By Heather Ramsay–Old Massett economic development officer John Disney says there is money to be made cutting alder out of long-ago logged riverbanks.
He just needs $4.5-million and access to protected forest areas in order to prove it.
Mr. Disney visited Queen Charlotte Council Monday in hopes of getting written support for a proposed pilot project to sell carbon credits earned by replacing alder with conifers. He needs to do the work in protected areas, like the riverbank riparian zones, so he and any investors can be assured the trees will never be logged.
By his calculations, the work would not only create several jobs for people in Old Massett, but as old-growth conifers are known to soak up more carbon than alder, the project could help Canada reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Selling carbon credits to businesses which are not reducing emissions has become a lucrative trade worldwide.
So far, he says he’s received support from Masset, Port Clements, the CHN, as well as Shell, Ecotrust and scientists at Environment Canada.
The local Ministry of Forests holds the key to whether the 1,000 hectare pilot project will able to get going, says Mr. Disney.
But Ministry of Forests spokesperson Greg Wiggins spoke with caution about the project.
“We are interested in granting you land tenure in which to conduct a pilot project, if the technical and scientific challenges can be addressed,” he said.
He and other Forest Service staff brought up concerns ranging from assumptions Mr. Disney and his partner Russ George have made about the ecology of alder-infested riverbanks, the amount and methods of removing alder in this sensitive ecosystem, and a potential overstating of the net carbon sequestration results.
Another concern is who actually owns the carbon credits coming from a public resource. There is no government policy around this.
Mr. Wiggins says these issues must be addressed along with a clarification of Disney’s methodology before the Ministry, representing a coalition of local resource managers, can agree to grant land tenure on such a large scale.
Mr. Disney’s pilot project would encompass approximately 100 kilometres of riparian zones along major fish-bearing rivers such as the Yakoun and the Mamin. If successful, Mr. Disney proposes to continue on a larger scale.
Mr. Wiggins says the Forest Service is concerned that Mr. Disney is promoting the project vigorously, in the media and elsewhere, when these concerns have not been addressed.
Mr. Disney said he has contacted the dean of forestry at UBC to go over the science and hopes the Forest Service will be satisfied by the dean’s assessment.
He says if he gets the go ahead his project might provide a model which could be used elsewhere.
The reason he needs such a big area, is so he’ll have enough carbon credits to be able to sell.
He predicts the pilot will employ 35 people and will create more than enough wealth to move into the main project without ever needing to apply for any more funds.
Other concerns raised at the meeting included moral issues about selling carbon credits, a system that basically makes it okay for large corporations to continue to pollute.
Audience members pointed out that carbon credits are a volatile market. Prices have shifted from $80 a tonne down to $4.5. Mr. Disney says his projections for profitability are based on $5.5 a tonne.
Rolf Bettner, who was in the audience, said he’d rather see an idea like this applied to reforestation in general. “I’d rather see treeplanting as opposed to whacking alder.”
Mayor Carol Kulesha thanked Mr. Disney for his presentation and suggested he come again when some of the questions asked by the Ministry of Forests are answered.
Council may entertain writing a letter of support at that time.
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