USU researchers study carbon sequestration incentive for land owners


LOGAN – If you owned forested land near a rapidly expanding city, would you sell it to a developer? Or would you be more interested in receiving a payment to keep the land a forest?

As urban areas expand at the expense of forested lands, more carbon emissions fill the air, and less forest exists to sequester those emissions. Utah State University researchers Jordan Smith and doctoral student Lauren Dupéy set out to find what price is needed to incentivize landowners to keep forested lands.

“What we found was there definitely was interest among these forest land owners in their willingness to receive payments, or to enroll in a program where they would get paid for the carbon that the forest on their properties were sequestering, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough,” Smith said. “The compensation wasn’t enough at the current levels of what carbon is priced at.”

Smith said that in some areas, certain industries are limited to the amount of carbon emissions they produce. If that cap is hit, carbon credits must be purchased to be able to legally produce more. The money received from carbon credits can be given to programs designed to reduce emissions. It is those funds that could be used to incentivize the land owners to keep forests, but right now, there isn’t enough.

“We think there is potential for these types of policies,” Smith said. “But it really won’t be a viable option until the price of carbon is high enough that it allows the payments to be really competitive or equal to what people would get from the prospect of selling their land.”

Smith and Dupéy teamed up with the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State for their study. They researched the Charlotte, North Carolina area.

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