Washington’s state forest trust lands provide a multitude of benefits to local communities and to our state as a whole. They clean our air and water, provide critical wildlife habitat, create opportunities for recreation, and, through sustainable management, contribute to local economies. Pacific Northwest forests are also among the most naturally carbon rich ecoregions in the world1, and our Westside forests store more carbon and sequester it at higher rates than anywhere else in the United States2.
DNR is launching an innovative carbon project to protect some of our most ecologically and culturally valuable forests, while generating millions of dollars in revenue for the schools, colleges, and critical local services that state trust lands support.
DNR is moving an estimated 10,000 acres of Western Washington’s most ecologically valuable forests into conservation status to store carbon and generate revenue for state trust land beneficiaries. The new carbon project will lease land for carbon sequestration and storage at a price that is reflective of the economic value of logging, diversifying revenue streams and providing greater financial stability and certainty to beneficiaries.
This initiative represents the first-in-the-nation use of carbon markets by a state agency to protect critical forest areas by immediately removing stands from the planned harvest schedule, many of which were slated for imminent harvest.
More than 900,000 carbon offsets credits will be generated from the project in just the first 10 years, which is equivalent to preventing more than 2 billion miles driven by gas-powered cars, according to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies.
The project is broken into two phases, and it will launch in Whatcom, Thurston, King, and Grays Harbor counties.
For more information on project priority areas, click here to view maps.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a carbon credit?
A carbon credit is a kind of permit that represents 1 ton of carbon dioxide equivalent removed from the atmosphere. They can be purchased by an individual or, more commonly, a company to make up for (or “offset”) carbon dioxide emissions that result from its operations.
How does DNR decide which forests to include?
DNR is using the High Conservation Value framework as a guide to identify forest areas with critical ecological or cultural features and have high carbon storage and sequestration potential. We will also work with Tribal partners and other stakeholders to select forested areas that are best suited for conservation through a carbon project.
The HCV criteria are:
- significant concentrations of biodiversity;
- significant landscape-scale ecosystems;
- rare, threatened or endangered ecosystems and habitats;
- basic ecosystem services in critical situations (e.g. watershed protection, erosion control);
- Areas or resources fundamental to meeting basic needs of Indigenous populations and local communities (e.g. subsistence); and
- Areas or resources critical to Indigenous populations and local communities’ traditional cultural identity.
How does DNR guarantee the integrity of the carbon credits?
We have partnered with a carbon validator – Finite Carbon – to develop this project. We have enlisted Finite Carbon’s help to ensure that it represents durable and verifiable carbon sequestered and stored.
As a state agency, we have statutes and policies that guide the way we manage our forests and define our baseline scenario. Our baseline (which describes what would have happened to these forest areas in absence of the carbon project) is grounded in our existing policy framework, the Board of Natural Resource's policies, the Habitat Conservation Plan, and our day-to-day operations.
These acres of forest were slated to be harvested—some in the next few months—but will be immediately conserved and entered into a carbon project instead. As a result, the credits generated by the project are based on an extremely robust calculation of additionality3, much more so than typical projects currently on the market.
Who will purchase the credits?
We are excited about the possibility of working with a buyer who is willing to demonstrate that robust carbon credits are of higher value, and who recognizes the impact to local communities.
We already have interest from significant companies who recognize the significance of this endeavor.
What are funds from carbon credit purchases used for?
The revenue generated from the sale of these credits will support Washington’s communities through our trusts, including schools, community colleges and universities, as well counties and the vital health and human services.
How old are the forests included in the project?
By using the High Conservation Value (HCV) criteria to guide our selection of forest areas to include in the project, we are ensuring that these areas are chosen based on a variety of ecological and social benefits that extend beyond just age. We are in the process of identifying the full 10,000 acres that will make up the carbon project. Areas included in Phase Two will be announced within the next year.
3 “Additionality” refers to the carbon emission reductions or removals that are additional to the reductions that would have taken place in the absence of the carbon project.