Haliburton Forest signs on for carbon offsets

September 14, 2017

By: The Working Forest Staff

Haliburton, Ont. — Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve has partnered with Bluesource Canada to leverage the value generated by the Ontario carbon market. The privately-owned forest is committing to long-term stewardship that maximizes CO2 emissions sequestered by the forest.  

This first-of-its-kind agreement in Ontario is intended to secure to secure a long-term commitment to GHG emissions reductions through sustainable forest management on private land.

Malcolm Cockwell, managing director of Haliburton Forest, says his company is taking the lead in so-called “carbon forestry.” “Integrating carbon forestry and sustainable forest management, that’s the new thing. That is what we are ready to do.”

The new partnership with Bluesource Canada, a developer of forest carbon and other GHG offsets, signals Haliburton Forest’s pledge to undertake sustainable forest management practices that will generate 75,000 tonnes per year of additional GHG reductions over the long term.

Haliburton Forest owns and manages over 100,000 acres of hardwood timberland in Haliburton County, Ont. It operates numerous businesses, ranging from forest management to outdoor education.

The commitment to reducing GHG emissions is made in the context of a GHG offset protocol being developed by the Ontario government as part of the cap-and-trade program. The forthcoming forest management protocol will create binding obligations on Haliburton Forest that provide the security that the GHG reductions will be permanent. In exchange for this commitment, the forest will generate carbon offsets that will be sold to entities within the cap-and-trade program. The revenues from this sale compensate Haliburton Forest for going above and beyond what is expected in sustainable forest management to reduce GHG emissions over the long term.

Although the GHG offset protocols are still in development, Jamie MacKinnon, vice-president of Environmental Solutions at Bluesource Canada, commented: “We are confident the Ontario carbon market will provide many more landowners with sufficient monetary incentive to make the same long-term commitments to achieving high standards of sustainable forest management.”

The management practices at Haliburton Forest that will be rewarded by the forest carbon offset opportunity could include: increasing the maturity of trees harvested (rotation times), improving the health of the forest, and harvesting less than annual growth. These practices are tailored to the type of forest.

Cockwell explains: “The majority of harvesting on our forest employs single-tree selection, a method that prioritizes the removal of unhealthy trees that are unlikely to survive or grow past the desired maturity. In this way, single-tree selection improves the overall vigour and quality of the forest over time.” This is a low-impact harvesting technique that is the preferred method for facilitating the growth of shade-tolerant species like sugar maple and will maximize carbon sequestration for this type of forest.

Harvesting on a smaller scale is done using a uniform shelterwood system that removes more volume and creates larger gaps in the canopy, which allow abundant light to reach the forest floor. This method is employed to regenerate shade-intolerant species like white pine, red oak, and black cherry. The combination of forest management methods provides diversity at a landscape scale and facilitates the growth of drought-resistant species and that are less likely to be affected by climate change.

By partnering with Bluesource Canada to develop the forest carbon offset opportunity, Haliburton Forest also hopes to demonstrate the value of meeting a high standard of sustainable forest management to other privately-owned lands in Ontario.

Haliburton Forest has been a leader in sustainable forest management in Canada for decades and was the first forest in the country to earn Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. As a result of this long-standing stewardship program, Haliburton Forest currently sequesters an estimated 8 million tonnes of CO2 and will continue to sequester amounts that significantly exceed what would have occurred through common-practice forest management.

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