AuthorFederico Cheever with Robert B. McKinstry Jr. and Robert L. Fischman
Page 823
I. Introduction—Forests, Forestry, and
Deep Decarbonization
Forests provide signicant ecological services that have
long been recognized. “Forests perform many critica l eco-
logical roles. ey are the lungs for the planet, clea ners of
the air, catchers of rainfall a nd protectors of soils, lters
for streams, and homes to countless species.”1 Many fail
fully to appreciate the essential role forests and forest ma n-
agement must play in preserving a carbon sink critical to
prevent climate disruption. Deforestation and conversion
of forestland to other uses has signi cantly contributed to
1. U.S. F S, U.S. D  A, N R-
  S F—2010, at I-12 (2011) (FS-979) [hereinafter
N R  S F],
Chapter 31
by Federico Cheever with Robert McKinstry Jr. and Robert L. Fischman
Forests and forest management have signicant roles to play in addressing climate change in the United States.
U.S. forests currently sequester nearly 40 gigatons (Gt) of carbon and are growing at a rate that osets about 700
million tons (0.7 Gt) of CO2 emissions per year, roughly 10% of U.S. total emissions. Forest management in the
coming decades could increase forest carbon capture by another 100 million tons per year. However, forests and
forest sequestration cannot substitute for emissions reduction in the long term, because forests will eventually
reach steady state, where CO2 uptake and release are roughly in balance. Achieving an additional 100 million
tons of sequestration per year will present signicant challenges, requiring the addition of 2.7 million newly
forested acres per year for the next several decades, as the amount of additional land suitable for reforestation
declines. Moreover, many existing forests will be stressed by the climate changes that are now inevitable, and
those same changes will reduce the area s that can support forests. Failure to manage forests with climate change
in mind will result in signicant additional carbon releases as trees are assaulted by wildre, insect infestation,
and disease increased by a changing climate. is makes the deep decarbonization necessary to stabilize climate
all the more dicult. Because forest ownership and authority in the United States are distributed among the
federal government, state governments, local governments, and private owners, a variety of legal tools must be
employed to realize the potential for carbon sequestration and limit the potential damage of climate change.
Federal, state, and local governments all have parts to play. National and state laws and regulations should
require carbon sequestration tracking and provide credits for sequestration in sustainably managed forests in
emissions trading programs. Federal and state programs should include additional incentives for use of biomass
generated from “low-use” wood produced through sustainably managed forests in programs to replace fossil
fuels for local heating and cooling and to co-re biomass in electricity generating stations with carbon capture
and sequestration capacity. Incentives include local land use regulation and conservation easements to protect
existing forests and to encourage reforestation that will sequester carbon, private certication of carbon seques-
tering forests, and conservation tax incentives to enhance carbon capture on private land.
Editors' Note: Federico Cheever died suddenly while on a rafting trip
shortly after submitting the second draft of this chapter. Robert McKinstry
and Robert Fischman have revised the chapter to reect peer review
comments, other editorial revisions, and subsequent developments, while
striving to preserve the thrust and the spirit of Professor Cheever’s work.
Page 824 Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States
the increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in
the atmosphere. If we ignore forests and follow a business-
as-usual approach, forest carbon emissions wi ll continue to
increase through land conversion, forest res, disease, and
decay. If we discourage further deforestation, encourage
aorestation, actively manage forests to sequester ca rbon,
and use biomass from sustainable forest management for
energy production with geological sequestration, the forest
sector can play a signica nt role in mitigati ng carbon emis-
sions in the short term and, more signicantly, in limiting
future cl imate disr uption.
As trees grow, they absorb CO2 in t he photosynt hetic
process and store carbon in both standing biomass and
soils. A growing forest can remove ve to 11 tons of CO2
from the atmosphere per hectare (2.47 acres) per year.2
Widespread deforestation in the United States during the
18th and 19th centuries released signicant amounts of
stored carbon into the atmosphere. However, as a result
of the adoption of sustainable forestry management, our
forests are regrowing and removing that CO2 from the
atmosphere. In June 2013, a broad cross section of for-
est indust ry, conser vation, landowner, and agenc y groups
signed a letter to President Obama on behalf of the Forest
Climate Working Group of the American Forest Foun-
dation. e letter asserted that U.S. forests currently
sequester 12% of U.S. annual carbon emissions and that
strategic conservation and susta inable forest management
could increase annual c arbon capture to as much as 20%
of annual emissions. At the same t ime, the letter cautioned
that, absent bold action, U.S. forest carbon sequestration
could stop growing and eventually decline as a result of
development pressure and climate change-related eects
on forests, including wildre, pests, and disease. e sig-
natories urged that “U.S. Forests must be included as part
of any solution to address climate change, or we risk los-
ing one of the nation’s most powerfu l tools to mitigate
climate change.”3
e 2015 Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project
(DDPP) policy report reects the potential of forests for
removing and sequestering CO2 through improved for-
est management and aorestation. e report cites U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates for all
carbon capture from land use, including forestry, at 831
million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions in 1990,4
2. Brent Sohngen & Robert Mendelsohn, An Optimal Model of Forest Carbon
Sequestration, 85 A. J. A. E. 448-57 (2003).
3. Letter From Forest-Climate Working Group to President Barack Obama
(June 27, 2013),les/publication-
4. J H. W  ., P  D D  
U S, U.S. 2050 R, V 2: P I 
D D   U S 17 (Deep Decarbonization
Pathways Project & Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc., 2015), avail-
able at
rising to 979 million in 2012, but then remaining at that
level from 2012 to 2050. However, forests will eventu-
ally reach steady state, where CO2 uptake and release are
roughly in balance unless additional measures a re utilized
to take full adva ntage of the capacity of forests to capture
and sequester CO2 from t he atmosphere.
e DDPP policy report does not address the full
potential of the forestry sector, considering all of the addi-
tional mechanisms whereby CO2 can be captu red and
sequestered. In November 2016, shortly before the elec-
tion, the White House released United States Mid-Century
Strategy for Deep Decarbonization, which maps U.S. poli-
cies to achieve an 80% reduction in national greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions from 2005 levels by 2050. In the
authors’ words, the Mid-Century Strategy is “grounded in
decades of research and analysis by the U.S. government.
It draws heavily on peer-reviewed academic literature and
is informed by a wealth of studies on the decarbonization
of energy systems and land sector carbon dynamics.”5 e
Mid-Century Strategy recognizes the role of forests, forest
management, and other biological sequestration mecha-
nisms in deep decarbonization in the United States. e
report lists sequestering carbon through forests and soil as
a part of one of the three primary strategies for reducing
GHG emissions.6 e report states:
U.S. landscapes w ill play an increasi ngly important role
in supporting economy-wide decarbon ization over the
next 30 years. Some la nd uses and activitie s emit CO2 to
the atmosphere and others remove it by sequestering CO2
in trees, plants, soil s, and products. In agg regate, U.S.
lands have been a net “carbon sin k” . . . for the last t hree
decades, large ly due to millions of acres shif ting into for-
est from other uses and t he continued growth of trees on
already forested la nds. . . . In 2014, the U.S. land carbon
sink sequestered nearly 0.8 Gt of CO2, o setting 11 per-
cent of economy-wide GHG emissions.
With early and susta ined eort, maintaining a nd enhanc-
ing the land car bon sink beyond today’s levels could o-
set up to 45 percent of economy-wide emissions in 2050,
with U.S. forests playing a c entra l role.7
is 45% gure also includes rapid deployment of bio-
energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technologies,
where CO2 is biologically captured from the atmosphere
and converted to biomass. at biomass is then used to
produce energy, and the CO2 is captured and injected into
geologic formations. As discussed in Chapter 29 (on nega-
tive emission technologies), BECCS or other forms of air
5. T W H, U S M-C S  D
D (2016) [hereinafter M-C S], https://les/focus/long-term_strategies/application/pdf/mid_century_
6. Id. at 7.
7. Id. at 10.

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