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Conservation Fund’s Green Bonds Pay Off: Eight Forests And 220,000 Acres

A view from the Chadbourn Tree Farm in Maine

 

JERRY MONKMAN / ECOPHOTOGRAPHY

 

Are trees a good investment? Back in 2019, The Conservation Fund closed on $150 million in green bonds dedicated to forest conservation in the United States. The Virginia-based nonprofit recently issued an impact report, highlighting what the bonds achieved in 2020.

 

The organization says it used $131 million in proceeds to acquire eight forests worth more than $245 million and covering a total of 223,760 acres in Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Florida. These forests would have otherwise been threatened by development and fragmentation, a fund spokeswoman says.

 

As explained in the impact report, the green bonds support The Conservation Fund’s Working Forest Fund, dubbed as a “natural climate solution” with a goal to mitigate climate change, strengthen rural economies and protect natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk forests.

 

By the Numbers

That 223,760 acres is an area 15 times the size of Manhattan and includes 444 miles of streams and local benefits like creating or maintaining 1,145 jobs and supporting $138 million in economic impact.

 

Minnesota's Heritage Forest conservation fund green bonds impact report

JAY BRITTAIN

 

Forests also have the ability to sequester carbon, and about 54 million tons is secured by the green bond forests, the report notes, with an annual capture capacity equal to the carbon output of 1.4 billion (with a b) passenger vehicle miles.

 

More specifically, the green bond projects have secured more than 37,000 acres of “climate resilient land,” or areas that provide native species with a range of climate variations essential to survival as the overall climate shifts.

 

As well, 92,924 acres of the forests are classified as “climate flow zones,” or areas that provide connectivity for species migrating in response to climate change.

 

Investment Math

How does $131 million in investment equal $245 million worth of forests?

 

The Conservation Fund blended the bond proceeds with other sources of capital to end up with more acres protected and a greater climate impact. Not a bad recipe.

 

A spokeswoman says The Conservation Fund is on track to use the remaining bond proceeds early this year for a second round of new projects.

 

Drilling down (not in the forests, but figuratively), the impact report looks at three projects: the Chadbourne Tree Farm in Maine, Clarion Junction Forest in Pennsylvania and Pleasant River Headwaters Forest in Maine.

 

Pleasant River Headwaters Forest in Maine

Pleasant River Headwaters Forest in Maine

JERRY MONKMAN / ECOPHOTOGRAPHY

 

Some highlights: the 15,408-acre Chadbourne project in Maine will protect the fourth largest private forest in the Sebago Lake watershed, filtering drinking water for more than 200,000 residents in the city of Portland.

 

The 26,739-acre Pleasant River project in Maine forever safeguards critical designated habitat for Atlantic salmon and native brook trout. And acquiring the 32,598-acre Clarion Junction land connects Pennsylvania Game Commission lands and the Allegheny National Forest.

 

The Clarion forest will continue to be sustainably managed as a working forest, maintaining its role as a steady source of timber for local mills and jobs for timber crews, the fund said in a news release. Hence the name of the effort that the green bonds support: the Working Forest Fund.

 

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