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DNR forest carbon

An elk standing in a field with fall trees in the background

DNR forest carbon

Generating carbon credits from state forest lands

Michigan’s forests provide natural benefits including clean air and water, wildlife habitat, scenic places for recreation, renewable forest products and carbon storage. Carbon storage is achieved by absorption of carbon dioxide by trees: a single mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon annually. Industries that produce carbon emissions may purchase carbon offset credits, investing in forests as carbon sinks. Revenues from carbon credit sales will support activities including reforestation efforts.

Forest program information

About the Bluesource/DNR Big Wild Forest Carbon Project

The Bluesource/Michigan DNR Big Wild Forest Carbon Project is the first-of-its-kind in the nation that will leverage the carbon storage capacity of trees on state forest lands. This pilot project, taking place on over 100,000 acres of the celebrated Pigeon River Country State Forest known as “The Big Wild,” will develop a portfolio of carbon offset credits generated from sustainable forest management activities.

Frequently asked questions

  • Companies that produce carbon emissions during their regular operations can offset this negative impact to the environment by purchasing carbon credits from entities that reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. One carbon credit equals 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide emission. In this case, state forests absorb carbon as trees grow, locking it into wood and durable forest products manufactured from harvesting trees. Carbon offset credits represent measured and modeled carbon maintained in the state forest and durable wood products. 

  • Bluesource is the contracted developer of DNR carbon projects. They are a climate action partner that has pioneered creative solutions to the climate crisis since 2001. With deep expertise across environmental technologies and markets and more than 200 projects in the United States and Canada, Bluesource is a leader in voluntary, compliance and pre-compliance carbon, renewable energy attribute, renewable natural gas and energy efficiency markets.

  • This project will help the DNR to adapt to climate-related requirements in forest management standards for forest certification, to which the DNR must use for the sustainable management of state forest lands.

    Sustainably managed forests provide a variety of benefits to people and nature including clean air and water, wildlife habitat, scenic places for recreation, renewable forest products and carbon storage.

    • The sale of carbon credits is one strategy that will help Michigan along the path to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Michigan is the ninth state in the nation to make a commitment to 100% economic carbon neutrality.
    • This project will help advance Michigan’s commitment to action as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance.
    • Will help meet United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to clean water, economic growth, sustainable communities, responsible production and consumption, climate action and others. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating global responses to climate change.
  • Inventory plots have been established and measured within the project area by Green Timber Consulting Foresters, Inc., and Bluesource staff are conducting modeling to determine the volume of carbon offset credits to be generated by the project. 

    Next steps include third-party verification of the modeling and credits, to be concluded in March 2022. Credit registration and issuance through the American Carbon Registry will occur in May 2022, and the sale of offset credits in June 2022.

    The term of the carbon project is for 40 years.

  • Management of state forest resources and the sale of carbon credits are intended to be complementary. Carbon credits will be generated from the management of forest resources within the Pigeon River Country state forest, as governed by the 2007 Pigeon River Country Concept of Management and the 2013 Northern Lower Peninsula Regional State Forest Management Plan. It is not anticipated that the carbon project will adversely affect management and timber harvests levels from the forest. Carbon credits are generated based on the DNR's commitment to maintaining forest growth levels and progressively increasing forest stocking, rather than increasing harvest levels as would be allowable under the management plan and state law.

    Any changes in management will be driven by future changes to the Concept of Management and 10-year updates to the State Forest Management Plan, which are subject to public review prior to adaptation and implementation. 

  • Funds from the sale of carbon credits will be re-invested into the Forest Development Fund and other DNR funds, which support activities such as additional forest management, wildlife habitat improvement, stand stocking, infrastructure, recreation projects and tree planting activities.

  • Landowners participating in carbon offset projects are not liable to repay offset credits if there is an unintentional, natural loss of forest carbon stocks, such as the effects from a fire, storm, disease or insect damage, in an ACR-registered carbon project. The ACR Improved Forest Management methodology requires that a risk-based proportion of the total carbon credits generated by all registered projects be allocated to a communal 'buffer pool' (like a group insurance policy) that all projects can draw from in the event of a natural loss of forestland for any project. The DNR would not have to pay back the money received from the project. 

  • DTE Energy has announced a commitment to purchase offset credits generated from the first 10 years of the project. DTE Energy will offer these offsets to its larger industrial natural gas clients seeking to reduce the impact of carbon emissions, much as they do for their residential and small business customers, through DTE's voluntary Natural Gas Balance program.

  • The DNR is using the American Carbon Registry's Improved Forest Management Methodology for non-federal U.S. forestlands. Carbon offset credit from the project will be registered with the ACR. The ACR is a nonprofit enterprise of Winrock International, founded in 1996 as the world's first private, voluntary greenhouse gas registry.

  • If the pilot project is determined to be successful, the DNR may develop additional carbon offset credit projects on other department-managed lands.

  • The DNR hosted virtual panel discussion on carbon offset credits and how they are used to promote healthy forests. 

About the Pigeon River Country State Forest

The 109,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest is a special place. The rolling forest land is the heart of Michigan’s elk range, and through it flows several premium cold-water trout streams, including the storied Sturgeon, Pigeon and Black rivers. Coined “The Big Wild” by conservationist P.S. Lovejoy for its scenic beauty and immortalized in the writing and letters of author Ernest Hemingway, this area has captivated outdoorspeople for generations. Hikers, anglers, wildlife watchers and hunters all appreciate this area for its wilderness-like feel where they can step out of busy lives and into nature. This working forest is managed with sustainable timber harvest practices and enhanced carbon sequestration in mind so it can continue to be used and enjoyed by present and future generations.

Explore the Pigeon River Country State Forest

A hunter in the woods

Contact and carbon credit purchases

Interested in purchasing carbon credits to offset those produced by your business? Contact Ben Massie for more information. Contact Josh Strauss for general inquiries regarding the carbon project and BlueSource.

Contact Scott Whitcomb or David Price for more DNR information on this project or on the Pigeon River Country State Forest.