Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries on Wednesday evening announced the nation's largest forest carbon-offset project, meant to keep millions of tons of climate-warming gases out of the atmosphere over the next century.
Forestry and some conservation groups said the deal shows the state's new rules on forest offsets, adopted last week by the Air Resources Board, will be attractive to landowners.
But some environmental advocates said it's a sign that the timber industry is poised to capitalize on a provision that allows clear-cutting on land enrolled in carbon-offset programs.
"This is the thing we were worried about," said Michael Endicott, resource sustainability advocate at Sierra Club California.
The deal coincides with a high-profile international climate summit Schwarzenegger is hosting in Los Angeles this week.
On four plots totaling 60,000 acres in Tuolumne, Tehama, Shasta and Siskiyou counties, Sierra Pacific is committing to timber management strategies that should store more carbon compared with "business as usual."
"We can still manage our forests, but we have to meet or exceed the baseline conditions," said Mark Pawlicki, a spokesman for the company.
Over the next five years, Sierra Pacific expects the new management practices will keep 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide stored in the trees and soil that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. That's equivalent to what's generated by burning 170 million gallons of gasoline.
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