Forest Stewardship Today Pays Off Big for Tomorrow

Published October 2017

A relationship between Ahtna and a company specializing in forest carbon offsets has entered the next phase of a carbon credit program that could bring long-term financial security and opportunities. The program’s goals complement Ahtna’s land management mission of protection and preservation for future generations of the Ahtna people.

Forest carbon offsetting is when a landowner, like Ahtna, agrees to manage, monitor and verify the carbon stored in forests on its land for many years (in this case 100 years), ensuring the offsets remain permanent. Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere as they grow. By measuring and verifying the carbon stocks according to a program and protocol (in this case the California Cap and Trade Program’s US Forest Offset protocol), the amount of carbon offsets can be calculated and carbon credits generated. The credits can be sold to industries emitting greenhouse gases that are covered by a compliance program that allows the use of offsets (such as the California program). One forest carbon credit generated from the long term storage of carbon in a forest can be used to offset one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted into the atmosphere elsewhere in the world.

Ahtna’s development approach has a history of being conservative; customary and traditional practices and the Ahtna people’s ability to use the land for community life are top priorities. “While Ahtna’s program encourages natural forest growth, the land can still be used for customary and traditional use activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering,” emphasized Joe Bovee, Ahtna Vice President of Land and Resources. The land can also be used for natural resource development activities such as access roads, limited timber and firewood harvesting, wildlife enhancement projects, and fire breaks, as well as community needs such as housing and roads.

Today, the program is in the verification phase with an audit that corroborates the amount of carbon estimated to be contained in the trees on portions of Ahtna’s land. It is expected to be finished by late October. This

program is possible because the State of California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the inclusion of some Alaska lands to generate offsets (carbon credits).

The carbon credit program got underway last year when six two-person crews of shareholder-owners hiked more than 900 miles across Ahtna land conducting a carbon inventory. They also used ATVs, trucks and helicopters to reach the approximately 300 forest plots that were inventoried. Thanks to the generous support of BP, Ahtna has been able to hire Carbon Credit interns who are gaining first-hand experience about the program and Ahtna’s land stewardship practices. One of the shareholders, Katie Finnesand, says she plans to use the experience to educate others about the benefits of carbon credits. “The other interns and I will start a community outreach program, making presentations to schools and other community groups.”

Ahtna is working with Finite Carbon, one of the most experienced and knowledgeable companies worldwide helping landowners benefit from the carbon held in its trees by generating and selling the credits.

Because the land and trees contained in the carbon credits program must be maintained for 100 years, Bovee said that means opportunities for generations to come. “We will be training and hiring shareholder-owners to manage the program going forward. Three interns have already been hired and the program has the potential to grow a new line of careers in natural resource management; jobs that would allow our shareholder-owners to remain in the region caring for Ahtna land and resources.”

Other Alaska Native corporations and villages have already participated in the carbon offset program or are in the process of doing so. Native American tribes in the Lower-48 have also successfully sold carbon credits.

More information about the carbon offsetting program is available online at http://www.finitecarbon.com/