Saturday, 22 June 2024

Forest Service joins climate registry



MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – California's push for cutting down on greenhouse gases emission has led the US Forest Service to become the first federal agency to join the California Climate Action Registry.

The California Climate Action Registry is a non-profit public/private partnership that serves

as a voluntary greenhouse gas registry to protect, encourage, and promote early actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the registry's Web site. More than 275 major companies, cities, government agencies and NGOs measure and publicly report their GHG emissions through the registry.

Forest Service officials in Vallejo say that by joining the registry, the agency has committed itself to tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions created by its operations in California, with the intent of ultimately reducing those emissions that contribute to climate change.

The Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Region and Pacific Southwest Research Station have approximately 3,500 highway legal vehicles and 7,600 facilities in the state, and officials say the agency has the potential to significantly contribute to the state's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The region consists of 18 national forests in California, which cover one-fifth of the state.

Matt Mathes, a spokesman for the regional forest service office, said joining the registry is "a good first step" for the region.

"The whole purpose is to establish a baseline for our emissions," said Mathes, and then to measure against that.

The agency is looking to cut down emissions through adopting electric and hybrid vehicles, said Mathes. He added that the Forest Service wants to set a good example for other federal agencies at work in the state.

The Forest Service's participation with the California Climate Action Registry will be a phased approach, according to the agency, and only emissions resulting from the operations of the Forest Service within the state of California will be registered.

Initial greenhouse gas emission tracking will focus on the non-biological operations of the agency in California and will not include emissions from wildfires, or from management activities such as prescribed fires or fuels treatments, the agency reported.

During this first phase, emissions tracking will focus solely upon vehicle fleet and facility emissions, according to the agency. In the future, a second phase may include the full range of Forest Service activities in California including the tracking of both biological emissions and potential greenhouse gas benefits resulting from management activities.

Phebe Brown, spokesperson for the Mendocino National Forest, said it's too soon to know how emissions calculations will take place on a local level.

But understanding greenhouse gases goes far beyond just vehicle emissions, said Brown. It also involves forest management itself.


Brown said forest officials are taking action to cut carbon the forest's carbon footprint by participating in the Forest Service Ecological Footprint and Sustainable Operations Operations Project this year.

Those activities include recycling a variety of materials, and moving toward "right-sizing" the forest's fleet of vehicles, including acquiring a hybrid vehicle, said Brown.

In addition, the forest has received a Green MicroGrant Award from the region which they are using to focus on energy efficiency and energy awareness for Forest Service employees, Brown said.

Joining the registry accompanies a research effort that the Forest Service is undertaking to understand the wildlife and biological components of the forest and how they influence greenhouse emissions.

That includes trying to quantify how much carbon a healthy forest absorbs. "We're ramping up our research in that right now," said Mathes.

Mendocino Forest's groundbreaking research

Rigorous study of the forest and its influence on climate is necessary, explains Mathes, because anecdotal evidence won't due in this day and age.

"Mendocino," added Mathes, "is actually in the forefront on this one."

Mendocino National Forest is preparing a fuel reduction project at Alder Springs, located in Glenn County. Brown said the project has several different components, such as thinning of trees and removal of biomass, such as brush.

Brown said the forest was taking bids for a stewardship products contract with a company to remove biomass and small diameter materials and take it to a biomass plant. Part of the research will explore the energy costs to remove brush and other materials, which is data the forest doesn't currently have.

That research will go so far as to look at how much carbon it takes for a chainsaw to cut down the materials and the truck to remove it, she said.

The research project is tacked onto a fuels reduction project, said Brown.

Winrock International, a national nonprofit research company, will do research on the energy costs. The work is supported by a Forest Service grant and will be done in concert with Forest Service researchers from Pacific Southwest Research station, said Brown.

Stewardship products contractors bear the responsibility for all costs related to removal, said Brown. In the future this research could lead to those contractors being able to trade those carbon credits.

"We're really excited to be part of this research," said Brown. "It has a lot of potential."

While it has potential, Brown added, "Nobody is able to say at this point what the research will show."

The primary issue in brush removal projects like that at Alder Springs is protecting the community by removing fuel for forest fires, said Brown. "We get a lot of fires in through there."

Alder Springs also will be part of a new hazardous fuel treatment, which removes fuel on a checkerboard or ladder pattern throughout that forest unit. Those fuel removal areas, said Brown, are like "speed bumps" for a fire.

Forests also have to account for emissions from other sources. "When you have a wildfire you have a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide that goes into the air,” said Brown.

Forests properly managed can reduce the amount of carbon going into the air through a major wildfire, and can sequester carbon through growing trees.

Controlling wildfires can be one significant avenue to fighting greenhouse gases, according to the California Forest Products Commission.

The commission reported that Alaskan and Canadian wildfires in two months in 2004 sent as much carbon dioxide into the air as all the cars, factories and human-caused activities in the continental U.S. during the same period.

Donn Zea, the California Forest Products Commission's executive director, gives another example. The August 2001 Star fire in California's Eldorado National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada, poured two million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the equivalent of 405,964 passenger cars for one year, said Zea.

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