U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, introduced bipartisan legislation Tuesday to provide economic opportunities to small-scale, family foresters by allowing them to benefit from the sustainable, voluntary steps they are taking to manage their land, according to a release from Casey’s office.

“Family forest owners are often left out of the financial opportunities available to larger forests as companies look for ways to offset their environmental footprint,” the release reads.

The Rural Forest Markets Act will help smaller foresters overcome financial barriers to innovative marketplaces, create new forestry jobs, and incentivize private investment in the success of rural communities while improving the environment by supporting various carbon reduction efforts, according to the release.

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Congressman William Timmons (R-SC-4).

“Small family foresters have long been at the forefront of carbon reductions efforts,” said Casey. “They should be able to profit off of their conversation and sustainability efforts, just are larger-scale foresters do now. This Rural Forest Markets Act will help them maximize the carbon benefits of their forests while ensuring the health of Pennsylvania woodlands.”

“As a tree farmer myself, I know sustainable forest management represents both a win for conservationists and all Americans,” said Braun. “I’m proud to join Senators Casey and Stabenow to reintroduce the Rural Forests Markets Act because it’s a low-overhead solution that takes advantage of private investment to notch a win for small family foresters and the environment.”

Voluntary carbon markets enable companies, local governments, and other organizations to offset their carbon footprint by investing in large-scale environmental projects that remove or store a corresponding amount of carbon from the atmosphere, according to the release.

“Big or small, our forests are an important part of tackling the climate crisis,” said Stabenow. “For too long, there have been barriers that prevent family foresters from being able to take advantage of the economic benefits of their carbon reduction efforts. This bipartisan legislation changes that by removing those barriers and ensuring that they can tap into new markets and be rewarded for their climate-smart practices.”

For forest landowners, participating in carbon markets provides an opportunity to earn additional income while improving forest health and mitigating climate change. However, family forest landowners are often unable to enter the carbon marketplace due to high, upfront costs.

The Rural Forest Markets Act will create a program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to guarantee loans, bonds, or other investment vehicles for projects, such as the Family Forest Carbon Program, that assist private forest owners in overcoming financial and technical barriers in entering carbon markets.

Read more about the Rural Forest Markets Act at https://www.casey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/rural_forest_markets_act_one-pager1.pdf.