What are my responsibilities as a landowner?

For a project with Forest Carbon Works, landowners must follow California’s laws for carbon offsets, as well as the requirements from our project contracts. Learn more about your role as the landowner in a forest carbon project.

How long am I responsible for having a forest carbon project on my property?

When you choose to have a forest carbon project on your property, you are effectively signing contracts with two separate entities — Forest Carbon Works and the State of California. The first contract period with Forest Carbon Works lasts six years and can be renewed in six-year increments.

A forest carbon project will last 125 years at minimum — the project lifetime required by the California Air Resources Board. This includes a 25-year crediting period of receiving revenue for forest growth, followed by a monitoring period of 100 years. Landowners commit to follow the requirements of the Air Resources Board’s Compliance Offset Protocol for U.S. Forests for the 125-year project lifetime.

If a landowner wants to continue to receive payments for their property after the initial 25-year crediting period, they can choose to add additional 25-year crediting periods. The 100-year monitoring period starts at the end of the most recent crediting period.

Every year, Forest Carbon Works contributes to a long-term monitoring trust on behalf of its members.  The purpose of the trust is to fund any required 100-year monitoring activities.

What is the agreement with Forest Carbon Works?

By enrolling with Forest Carbon Works, landowners become official members and commit to renewable six-year contract periods within the 125-year project lifetime.

Members commit to certain requirements as part of their six-year contract, which is defined by the Membership Agreement. The initial six-year membership period and any subsequent extensions of the Membership Agreement (additional six-year membership periods) is called the contract period.

As the term of your first six-year contract comes to a close, you will have the option to renew for a second contract period. You will be allowed to do so if you have faithfully upheld your responsibilities, including timely reporting to Forest Carbon Works and no commercial harvesting during the first contract period. If you plan to conduct one or more harvests during the second contract period, Forest Carbon Works will work with you prior to renewal to ensure that planned harvest activities do not adversely affect past crediting. Beyond the second contract period, contract renewals are similar.

Landowners who are members of Forest Carbon Works for the entire 25-year crediting period are eligible for special treatment. At the end of the 25-year crediting period, with landowner approval, Forest Carbon Works may purchase a limited conservation easement on a
minor portion of the enrolled property. This easement relieves the landowner of any further responsibilities.

General responsibilities

Comply with laws and pay taxes
The landowner must comply with all applicable local, state, and federal laws during the entire project lifetime. Most commonly, this means paying property taxes on time.

Access to property for evaluation
The landowner must provide property access to Forest Carbon Works for the purposes of administering a forest carbon project on the property during the contract period. Forest Carbon Works needs to be able to access your property, with adequate advance notice, to demonstrate compliance with the protocol to third-party auditors and to take additional forest measurements.

Timber rights
The landowner must maintain their timber rights on the property during the contract period.

Forest management

No commercial harvesting, at least for first six years
No commercial harvesting is allowed on the property for the initial six-year contract period. Subsequent extensions to the Membership Agreement may allow for harvesting. Limited collection of firewood for personal use is allowed. Likewise, sanitation removals are allowed when appropriate.

No planting non-native tree species
No planting of non-native tree species is allowed in the project area.

No broadcast fertilization
No broadcast fertilization is allowed in the project area.

Forest management plan for additional land
If additional forestland is purchased by any of the landowners after the time of enrollment with intentions to carry out commercial harvesting, the owner must commit to developing and implementing a management plan for all forestland in their ownership. The management plan shall be sanctioned by a state or federal agency or be approved by the American Tree Farm System, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or the Forest Stewardship Council. If no additional forestland is acquired during the contract period, then no forest management plan is required. Likewise, if additional forestland is acquired during the contract period without intentions of commercial harvesting, then no forest management plan is required.

Inventory and monitoring

Commit to monitoring
The landowner must commit to monitoring their forest for the entire project lifetime. During the contract period, Forest Carbon Works performs all the necessary steps to monitor and report to the California Air Resources Board. If the Forest Carbon Works Membership Agreement is not extended beyond the initial six-year contract period, then the landowner must perform the necessary steps to continue the project for the duration of the 125-year project lifetime or hire a professional forester to report on their behalf. As described above, landowners who are Forest Carbon Works members for the entire 25-year crediting period are eligible for special treatment that absolves them of any further monitoring commitments.

Remeasuring trees
The landowner must allow Forest Carbon Works to remeasure trees in their forest every six years during the contract period. Trees must be remeasured by a FCW Forest Technician using our smartphone inventory tool. Landowners may hire a professional forester outside of Forest Carbon Works to remeasure trees if they prefer, but the forester must attend a training on how to use the smartphone inventory tool.

Reporting and verification

Third party audit for verification
The landowner must participate in the verification process during the contract period as requested by Forest Carbon Works. The verification process involves a third party audit of compliance to the protocol. The auditor must confirm certain requirements by interviewing the landowner on the property or by phone.

Yearly online report
Each year during the contract period, the landowner must fill out a short online report with Forest Carbon Works. During the contract period, Forest Carbon Works uses this information to subsequently report the status of the project to the California Air Resources Board on the landowner’s behalf.

The Air Resources Board requires an Offset Project Data Report to be filed annually. The report contains information about activities and changes in carbon stocks within the carbon project area during the prior year. During the contract period, Forest Carbon Works handles all reporting to the Air Resources Board. If the Membership Agreement is not extended beyond the initial six-year period, then the landowner becomes responsible for the Offset Project Data Report. In that case, Forest Carbon Works recommends consulting a qualified forester to assist with the preparation of the Offset Project Data Report.

Costs

Besides the $75 application fee, there are no additional costs associated with Forest Carbon Works. There may be outside costs if you choose to hire a forester to take inventory measurements using our smartphone inventory tool.

Forest Carbon Works pays for all upfront costs to get a project started. After a project has been issued credits, those credits are under the ownership of Forest Carbon Works. Forest Carbon Works pays itself back for the upfront costs of project development and then provides the rest of the revenue to the landowner in the form of an annual check.

Upon enrollment as a member of Forest Carbon Works, landowners receive a document outlining all of the costs incurred by Forest Carbon Works for project development, as well as the financial return to the landowner based on the results of the free inventory.

What if…?

Wondering what these responsibilities mean for you and your forest? Here are some common questions about landowner responsibilities:

 

I was late to pay an installment on my property taxes. How does this affect my membership?

As long as the property taxes are up to date at the time of online reporting to Forest Carbon Works, then there is no effect. If property taxes are delinquent as of the reporting, then your report will be rejected by Forest Carbon Works and the Membership Agreement may be terminated.

 

What if I’m not available to meet with a representative of Forest Carbon Works on my property during the verification process?

This is not an issue so long as you’re available by phone for the auditor, and we have access to the property.

 

What if I sell some of my timber during the contract period?

A commercial harvest during the contract period may result in termination of the Membership Agreement and imposition of certain penalties if the Membership Agreement does not explicitly allow for a commercial harvest. No commercial harvests are allowed during the first six years of the contract period.

 

What if I sell some of my timber after the contract period?

You may conduct a commercial harvest after the Membership Agreement expires, however you must follow the rules of the protocol. Forest Carbon Works recommends working with a qualified forester to assess the implications of a commercial harvest on the status of the forest carbon project.

 

I don’t ever want to harvest timber from my property. Will I be forced to harvest timber at some point?

No, you are never required to harvest timber. However, there are some good reasons why you should harvest timber at some point in the future. For example, harvesting can help maintain the vigor of your forest and its ability to effectively sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

 

I intend to plant some non-native, ornamental trees near my cabin on the property. Can I plant these trees without violating the terms of the Membership Agreement?

Yes, you can plant non-native trees near the cabin because the cabin is not included in the forest project area. As the cabin and the open yard around the cabin do not qualify as forestland, the terms do not apply.

 

If a property is sold, does the buyer have to continue with the carbon project?

If a property is sold or changes ownership, the new owner will be required to continue with the forest carbon project. The terms of the forest carbon project are attached to the land, not the landowner. If a property owner decides to intentionally end their forest carbon project, they will be legally required by the state of California to replace (i.e., buy) any Air Resources Board forest offset credits that have been previously issued to the project.

 

What if there is a natural disaster on my property?

When a natural disaster occurs on a property where there is a forest carbon project and carbon stocks are lost, this is referred to as an unintentional reversal. If there is an unintentional reversal on your property, please notify Forest Carbon Works immediately so we can take the appropriate next steps. If an unintentional reversal occurs on your property, you are not penalized as a landowner for any losses in carbon stocks but annual payments may be affected if the loss is substantial.

 

Why is harvesting not allowed within the first six years of the harvest period?

Harvests are not allowed within the first six years of the contract period because projects are often very sensitive at their start. The risk associated at the outset of the project is one that we aim to buffer through disallowing harvest, at least for the first six-year contract period with Forest Carbon Works. Past the initial six years of the contract period, and if a landowner elects to renew their contract with us, harvests can be coordinated with Forest Carbon Works. We can help schedule harvests that will comply with the requirements of forest carbon projects.

 

What happens if I want to harvest during the crediting period?

Beyond the initial six-year contract period with Forest Carbon Works, harvesting is allowed on the property during the crediting period. However, harvest plans must be appropriately planned and coordinated with Forest Carbon Works. Any harvests which take place must not reduce biomass below certain levels. If at the time of the third party audit, the project’s stocks are below certain levels due to deliberate activity (such as harvesting), an intentional reversal occurs. If an intentional reversal occurs, you may not receive your annual payment.

 

If additional land is acquired by the landowner after project commencement, does that land have to be enrolled in the carbon project?

Landowners are required to include all forested land that they currently possess in the project. Houses, barns, yards and gardens will be cut out of the project, so it’s okay if they exist on the property. Any future forestland purchased by the landowner after project commencement would not be included in the project but may need to have a sustainable management plan put in place. If a landowner wanted to enroll future forestland in a carbon project, they could enroll the land in a new project with Forest Carbon Works.

 

Can I allocate credits created by the project to other people or trusts?

As part of the Membership Agreement, members agree to receive an annual payment from Forest Carbon Works, not the credits themselves.

 

Is it possible to end a forest carbon project after the initial six-year contract period with Forest Carbon Works?

No. One should definitely make all considerations and address all concerns before electing to move forward with a forest carbon project. Enrolling your property in a forest carbon project is a major legal commitment which will last, at a minimum, 125 years. Although one is not required to enter into another six-year contract period with Forest Carbon Works, it is legally required to continue with the project for the entirety of its lifetime. If an individual does decide to intentionally end their forest carbon project, they will be legally required by the state of California to replace (i.e., buy) any Air Resources Board forest offset credits that have been previously issued to the project plus a penalty.

 

Is it possible to continue having a forest carbon project without a contract with Forest Carbon Works?

Yes. After the initial six-year contract period, you are not obligated to renew your contract with Forest Carbon Works. Although we recommend contract renewal with Forest Carbon Works, you may instead report to the Air Resources Board every six years by yourself or with help from another developer, forester or forestry consulting group. No matter the choice, the project must continue for at least the remainder of the 25-year crediting period followed by the 100-year monitoring period.

 

Can I continue to receive revenue from my forest carbon project after the 25-year crediting period?

Yes. The landowner may elect to renew their crediting period in 25-year increments and receive annual payments each year during the crediting period so long as the project is in compliance with the law. The landowner may continue to renew their crediting period over and over again. The 100-year monitoring period begins on the date that the last credit for the project is issued. Once the 100-year monitoring period begins, the project will no longer generate credits and landowners will no long receive annual payments.

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