Protect N.H.’s forests with a national plan to cut carbon emissions

by JAMESON FRENCH, a REP member in New Hampshire, and STUART V. SMITH, JR.

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Originally published in the Manchester Union Leader on May 29, 2008


As two former chairmen of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire’s Forests, we have a keen understanding of both the vulnerability of our state’s forest lands and the economic opportunity they offer. The forests of New Hampshire are a treasured resource and play a major role in the economy of our state. From the hardwood timber prized in world markets to the warbling of songbirds now returning, our forests define the landscape while providing work and play for New Hampshire citizens and tourists alike.

The annual contribution of forest-based manufacturing and forest-related recreation and tourism in New Hampshire is more than $2 billion. This is one of our top three industries, yet an irrefutable body of science now confirms that significant global warming is under way and threatening our forests as well as the functioning of our forestry activities. From projected changes in tree species to fewer days with frozen ground needed for effective logging, if left unchecked global warming will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on this critical sector of our state’s economy.

Forests also serve a significant role in reducing man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the primary causes of global warming. Forests accumulate carbon by photosynthesis, the process that converts airborne carbon dioxide into the nutrition and fiber trees need to grow. Fifty percent of the dry mass of a tree is carbon, sequestered by photosynthesis.

In New Hampshire, and the northeast generally, our forests can store as much as 100 to 150 tons of carbon per acre and annually accumulate another one to two tons per acre per year in trees, plants, soil and underground roots.

Each year New Hampshire’s forests take up the equivalent of 25 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted from man-made sources of CO2 in the state. Sustainably managed, the temperate forests of the Northeast offer one of the nation’s largest natural carbon storehouses.

While forests and land use activities have historically been excluded from major global warming agreements such as the international Kyoto protocol, and even the Northeast Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the U.S. Senate has taken a significant step forward in recognizing forests as part of the solution.

The bipartisan Climate Security Act, headed to the Senate floor in early June, will provide New Hampshire’s senators with a key opportunity to show their commitment to helping our state’s forests play a role in addressing global warming.

The Climate Security Act is a remarkable piece of legislation that Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu can proudly support.

Not only does the bill cut the global warming pollution that poses such a severe threat to New Hampshire’s forests and the industries that depend on them, it also positions New Hampshire’s forests to be a key part of the solution. By shifting the economics of our energy system in favor of lower carbon-emitting sources, New Hampshire’s forests can help provide our state and the nation with clean, renewable energy to fuel our economy using wood products from our properly managed forests.

Additionally, the Climate Security Act will help New Hampshire’s forests by creating a market for the carbon stored within them.

First, it allows forests to be eligible to assist “large emitters,” such as coal-fired power plants, in meeting their reduction targets by offsetting a small portion of their emissions through qualified forest projects.

Second, the bill dedicates a small percentage of pollution credits to qualified forestry activities.

Third, the bill provides a substantial new investment from the sale of emission credits to natural resource agencies, and to specific programs such as the successful Forest Legacy program. Forest Legacy has already helped willing landowners conserve thousands of acres of working forestland across New Hampshire. Sens. Gregg and Sununu have an opportunity to ensure that the money generated by a national global warming cap and trade program is used to effectively and affordably transition the U.S. into a cleaner, more efficient energy future. Our forests have a major role to play in that transition, and there is a lot of money to be made — right here in New Hampshire — by using our properly managed forest lands to store carbon and produce clean energy.

Like a runaway train heading downhill, the effects of global warming are gathering speed. The longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive it becomes to prevent derailment. Sens. Gregg and Sununu should stand up for New Hampshire’s forests by supporting the Climate Security Act. We have no time to waste.



Jameson French is president and CEO of Northland Forest Products.

Stuart V. “Mike” Smith Jr. is former president of Dartmouth Printing Company. They are both past chairmen of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.