Shasta County area on leading edge of climate-change research


By Leslie Bryan

The Western Shasta Resource Conservation District is involved in a research project regarding climate change, a topic of great importance and interest. The project is pretty exciting as we here in Shasta County are on the very “cutting edge” of climate-change mitigation and how California may reach its goals set forth in AB32, the CA Global Warming Solutions Act.

As part of the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (WESTCARB), the district is in partnership with the non-profit organization Winrock International to implement a research project involving carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration, simply put, is the capture and storage of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). The WESTCARB Team is made up of more than 80 organizations, public agencies, private companies and nonprofits and is working toward the goal of identifying and testing opportunities to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, thereby reducing humankind’s impact on the climate.

Shasta County has been identified as an area capable of cost-effective carbon sequestration, and the district is actively involved in validating the science behind the idea. Sequestration options being investigated for Shasta County include conversion of marginal rangelands to forests (afforestation), improved management of hazardous fuels to reduce wildfires and their emissions, biomass energy, and forest management. The projects will benefit agriculture, ranching and timber management and provide safety to local communities, and we are happy to report that work is progressing nicely.

The district sent scoping letters to approximately 400 landowners in the county having over 100 acres within areas determined as having the best opportunity for afforestation based on topography, soils and land type. Interested landowners were then surveyed regarding their interest, cost share needs and site specifics. Working with Beaty and Associate foresters, the district performed GIS analysis and site visits to determine which sites may be feasible for afforestation projects. In an effort to gain as much valuable research data as possible, projects chosen for afforestation project implementation include a variety of locations, elevations, and soil types within the county.

With the goal of planting about 500 acres with native conifer and oak woodland species, the research project is implementing twelve on-the-ground projects. These projects include sites that have been open or in brush for at least the last 10 years, but are capable of growing trees. Examples include areas that have been previously burned by catastrophic fire, and have not been reforested naturally or otherwise due to brush competition and landowners’ lack of financial resources. Prior to implementation, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review is performed on each proposed project. When implemented, landowners will have the opportunity to register projects with the CA Climate Action Registry for the purpose of participating in carbon offset market opportunities.

We are excited that our project is featured in a Public Broadcasting Service documentary produced by Prairie Public Television Station from North Dakota. The half-hour segment is part of a larger project which includes other climate mitigation topics such as geologic sequestration and carbon markets and trading. The terrestrial sequestration segment attempts to explain how forest management, afforestation, and wild land fuel management activities affect the carbon cycle.

The San Diego Union Tribune published a story regarding California’s evolving forest management strategies relating to the issue of climate change. It can be found here. Please note the project mentioned at the beginning and end of the story involving landowner Gary Hendrix is one of our very own WESTCARB Shasta County pilot projects.

The district is proud to be part of this important research project to inform decisions by policymakers, communities, and businesses on how to invest in carbon capture and sequestration technology development and deployment to achieve climate-change mitigation objectives.

Leslie Bryan is the Climate Stewardship Coordinator of the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District, 6270 Parallel Road, Anderson, California 96007-4833.

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