By Hannah Gillespie
Over 25,000 acres will remain undeveloped in Tennessee, Virginia and Eastern Kentucky through a $4.9 million grant awarded to The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky in December 2017 from the National Resources Conservation Service.
The funds will implement a program called Working Woodlands, which works with landowners to create a 10-year sustainable forest land management plan and Forest Stewardship Council certification, which opens the door to a wider timber market. This is at no upfront cost to the owner.
The Nature Conservancy sells the high-quality carbon offsets stored by these forests to BlueSource — a California company that provides capital for environmental markets — to cover the cost of the Forest Stewardship Council certification. The owner benefits through sales of carbon and FSC-certified timber.
In Pennsylvania, the program has already been successfully implemented by The Nature Conservancy and Bluesource since 2013.
The Working Woodlands program is open to eligible forestland owners in Pennsylvania and Kentucky with a minimum of 1,500 acres and at least 2,000 acres in Tennessee. The eligibility requirements for the Virginia program had not been released at press time.
“I know this has a potential to be a real boon for the regional economy,” Will Bowling with The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky told the Lexington-Herald Leader. “But in the long term, it will preserve one of the area’s most valuable assets — its forest.”