What if landowners in the Santa Cruz Mountains were paid to implement sustainable forest practices that increase carbon sequestration and reduce wildfire risk?
That’s the idea behind the Santa Cruz Mountains Carbon Cooperative, a program supported by Sempervirens Fund in our ongoing quest to find new opportunities, models, and partners in the conservation of local redwoods.
As redwoods grow, they sequester carbon more efficiently than any other living organism on earth. After implementing certain management practices, we can apply a rigorous process to generate, verify and register measurable carbon credits that can be sold in the carbon market.
Unfortunately, it’s an expensive process and oftentimes owners of small properties like those in the Santa Cruz Mountains cannot afford to develop, verify and monitor carbon offset projects alone. The solution? A cooperative.
“This Santa Cruz Mountains Carbon Cooperative is an innovative model that can benefit our mountain timber owners by allowing them to convert their redwoods to dollars on the carbon market. Until now, participation in the carbon market has made economic sense only for large-scale timber owners.”
– Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson
Cooperatives have been organized throughout history to carry out a wide range of activities, often in response to economic and social stress. The first recognized cooperative business in the U.S. was a mutual fire insurance company, founded in 1752 by none other than Benjamin Franklin. It continues to operate today.
Just like Ben Franklin’s early fire insurance model, the Santa Cruz Mountains Carbon Cooperative aims to reduce costs significantly by aggregating individual projects. It also aspires to leverage new, increasingly efficient inventory and monitoring tools to optimize returns on landowners’ investments. In exchange for joining the cooperative, participating landowners develop a management plan, sign a long-term participant contract and receive payments for their credits.
These carbon credits will be calculated based on an established protocol and will consider each property’s unique characteristics and the forest management practices implemented. The Santa Cruz Mountains Carbon Cooperative will then sell the carbon credits to private companies at a negotiated price.
An initial California State Coastal Conservancy-funded feasibility study for the Santa Cruz Mountains Carbon Cooperative was completed in early 2016. The current program development work is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Bay Area Conservation Program.
A Santa Cruz Mountains Carbon Cooperative pilot project is planned for the summer of 2018. We anticipate two to five landowners and one credit buyer participating in the pilot. We are currently defining the rules of the program, identifying strategic partnerships, and collecting information from interested landowner and credit buyers.
Sempervirens Fund is a leader in pioneering new approaches in the carbon market. When we launched a joint effort with PG&E’s ClimateSmart program to sequester carbon in 425 acres of redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2008, it was only the third such program in California.
When we succeeded in verifying our first batch of carbon offsets from that project and selling those credits, we created the world’s first official forest carbon offsets from a forest preservation project. Now we are exploring innovative approaches for enabling small landowners to better access the carbon market.
If you are interested in participating in the pilot, or have a general inquiry, please direct your questions to Sempervirens Fund’s Director of Land Conservation Laura McLendon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 650-949-1453, ext. 206.