Kentucky forest owners may sell carbon credits

Justin Maxson admits that the concept he's been explaining to Appalachian landowners is a little difficult to wrap your mind around:

"There's an odorless, colorless gas that is sucked out of the air by your trees, and somebody's going to pay you for that."

The gas is carbon dioxide, or CO2, which contributes to global warming. Industries that produce it, and want to reduce their carbon footprint, are willing to pay when healthy trees do what they do naturally, which is absorb the CO2 and store it.

Because the trees must be in forests that are well-managed, a side benefit is that the region's long-abused forests could finally get some respect. That, in turn, is good news for wildlife and water quality.

No money has changed hands yet, mostly because the program is voluntary and the recession has lowered the amount of money that companies are willing to spend. But legislation is looming that could limit CO2 emissions and push up prices.

Maxson is executive director of the Berea-based Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), which is lining up people with forest land and walking them through the steps needed to sell carbon credits. In the emerging world of carbon credits trading, MACED is called an aggregator. It calls its program the Forest Opportunities Initiative.

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