Recently, I came across “Taking Inventory of County’s Trees” in the San Diego Union Tribune, an article that describes Robin Rivet’s “ambitious effort to map every urban tree in San Diego County”. Rivet is an urban forester-arborist at the Center for Sustainable Energy California and she ”aims to quantify the value of all local trees and make a statement about a huge but often underappreciated resource.” My concern is that this article may be alerting San Diegans to more regulations, costs and loss of property rights coming our way.
Through California’s legislative sustainable development and smart growth initiatives SB375 and AB 32, look for the implementation of ‘urban forests’ to be another area of focus by the State of CA and environmental NGOs to significantly reduce GHGs by 80% to below 1990 levels by 2050.
“The website keeps a running tab of the trees’ “yearly eco impact.” The nearly 300,000 trees listed as of Thursday, according to the site, have reduced 19,622,883 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere, conserved 83,213,745 gallons of water, conserved 8,502,988 kilowatts of energy, and reduced 46,244 pounds of pollutants from the air.”
This project is being funded by CalFire. Why? Details in the CalFire AB32 Scoping Plan for Forestry reveal that CalFire is looking to assess CO2 sequestration in all forests and range lands across the state in order to mitigate GHG emissions. Capturing a map of San Diego County’s canopy becomes useful data to the state of California that is about to launch their highly controversial and lucrative Cap and Trade auction in November. The CalFire AB32 Scoping Plan states:
“Unlike engineered projects or measures that reduce emissions at a point source (e.g. stack or tailpipe), the forest sector sequestration benefits are accrued through tree growth over large areas of the landscape, including urban areas. With such a large land base carbon benefits need to be accounted for in average stocks (amount of carbon stored).”
Not only has the state of California legislated the reduction of GHG emissions through AB 32, it is mandating General Plan changes via SB375. SB375 is requiring municipalities (MPOS) to update their Regional Transportation Plans (RTP) and local land use plans to “reverse sprawl” with the intent of mitigating GHG emissions. Through the forest sector, CalFire suggests that if landowners saw the economic value of carbon sequestration, they would resist selling their land to developers and choose to participate in the carbon off-set market instead.
“The creation and maintenance of carbon markets for forest carbon, both
voluntary and compliance-based, will increase sequestration by providing
landowner incentives to increase carbon stocks on their ownership. The value of
carbon at $10/t is sufficient to interest landowners in changing their management
practices to increase carbon storage. Updating the current California Climate
Action Registry (CCAR) Forest Protocols can create the opportunity for a larger
number of forest landowners to participate in carbon offset markets. The success
of these markets will depend upon quality of the carbon that is being sold, which
will depend upon the accounting principles applied in development of forest
protocols used to verify and register carbon sequestration projects.
Other incentives include providing landowners reduced tax or regulatory liabilities, which will encourage the retention of working forest landscapes, instead of land division and development. Additional opportunities may exist for subsidies or carbon taxes/fee revenues collected and reinvested in carbon sequestration projects.”
The CalFire AB32 Scoping Plan for Forestry is full of useful information that can help us to understand and assess future regulations that might develop from their global warming mitigation and adaption schemes.
“Tree planting under the urban forestry strategy has direct overlap with the goals
of the “Cool Communities” strategy in the Land Use sector to encourage the development of communities that have lower surface temperatures. Urban tree planting may also have overlap with the Land Use sector strategies for “Landscape Guidelines” and “Smart Growth”. In addition, the forest sector Reforestation mitigation measure would require developers to provide 1 to 2 acres of reforestation as mitigation for every acre lost to development when converting forest land to other uses.”
Based on what I know about sustainable development and smart growth, I propose we watch out for the adaptation portion of this urban forestry implementation plan in San Diego.