You may be wondering, “what’s the point of planting trees?” The impacts of trees and tree-planting are widely seen across our planet. What the lungs are to the human body is what trees are to our world: they sustain it. Trees play a vital role by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, providing oxygen, and improving air quality, not to mention the natural habitat they provide and the beauty they bring.
Research on the dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere led to tree-planting as a viable and necessary solution to carbon sequestration resulting in a more stable ecosystem and reducing climate change. The impacts of these immense tree-planting efforts will be immeasurable for environmental conservation and sustainability.
What Do Landowners Stand to Gain?
While initiatives like the Trillion Trees Act may seem ambitious, individual landowners help make it a reality and also earn valuable revenue in the process. Aside from the sense of fulfillment that comes with being a great steward of your lands, there are also avenues for income generation when you participate in restoration and afforestation projects.
It does not end there. As a forest landowner, you can also participate in carbon credits trading. Carbon sequestration projects—such as restoration and afforestation—are a great source of carbon credits. Once a project is verified, owners of such projects can sell their carbon credits to businesses or organizations that need to offset their carbon emissions. The possibilities are almost limitless.
Applying a Portfolio Approach to Your Land
It is time to think of land as your portfolio.
Historically, landowners only get paid when something is extracted from their property like timber or crops. As the cost of carrying land and paying taxes rise over time, landowners have looked to conservation easements and land-use taxation policies as a way to lower that cost. The rise of natural capital gives landowners a new way of managing land, going beyond conservation, and ushering in the age of the restoration economy.
What exactly do we mean when we say natural capital? Natural capital is about putting a price and value on your land’s ecological services to society. Whether your trees and soil are sequestering carbon, providing critical biodiversity, or filtering and storing water, natural capital is about taking a more comprehensive approach to your investment portfolio that turns your land into a valuable asset as it grows.
In the extractive approach, many landowners are tempted to maximize production. This often comes to the detriment of the health of the soil and forests. But nature comes with benefits in its very creation, and both are a blessing to us. They are not to be taken for granted, as these benefits carry us forward in life. They, if anything, must be better costed.
So natural capital forces one to develop, at best, an optimization approach to land management. For example, a tree never was recognized on the balance sheet until it was harvested for paper or board feet. With the rise of the carbon market, you now have to ask, is the tree worth more up than down? By merely asking this question, you change how you manage your land. No longer are you forced to cut timber to pay your bills. As your timber grows year over year, the stock change difference is turned into carbon credits that have value to corporations.
The tools at a landowners’ disposal are expanding, giving landowners more options and strategies for managing their land. This expansion of the landowner toolbox is ushering in the Age of Natural Capitalism while moving beyond conservation to the restoration economy. We are learning to put nature on the balance sheet by placing a price and value on our natural systems and the benefit they provide our communities and us. This gives new meaning to the adage of doing well by doing good.