Family Forest Blog

What We Pay and Why It's Not For Carbon

Nate Truitt, EVP of Climate Funding

April 14, 2023

What We Pay You For and Why It's Not For Carbon - Thumbnail

Every year we work with landowners interested in learning about how the Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP) can help them achieve their hopes and dreams for their woodlands. Many of those landowners have questions about the payments they receive from the program. The top three questions are: 

  • Where does the money come from to fund this program? 

  • How does the money come into the program? 

  • How is my payment determined?  

Before we dive into these questions, we need to talk about what makes FFCP very different from other carbon projects that landowners can participate in.

FFCP does not pay landowners for carbon 

How does that make any sense?! Here’s the thing: the Family Forest Carbon Program was created by a pair of organizations (the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy) that care deeply about forests and the communities that depend upon them. And a healthy forest is about way more than how much carbon it has in it. It’s about the wildlife it supports, the clean water it provides, the beauty of the woods, the pride of good stewardship - and the list goes on and on.  

Here's where it gets exciting though. As it turns out, the best way to increase the long-term storage of carbon in forests is to make sure they’re managed well, using appropriate forestry techniques. And what’s more, if you implement those techniques, over time you get all the other goodies forests provide, in including carbon storage. 

Annual payments from the program are intended to help you implement improved forest management practices. We provide those funds because it can be difficult and even expensive to make the switch. For example, you might need to forego a timber harvest or amend how you harvest. You’ll need a management plan. Or you may need to take action against invasive species or improve roads and trails.

What We Pay You For and Why It's Not For Carbon - Invasive Species Removal

Invasive species removal is an important part of the Family Forest Carbon Program's sustainable forest management practices.

FFCP payments act as a helping hand along that journey, but we don’t limit ourselves to monetary payments to help you. We also strive to build a relationship with you that recognizes your achievements and connects you with other resources, opportunities, and landowners.   

In other words, the true reward of the program — the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow — isn’t the checks FFCP sends you. It’s the many benefits that come with a commitment to care for your forest over the long term. Those include benefits that you alone enjoy as a landowner (more wildlife, better access, improved aesthetics), plus benefits that you can monetize if you choose (a significant increase in the value of the land, a greater timber resource that can support ongoing and sustainable harvests, and opportunities for hunting leases to name a few). The number one value FFCP provides is a better forest to enjoy and to pass on to others. 

“FFCP is a wonderful opportunity to set an example for our grandson, to help us focus on how we can best steward this land.”  - Karren DeSeve, a Pennsylvania landowner enrolled in the Family Forest Carbon Program 

Interested in learning more? Visit Family Forest Carbon Program to check your eligibility.

Other carbon projects, where they measure the carbon year over year, are paying you for the carbon. But focusing on carbon and carbon alone can hinder some of the other forest benefits that are important to you as a landowner, to your community, and to the planet. There’s a lot of research to suggest that even if you maximize the carbon in a particular forest, you may actually be harming the climate because of how that impacts other parts of the economy, or because the behavior you’re engaging in isn’t sustainable for the long-term once the carbon payments have stopped. 

In the end, it turns out that the improved forestry practices that provide you with those benefits also increase the amount of carbon stored either in your forest or in long-lived wood products that come from your forest. This in turn reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and makes a real difference in slowing climate change. And there are lots of foundations, government agencies, and companies willing to pay for that exact outcome.   

So how is the program funded?

We collect funds from institutions, all of whom have an interest in reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Then we use those funds to implement our program, including sending financial and technical assistance to landowners.

How does funding come in?

Funding comes in a variety of ways: some organizations simply donate funds to support the program, some provide us with grants, and some “pre-pay” for carbon credits. The largest share of funding comes from loans we secure to allow us to sign up landowners and provide financial and technical assistance up front. Over time, the forests we enroll store more carbon, which we verify through a third-party to create carbon credits. We’ll then sell those credits and use the funds to pay back our lenders. We are a mission-driven non-profit organization, so our number one priority is the outcomes of the program. Unlike other carbon projects, we don’t have shareholders and we don’t have venture capital investors looking for a huge return. We put as much of the revenue from the program “into the woods” as we can

What We Pay You and Why It's Not For Carbon - Image 2

A Family Forest Carbon Program landowner walks her property.

How do we determine your payment?

The Family Forest Carbon Program groups together many properties—thousands, eventually—into a single project for the purposes of monitoring, reporting on, and verifying the carbon results. Grouping properties together allows us to drastically reduce the costs of the carbon project (and pass on larger incentives to you). What this means is that we are never tracking the carbon gains on any one property, but rather an average across all properties in the group. We are happy to walk you through the calculation of your payment should you decide to check your eligibility and speak to a member of our team. 

The amount of carbon your property can generate is determined by your property AND by similar properties in your region. And carbon is valuable only if it is additional, or above “business as usual.” So we use other, similar properties to estimate what “business as usual means.” In other words, your estimate reflects how we believe your property, with improved forest management practices in place, will compare to other properties that don’t adopt those practices.    

Your offer breaks down to a payment that reflects the estimated carbon value of our carbon program in your area PLUS our estimate of an increase in carbon price as we predict into the future. The numbers we use for the contract always reflect the estimated carbon value of the practice and the estimated future market conditions at the time of the contract. The payments you receive reflect this forecasted rise in credit prices. Should carbon prices become significantly higher than our model anticipates, FFCP would create a policy that will share profits with FFCP landowners, regardless of when they signed their agreement, such that every FFCP enrollee benefits. FFCP provides landowners with payments based on those rises, with a significant portion allocated in year one (20%), rather than waiting to provide funds when the credits are sold. If this increase in prices isn’t realized, you still receive the guaranteed payment. 

To sum it up

We hope it’s clear that the Family Forest Carbon Program is about WAY more than carbon. It’s about providing you with the technical and financial support you need to implement improved forest management so you can reap the benefits that good stewardship provides.   

The Family Forest Carbon Program is currently available to landowners with 30 acres or more of forested land in select states and counties. Visit to check your eligibility or find out when we launch in your area.

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