Michigan DNR to launch carbon dioxide credit program on state forestland

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Michigan is a step closer to launching a program to shrink the state's carbon footprint through credits, officials said Friday.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has chosen a Salt Lake City company called Bluesource Corp. to conduct a feasibility study and provide marketing and brokerage services in a project to use so-called carbon credits in more than 100,000 acres of the Pigeon River Country State Forest. 

The forest is located about 20 miles north of Gaylord.

Three members of a larger crew plant pine tree seeds in Marquette County, regenerating an area where timber was harvested previously.

State officials said the project is the first of its kind on state forestland.

"This idea makes sense for the environment, for healthy, thriving outdoor spaces and for the people of Michigan,” Dan Eichinger, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' director, said in a statement. "This program could help position Michigan to sustainably leverage the diverse forest lands we manage to take full advantage of current and future carbon trade markets." 

It's estimated one tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year. By the time it's 40, it can store one ton of the gas. Officials said when a tree that's stored carbon dioxide is used to make wooden products, the gas is captured in the manufactured furniture, houses or other products.

Potentially, companies that produce carbon emissions in their operations could offset their impact on the environment by buying carbon credits from other organizations, such as the DNR, that reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Under the program, one carbon credit would equal 1 ton of carbon dioxide emissions.

The DNR could then use the revenue from selling carbon credits to plant more trees or take other actions to improve carbon dioxide storage. Michigan has nearly 20 million acres of forest and the DNR manages 4 million acres of state forests.

A DNR spokesman said agency has a zero-cost contract with Bluesource for the program. The state won't pay the company directly for its services, but Bluesource will receive brokerage fees on carbon credits sold on the market.

"The 108,000-acre, Pigeon River Improved Forest Management Project represents a major step in the development of the U.S. voluntary carbon market, and will allow the state of Michigan to generate meaningful carbon revenue for its commitment to nature based climate solutions,” Josh Strauss, Bluesource's vice president, said in a statement.

"It’s an honor to collaborate with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources as it takes this groundbreaking action and serves as a model for other state forest management programs."

Michigan's governor praised the project.

"Michigan’s natural resources are vital to our families, our environment and our economy," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. "That’s why this administration is stepping up to address climate change here in Michigan.

"By utilizing this carbon credit program, we can lower pollution, slow the effects of climate change, and create a better Michigan for families and small businesses across the state."