests sustain their health while also being able to contribute to reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

The Coalition asserts that trees and forests are most effectively included in climate change policies when these policies:

  • Are Based on Best Available Science
  • Promote Forest Resiliency and Sustainability While Providing for Goods and Services
  • Endorse Full-Carbon Accounting with Forest Offset Projects
  • Support Market-Based Solutions
  • Prevent Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions by Increased Use of Forest Products, Woody Biomass, and Renewable Energy from Biomass
  • Are Developed through Collaboration
  • Pursue Innovative Activities and Partnerships
  • Are Cost-Effective and Practical
  • Are Performance Driven
  • Promote Learning and Innovation

Here’s the full report .

I will be interested to see how much traction these principles receive at our conference. What do VFVC blog readers think of them?