Forestry: a part of Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan

Recently Maryland released its Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the state by 25% by the year 2020. Whether you believe the increasing GHG content of the air, principally carbon dioxide, is a natural cycle or a product of the impact of civilization on the environment, forests are unchanged as being nature's best environmental protector.

The Plan is in response to significant science that links worldwide reduction of forest cover and release of carbon sequestered in fossil fuels with increasing CO2 content in the atmosphere and retention of solar radiation. The Maryland GHG plan tracks and sets GHG reduction goals in more than a half dozen different areas, the largest being Energy (45.6% of overall GHG reductions) and Transportation (25%). Agriculture and Forestry has a goal of 9.4% of the total reduction of greenhouse gases, with about 90% of the Ag and Forestry share coming from Forestry. Current Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) programs contribute to greenhouse gas emission reductions through programs like tree planting, timber stand improvements, sediment control, wildlife habitat and stewardship plans. By increasing forest base, more trees are sequestering more carbon. By continuing and expanding these programs, the forest base of the state will increase over the 2020 planning period.

Sustainable forest management helps increase the amount of carbon stored in trees. Often misunderstood, harvesting trees through sustainable forest practices is a way to improve the vitality of the forest and enabling increased capture of carbon. After harvest, durable wood products continue to store carbon that has been captured in the wood. For example, furniture and wood framing of homes endure for many years, while shorter-lived wood products such as paper and cardboard continue to store carbon as they are recycled for reuse. Burning of firewood, as a product of sustainable forestry, is not considered a GHG contributor but rather a carbon neutral practice. Trees release sequestered carbon when burned, resulting in a neutral overall impact on GHG's. A benefit to reductions in GHG is considered to accrue through wood burning by supplanting fossil fuels that would otherwise be used for energy production. Energy efficient wood and pellet stoves can receive tax incentives for purchase, based on their positive impact on reducing GHG's.

In the US, Canada, and Europe sustainable forest management has significantly increased forest cover in recent decades. In Maryland, current DNR programs contribute to increasing our forest cover, since forests are an integral part of environmental protection strategies. Many wildlife programs help develop and maintain woodland habitat. Similarly, sediment control and the prevention of nutrient runoff into surface waters rely on forest buffers as the best way to achieve environmental protection goals. Urban tree planting programs help shade streets and homes, reducing heating and cooling costs. These and other programs that encourage tree planting will continue as high priorities for the state, with the additional recognized benefit of sequestering carbon to meet GHG reduction goals.

Among many programs that promote trees and forests in our area, the Maryland Forest Conservation Act has been a leader in the nation in providing for retention of forest cover, requiring forest planting and preservation when trees are cleared for development. Tree-

Mendous Maryland supports tree planting on public lands, and the Marylanders Plant Trees program provides $25 coupons for individuals to purchase trees. Larger areas and farms can receive cost-sharing from the Woodland Incentive Program, Environmental Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and Income Tax Modification. We will likely see additional programs promoting trees and forests as the GHG reduction plan is implemented over the next few years.

Nature Notes for 12/1/2013