Maine’s forests are our weapon against climate change

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Chelsea’s Alec Giffen is a senior researcher in forest science and policy at the New England Forestry Foundation. He was previously director of the Maine Forest Service.

Can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New England by 30%?

That’s a lot of carbon to suck in air. Here’s what we know: Maine’s forest can suck up a lot.

If summer droughts and dangerous lake ice aren’t compelling evidence that we’re in trouble, a Feb. 28 report released by 270 scientists from 67 countries by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is. certainly. Panel scientists mapped the human and economic toll of climate-related emergencies, including a dwindling food supply, lack of water, more heat waves and more infectious diseases.

The result is an urgent call to action. In a follow-up report to be released in April, the group will offer strategies on how to reduce greenhouse gases to slow warming. Climate-based forestry is one of them.

With over 17 million acres of forest, Maine is in a unique position to make a difference. Private forest land makes up the vast majority, including large tracts of commercial forest, and produces the raw materials for everyday items, from toilet paper to automotive parts to automotive parts and specialty paper that texturizes. the vinyl on our car dashboards. But Maine’s forests are more than an inexhaustible supply of wood. Ecological reserves, public lands and eternally wild areas are part of the mix. The ecological value is high: western and northern Maine provide the last large block of undeveloped forest of this type in the world and provide some of the best remaining habitat. Our efforts can and should reinforce ecological values.

Maine’s forest is also home to 25 billion trees that suck carbon through their leaves and lock it into their trunks at varying rates, depending on the type and age of the trees. They can lock in more by using climate-smart forestry practices on millions of acres of forest land. These practices are currently being used to restore important fish, bird, and wildlife habitat on some commercial and family forest lands in Maine.

Wood, once harvested, can also retain carbon. An example worth looking at is Mass Timber, a wood laminate that is as strong as steel and concrete but has a much lower carbon footprint and can replace both in multi-unit buildings. floors. It’s the focus of the University of Maine’s Mass Timber Commercialization Center, which studies climate, real estate, and economic benefits. In New England and New York, the Mass Timber Regional Dialogue brought together land trust managers, climatologists, economic planners, architects, state government officials and many others to explore how to encourage the use of Mass Timber in the name of the climate.

By applying climate-smart forestry to fuel a steady supply of wood in the repurposed factories in Maine that produce wood products, we can sequester a lot of atmospheric carbon at every stage of a tree’s life cycle and throughout of the supply chain, from sowing to rapid transformation. the growth of saplings to the processing of the log to be used in the construction of a multi-storey apartment building of strength and beauty.

The missing link has been adequate levels of investment to advance both forestry and manufacturing in the name of climate.

An opportunity to provide this presented itself in February when the United States Department of Agriculture announced a competitive $1 billion grant for pilot projects that create markets for what the USDA calls “climate-smart” products. weather”. The deadline is in April. The winners will be announced in June.

We calculate that it will take until 2050 to achieve zero carbon emissions in New England, with New England forests contributing 30%. Let’s use available funding, innovation, existing knowledge and infrastructure, and a skilled workforce to create a climate chain reaction from Maine’s forests to wood buildings in cities from Bangor to Boston and beyond .

Teresa H. Sadler