Helping to ‘see the magnificent forest for the trees’

Dear editor,

The release of a report by the BC Auditor General has led to a vigorous debate on the future of carbon neutral government.

Dear editor,

The recent release of a report by the BC Auditor General has led to a vigorous debate on the future of carbon neutral government.

As a seller of carbon credits to the Pacific Carbon Trust, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) looks forward to any clarity that may result in the BC carbon market.

However, a recent column in the Comox Valley Record (Greenhouse gas leaks from Pacific Carbon Trust by Tom Fletcher), perpetuates factual errors that fail to inform any debate.

Acquisition of a conservation project is the beginning of our work, not the end. When NCC purchased Darkwoods in 2008, our expensive, long-term commitment to the conservation lands began.

From the outset, revenue from carbon sales was seen as critical to supporting this stewardship effort. Without the possibility of carbon sales NCC could not have undertaken a project of the size and scope of Darkwoods. Yet, those facts are conveniently overlooked by Mr. Fletcher.

Further he fails to understand the baseline used to calculate stored carbon at Darkwoods. Independent evaluations were not based on the possibility of NCC clear-cutting the property, but rather on what would have happened had NCC not acquired Darkwoods.

The alternative to NCC ownership was acquisition by a market-based buyer. The land would have been intensively logged and subdivided.

The difference between that scenario and the current conserved property forms the basis for carbon valuation.

Mr. Fletcher asks, rhetorically if NCC would have logged Darkwoods. “Legally, it could not,” he writes. On the contrary, NCC does log the Darkwoods site.

We operate a small, sustainable harvest based on conservation values that supports the property and the community. In fact, overall our ownership of Darkwoods has resulted in a $13-million economic benefit to the community, to date.

The Darkwoods Forest Carbon project was the first of its kind undertaken in Canada. The project is certified under the Verified Carbon Standard; a standard that ensures a carbon project follows internationally recognized protocols and has tangible environmental benefits.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada spent three years developing the project, and exercised due diligence at every step while working with various industry experts. The project also fulfilled all provincial regulations and met all standards for Carbon Offsets.

More importantly, Darkwoods is a world-class conservation project. Without revenue from forest carbon, the long-term protection of this vital 55,000 hectare property and the fate of animals and plants that find a haven there would be in jeopardy.

The proceeds from the carbon sales went back into the long-term stewardship of Darkwoods — for the sake of nature and the people of British Columbia.

Darkwoods ensures in perpetuity, British Columbians will see the magnificent forest for the trees.

Tom Swann

Editor’s note: Tom Swann is the associate regional vice-president, BC, the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

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