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North America's largest forest carbon project launches, sells $4-million in credits

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) today announces a bold commitment to protect 550 square kilometres of remote valleys, mountains and lakes in south-central British Columbia.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada/The Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is receiving more than $4-million in what it says is the largest forest carbon project to date in North America and the first deal of its kind in Canada.

The land conservancy organization announced in Vancouver Wednesday that it has sold carbon credits that are the equivalent of 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

The carbon credits are based on a calculation of the amount of carbon sequestered on forest lands owned by the NCC in southeastern British Columbia.

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John Lounds, President and CEO of the NCC, said the deal involves a 55,000-hectare sweep of forested mountains that is known as Darkwoods.

The land, which has extensive virgin forest with trees over 500 years old, lies on the west side of the south arm of Kootenay Lake, near Nelson.

NCC purchased Darkwoods in 2008 for $125-million with funding help from federal and provincial governments.

The area, about half of which has been logged to some degree, would likely have been developed or subject to more intense logging had the NCC not stepped in.

Mr. Lounds said the money generated by the sale of the carbon credits will be used for the long-term management of the area.

Pacific Carbon Trust, a Crown corporation established by the B.C. government in 2008 to deliver provincially-based greenhouse gas offsets, and ERA Ecosystem Restoration Associates, a Vancouver-based company that deals in carbon offset credit programs, purchased the carbon credits, which are expected to be sold on the global carbon market, which the World Bank estimates had a total value of $142-billion (U.S.) last year.

Mr. Lounds said the NCC began working on the project shortly after purchasing Darkwoods and the deal was subject to rigorous third-party review.

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"It's definitely a first for us and we've been working on this for three years. We decided we wanted to explore what was possible and actually we're quite pleased with how this pilot project has come about," he said.

Mr. Lounds said NCC is basically getting paid for protecting the trees from being cut.

"That's essentially it. You compare what would have happened to the property if it had been logged . . .to what the conservation practice is going to be. And it's quite a complicated methodology . . . it goes through calculating the carbon losses, the carbon gains through sequestration, and models that out over 100 years," he said.

Mr. Lounds said the deal is "a ground-breaking carbon project" that cold point the way for other non-profits to possibly generate some funds from preserved forest lands.

But he said the NCC isn't sure yet if it will undertake other such deals.

"We set this up as a pilot project and that's all that's been approved at this point by our board. We are going to investigate whether this makes sense in other places across the country," he said.

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Mr. Lounds said the main reason the deal was possible was because Darkwoods is such a large, richly forested area.

"Because of the verification process you need something that's got a certain size to it to make it worth while. So what we want to do over the next year is investigate this a little bit further to make sure this is working in terms of our objective, which is biodiversity conservation," he said.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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