Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combatting climate change will benefit clean drinking water, wildlife, recreation, and Ontario's forest products industry.
The new partnership with Bluesource Canada, a leading developer of forest carbon and other GHG offsets, signals Haliburton Forest's pledge to undertake sustainable forest management practices that will generate 75,000 tonnes per year of additional GHG reductions over the long-term. Haliburton Forest owns and manages over 100,000 acres of hardwood timberland in Haliburton County, Ontario, upon which it operates numerous businesses, ranging from forest management to outdoor education.
Haliburton Forest has been a leader in sustainable forest management in Canada for decades and was the first forest in the country to earn Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. As a result of this long-standing stewardship program, Haliburton Forest currently sequesters an estimated 8 million tonnes of CO2 and will continue to sequester amounts that significantly exceed what would have occurred through common-practice forest management.
The long-term commitment to reducing GHG emissions will be made in the context of a GHG offset protocol being developed by the Ontario Government as part of the cap-and-trade program. The impending forest management protocol will create binding obligations on Haliburton Forest that provide the security that the GHG reductions will be permanent. In exchange for this commitment, it will generate carbon offsets that will be sold to entities within the cap-and-trade program. The revenues from this sale compensate Haliburton Forest for going above and beyond what is expected in sustainable forest management to reduce GHG emissions over the long term.
The management practices at Haliburton Forest that will be rewarded by the forest carbon offset opportunity include, but are not limited to, increasing the maturity of trees harvested (rotation times), improving the health of the forest, and harvesting less than annual growth. These practices are tailored to the type of forest. Malcolm Cockwell, Managing Director of Haliburton Forest, says, "The majority of harvesting on our forest employs single-tree selection, a method that prioritizes the removal of unhealthy trees that are unlikely to survive or grow past the desired maturity. In this way, single-tree selection improves the overall vigour and quality of the forest over time." This is a low-impact harvesting technique that is the preferred method for facilitating the growth of shade-tolerant species like Sugar maple and will maximize carbon sequestration for this type of forest.
Harvesting on a smaller scale is done using a uniform shelterwood system that removes more volume and creates larger gaps in the canopy, which allow abundant light to reach the forest floor. This method is employed to regenerate shade-intolerant species like White pine, Red oak, and Black cherry. The combination of forest management methods provides diversity at a landscape scale and facilitates the growth of drought-resistant species and that are less likely to be affected by climate change.
There are a host of other benefits that result from Haliburton Forest's commitment, although they are not incentivized by a market value in the same way as the GHG reductions. These 'co-benefits' include ecosystem services such as improving water quality and protecting old growth forest ecosystems within the property that provide habitat for wildlife and promote biodiversity.
By partnering with Bluesource Canada to develop the forest carbon offset opportunity, Haliburton Forest also hopes to demonstrate the value of meeting a high standard of sustainable forest management to other privately-owned lands in Ontario. Jamie MacKinnon, VP of Environmental Solutions at Bluesource Canada, adds, "We are confident the Ontario carbon market will provide many more landowners with sufficient monetary incentive to make the same long-term commitments to achieving high standards of sustainable forest management."