Albany to preserve forests, earn funds, and combat climate change

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
“We need trees to help protect the climate,” says Mark King, executive director of the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy.

ALBANY COUNTY — In a decade, the Albany Water Board may be a million dollars richer.

The revenue will be earned from carbon credits, a relatively new idea for New York, although in California it’s a routine practice.

On Tuesday, Mayor Kathy Sheehan stood in front of the Alcove Reservoir in Coeymans to announce the water board’s partnership with The Nature Conservancy.

Together, they have developed a 10-year Sustainable Forest Management Plan to protect and manage the city’s 6,400 acres of forest surrounding the Basic Reservoir in Westerlo and the nearby Alcove Reservoir in Coeymans as well as Troutner Lake, a wetland acquired to protect the water supply.

“The city working with The Nature Conservancy has done a detailed management plan to improve carbon sequestration,” said Mark King, who directs the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, which also has a role in the pact.

“The city has committed to managing its forests for additional carbon storage,” King told The Enterprise. “They put a dollar value on that storage. The city is selling the carbon credits.”

King went on about the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s role, “Our piece is there has to be a conservation easement to maintain the status quo.”

A conservation easement is a legal agreement that restricts the development of land. The land conservancy is a not-for-profit organization that oversees many such easements.

The reservoirs in Westerlo that provide drinking water to Albany are surrounded by forests that filter surface water and groundwater.

According to The Nature Conservancy, an acre of mature forest can capture a ton of carbon every year, which is an inexpensive and efficient way to combat climate change.

King said this is certainly the first such project in the Capital Region and may be the first in New York State.

Aside from the primary carbon-sequestration value, King said, such a large tract of preserved forestland “provides enough habitat for a wide variety of species..”

He noted, “One of the best approaches to reducing climate change is protecting existing forest. It’s  equally if not more effective than reforestation.”

King also noted, “There are just not that many large landowners.” But, if the process gets streamlined, “It could be done with small landowners banding together.” The Nature Conservancy is mounting such an effort in Vermont, he said.

A giant check was displayed at Tuesday’s ceremony, representing the $100,000 the Albany Water Board is to receive this month from the sale of carbon credits. Over the next 10 years, The Nature Conservancy estimates the revenue generated from carbon credits will top $1 million.

All of the revenues will be used for the forest management plan as well as for watershed management.

The Nature Conservancy, a not-for profit environmental organization, on its website, describes its Working Woodlands project as “a creative approach to fighting climate change.”

“Do you know that the destruction of forests contributes more to global greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships in the world combined?” it asks.  “In New York, we are fortunate that forests cover 63% of our lands with 18.9 million acres of woodlands that can be used to supply the budding carbon market.”

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