SIG is the forest carbon technical advisor worked in collaboration with Encourage Capital on the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Improved Forest Management California carbon project, which covers close to 90,000 acres.  The project registered over 4.45 million Air Resource Board credits with California’s statewide cap-and-trade program, which at the time, was the largest California compliance offset project to date. SIG was responsible for inventory design, statistical analysis, carbon quantification and modeling, project verification guidance, and long-term Measuring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) management.  We also assessed how the Tribe could maximize revenue from a carbon project while balancing other resource demands, such as meeting harvest removal targets under the Tribe’s Annual Allowable Cut (AAC).

The Fort Apache reservation encompasses 1.68 million acres covered with diverse vegetation and topography, meaning the ecosystems and land uses are also diverse, and the Reservation requires complex land management. The Apache tribe recognized that carbon markets offered ways to both offset global carbon emissions and create sustainable profits that could be re-invested in the tribe. But, despite their skills in forest management they needed assistance navigating the technicalities of a large-scale forest carbon offset project. For this help, the Apache asked SIG to serve as a land management consultant and guide them through California’s complex carbon market regulations.

At the time, it was the largest improved forest management carbon project under California’s cap-and-trade compliance regulatory program – it registered over 4.45 million Air Resource Board credits. SIG were then asked to lead development of a second, even larger, forest carbon offset project. The goal was to manage the forest to increase and conserve carbon stocks – and therefore carbon dioxide sequestration – through uneven-aged management. SIG did a financial analysis of the anticipated growth and harvesting regimes that captured all costs and returns given the legal, physical, and biological constraints. Results showed that the new growth and harvesting regimes were financially feasible and ecologically sound.

These carbon credit projects are legally required to be 100 years long, therefore inter-generational buy-in is needed to ensure sustainability. To this end, SIG trained tribal members to do the annual forest monitoring, instead of contracting it out. SIG also helped the tribe identify ways for timber mill employees to earn income while maintaining or increasing carbon stocks. The result of these efforts is that tribal members are generating continuous revenue that can be re-invested into the community.