Market-Based Approaches to Conserving Southern Woodlands
By Laura Calandrella
The future of Southern forests is in the hands of private landowners. Recognizing the urgent challenge of sustaining Southern forests, a diverse coalition of business leaders, conservation experts, scientists and forest advocates formed a public-private partnership known as Keeping Forests. At the coalition, we believe that we must create the conditions that help these land stewards keep their forests as forests.
Our approach is unique: we focus exclusively on strategies that deliver results across the entire U.S. South. We identify the factors influencing the future of Southern forests, the gaps that exist, and take on challenges that no single partner, entity or organization can tackle alone. Rather than focusing on conserving forests one acre at a time, we invest in market-driven solutions with the highest potential to promote, expand and incentivize sustainable forestry. Our goal is to provide the marketplace with proof-of-concept innovations, backed by evidence-based research, that can be scaled and implemented from the ground up.
Thriving markets are an essential component of thriving, healthy forests. Over the course of several years, our multi-sector, nonpartisan partnership identified two high-leverage market opportunities:
Promoting Traditional Forest Products The first strategy considers the untapped potential of traditional forest products in the South. We began implementation with a focus on expanding the use of mass timber. We continue to invest in that work and, in 2023, will launch an innovation design challenge that sources solutions to use mass timber to address the affordable housing crisis in the United States. However, the market shifts that have occurred since the COVID pandemic have called our attention to the need for a systems-level analysis of what has changed since 2020. In addition to the innovation challenge, we will gather leaders together to understand where the bottlenecks are in the supply chain and what social, economic and political forces are most influential at this time.
Catalyzing an EmergingWater Market There is no question that forests are essential to carbon sequestration. The race to create a viable carbon market began in 1997 with the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, with 150 nations assignatories. The creation of water markets tied to the benefits that forests provide is under explored. Keeping Forests is well underway in creating the building blocks that will lead to a viable water market in the South. We are investing in the science to model the direct impacts of forests on water quality, designing strategies to influence voluntary participation in a water market, and working with the private sector to design models for corporately financed water markets that pay landowners for the ecosystem services their land provides.
Keeping Forests is at the forefront of leveraging collaboration to deliver outcomes that create value for every sector, every demographic and every forest ecosystem in the South. We are at an inflection point in the implementation of our strategies in 2023. We are excited to share upcoming opportunities to partner. Our work is rooted in collaboration and everything we have accomplished to date is a result of the dedication of our partners. The quickest way to access these opportunities and engage in our ever-growing network is to sign up for our newsletter. Every month, we share valuable resources, findings and progress; highlight our partners; and invite participation in various aspects of our work.■
Laura Calandrella is the Executive Director of Keeping Forests. She focuses on leveraging the power of collaboration to create new and innovative pathways for forest conservation in the Southeaster United States.
Georgia Forestry Magazine is published by HL Strategy, an integrated marketing and communications firm focused on our nation's biggest challenges and opportunities. Learn more at hlstrategy.com