BOSTON — The Healey-Driscoll Administration has announced a new initiative to ensure Massachusetts’ forests are managed to optimize carbon sequestration and mitigate climate harms as part of meeting the state’s aggressive climate goals. “Forests as Climate Solutions” will expand existing state programs, invest in forest conservation, enhance a network of forest reserves, and develop forest management guidelines based on the latest climate science. These guidelines will apply to state lands, and the administration will also provide incentives for private landowners to use them to maximize the climate benefits of their forests.
“The climate crisis is here, and conserving our forests is one of the most important natural climate solutions we can pursue to fight this threat,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Massachusetts has long led the nation in environmental and climate action. We’re continuing our leadership with this new initiative that will play an essential role in the stewardship and conservation of our natural resources.”
“Collaboration with local stakeholders and municipalities is critical in our efforts to create a more resilient Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “We’ll continue to engage with affected communities to bolster local economic development and support forest-based businesses to serve as a blueprint to securing a more sustainable future.”
“Forests have to be at the forefront of our climate strategy,” said Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer. “Trees can sequester carbon for centuries – we have a responsibility to use the best science to ensure that their potential for carbon sequestration and storage is reflected in our approach. This is yet another important lever we must use in our whole-of-government approach to addressing the climate crisis.”
“New England forests are among the most resilient in the country. We must take a comprehensive approach to keep them healthy and intact,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “The actions we are taking today will conserve our forests and their vital roles in absorbing carbon, cleaning polluted air, providing local wood products, and supporting biodiversity.”
Massachusetts is required to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. As part of the Clean Energy and Climate Plan (CECP) for 2050, the state established the land conservation goals of protecting 30 percent of the Commonwealth in 2030 and 40 percent in 2050. The “Forests as Climate Solutions” initiative, launched today by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), will accelerate progress toward this goal, supported by additional funding to be outlined in the coming weeks by the Healey-Driscoll Administration.
The initiative will:
- Develop climate-oriented forestry practices for state lands that increase carbon storage and resilience to climate change. EEA will convene a committee of scientific experts and solicit public input to guide development of climate-oriented management guidelines, evaluating and building on the existing science-based practices currently in place;
- Conduct this review over a six-month period, during which no new state timber harvesting contracts will be signed, pausing the process to allow for a review of current best practices; and,
- Implement new climate-centered guidelines by the end of the year that are informed by the latest science, complementing other best practices for habitat and watershed management. Adoption of the guidelines by private landowners will also be encouraged.
- Create new incentives for private woodland owners and municipalities to center climate concerns in forest management and optimize resilience and carbon storage when pursuing forest management objectives;
- Convene a forest reserves group, including conservation organizations, land trusts, and municipalities, to establish new statewide goals for forest reserves on public and private lands based on the potential to absorb carbon and support biodiversity;
- Implement EEA’s Resilient Lands Initiative to realize a forest land conservation goal and a target for reduced land conversion established as part of the Initiative. EEA will work in partnership with land trusts, municipalities, and other conservation organizations to purchase land and conservation restrictions that prevent the conversion of forest land to developed uses;
- Update and expand the use of the latest scientific research to inform state lands management and make data about forests easily accessible and available to the public;
- Provide financial assistance to forestry businesses to reduce carbon loss and environmental impacts, decarbonize operations, and increase competitiveness through enhanced technology and business practices;
- Incentivize the use of wood from Massachusetts forests to sequester carbon and meet local needs for wood products; and,
- Expand funding for land conservation and provide grants and technical assistance to enhance partners’ capacity to advance these goals.
STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT
Stephen Sears, Chair, Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board
“The importance of landscape level coordination for habitat restoration cannot be overstated. Climate resilience is a key component as we work to further develop biodiversity through habitat management. Working with other state agencies, non profit organizations, for profit entities and private landowners and reaching beyond our political borders is necessary to be successful in implementing landscape level solutions.”
David J. O’Neill, President, Mass Audubon
“We applaud Governor Healey, Chief Hoffer, and Secretary Tepper for creating the Forests as Climate Solutions initiative that will significantly contribute to the important goal of protecting 40 percent of the Commonwealth’s land by 2050 and slowing the rate of forest loss. This science-based forest conservation plan values adaptation and biodiversity and dovetails with Mass Audubon’s ongoing work to ensure our forests capture and store more carbon, protect wildlife, and support local economies. The Healey administration’s commitment to the protection and management of forests acknowledges the power of nature in the fight against climate change and all the benefits it provides people every day.”
–Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs