There have been multiple conversations over the past two Legislative Sessions regarding the development of climate policy and carbon pricing. In those discussions, legislators and stakeholders have frequently referred to the role that Oregon’s forests play in sequestering carbon.
Under ORS 468A.259(i), an accurate forest carbon accounting is required to meet the directive to the Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC) to "track and evaluate the carbon sequestration potential of Oregon's forests, alternative methods of forest management that can increase carbon sequestration and reduce the loss of carbon sequestration to wildfire, changes in the mortality and distribution of tree and other plant species and the extent to which carbon is stored in tree-based building materials." To meet this obligation, OGWC has been pursuing a reliable source of forest inventory and carbon accounting data since 2010. In 2017, the OGWC's Forest Carbon Task Force recognized the value of preliminary data and analysis provided by the USFS Forest Inventory Analysis Program for forest carbon accounting in Oregon.
In the 2018 Session, the Legislature established the Office of Carbon Policy and included funding to further develop an assessment of the amount of carbon in Oregon’s forests. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is contracting work on a robust assessment that includes three phases:
Forest Ecosystem Carbon Report
The FIA Program, within the USDA Resource Monitoring and Assessment Division of the Forest Service, conducts an annual inventory of the nation’s forests with a 10-year remeasurement cycle for Oregon. FIA has developed a forest sector carbon accounting methodology that complies with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines for forest carbon accounting.
Carbon in Harvested Wood Products and Sawmill Energy
ODF has independently entered into a second agreement with the FIA Program, in partnership with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER), to conduct a study on the dynamics of carbon in harvested wood products (Phase I) and the consumption and production of energy at Oregon sawmills (Phase II). Phase I will focus on the history of the storage and flux of carbon through wood products from Oregon’s forests. The methods for the analysis in this report will be based on the IPCC production accounting approach, adopted by the US Environmental Protection Agency, to estimate the annual changes in harvested wood product pools in all ownerships in Oregon over about the last 100 years. A schematic of the model that will be used in this analysis can be accessed in the article "Estimates of carbon stored in harvested wood products in the United States forest service northern region, 1906 - 2010". The Oregon harvested wood products report is expected to be available by June 2019. Phase II of this study will involve developing a profile of all on-site energy consumed and produced at sawmills in Oregon. The study will also be completed by BBER and a description of the methods that will be used can found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/52228.
On September 4, 2019 a presentation on harvested wood products was given at the Oregon Board of Forestry meeting: Oregon Forest Ecosystems Carbon Report
Carbon Projections in Future Management and Utilization Scenarios
This third component of the forest carbon accounting framework will be a forward-looking assessment of carbon stocks and will include an evaluation of the carbon outcomes from range of potential forest management and wood utilization scenarios. The USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station’s carbon Research Initiative has identified a critical need for modeling the implications of alternative management approaches and policies on carbon sequestration and emissions from forest ecosystems, harvested wood products, and alternative energy choices.The work will be to identify one or more models that are, or can be, parameterized for the West Coast and that can evaluate the kinds of questions managers and policy-makers are posing.
The Station has funded a post-graduate (M.S. or Ph.D.) position to engage with stakeholders and refine their needs, and to critically examine the capabilities of different models to select a workable approach. The start date for the selected candidate will be October 2019. The selected participant will collaborate with staff in identifying the strengths, weaknesses, and data requirements of alternative simulation models of forest carbon, the models’ ability to address key questions identified by collaborating managers and policy-makers, and help formulate recommendations for a modeling framework that builds on the extensive carbon inventories in the region. The learning objectives for the project include: identifying key issues and trade-offs faced by managers and policy-makers in managing carbon stores on diverse forested landscapes, understanding the implicit goals and data requirements of alternative state-of-the-art forest ecosystem and forest product carbon models, and to gain experience in sharing this information internally among agency programs and externally among decision-makers, stakeholders and the public.