Project Report:
US Forest Carbon Pricing Initiative
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


CSE will continue work to transform industrial forest practices to climate smart alternatives through market-based solutions. We will work nationally with members of Congress and at the state level in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast to bolster the campaigns of climate coalitions and forest protection advocacy organizations. Activities will include: (1) completing a replicable two part report with the Dogwood Alliance quantifying the impacts of industrial forestry on carbon emissions and climate resiliency in North Carolina; (2) advocating for market based solutions such as redirecting subsidies, cap and invest or forest carbon tax and reward to put a price on forest carbon storage; (3) maintaining and expanding the Forest Carbon Coalition, a network of scientific, conservation and climate organizations in each US region working advance these solutions, and (4) engagement with decision makers charged with developing climate solutions at the federal, state, and local levels.


Project update March 2021

Demand for CSE’s expertise on forest carbon accounting, forest carbon pricing, and policies to expedite the transition to climate smart forest practices is soaring. We’ve had a busy year and made excellent progress on achieving all we set out to do last year. In particular:

Dogwood partnership

Part II of our report with Dogwood Alliance has just been completed and will be released this month. The two-part series documents the significant greenhouse gas emissions associated with the logging and wood products sector in North Carolina – the third most carbon intensive in the state – and the adverse effects of clearcutting, short harvest rotations and timber plantations on climate resiliency. In particular, clearcutting, short rotation timber plantations, dense logging road networks, liberal application of pesticides and fertilizers and other industrial forest practices are making the landscape more susceptible to wildfires, floods, landslides, storms, insects and disease, water shortages, nutrient pollution and harmful algae blooms.

In addition to documenting these impacts, CSE prepared extensive recommendations for Governor Cooper and the North Carolina Legislature to fold this sector into its climate action agenda. The recommendations include implementing several market-based strategies for putting a price on forest carbon emissions and regulating them through subsidy reform and a forest carbon tax and reward program.

Forest Carbon Coalition

The Forest Carbon Coalition, jointly directed by CSE and Natural Resource Economics, has grown to 65 organizational members representing forest protection advocates in thirty states and the District of Columbia. The FCC is a vehicle for rallying a broad spectrum of scientific, conservation, and community organizations to make the case for forest carbon accounting and market-based solutions at both the federal and state levels.

FCC and its partners scored a major success last year by convincing the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to adopt many of its recommendations with respect to climate smart forest practices. We are pleased to report that the Select Committee’s full report published in June adopted the phrase and included it as one of the building blocks of the Action Plan: “Invest in Sustainable Climate-Smart Management on Private Forests,” (page 449), which is a strategy we have been relatively alone in championing. In addition, the report contains good language on our other two major goals – protecting old growth forests on public lands as forest carbon reserves (p. 445) and incorporating forest-climate impacts into National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses of projects (page 444). As such, all three of FCC’s high-level goals were successfully incorporated into the Select Committee’s Action Plan. Moreover, the Action Plan formally recognizes that deforestation and forest degradation (including timber harvest) is a “significant source of land-based emissions,” (page 444) another big win since most decision

Wildfire response and pushback against subsidies for salvage logging

CSE and FCC published op-eds in national and regional media to counter misinformation from Big Timber that asserted climate change played no role in the fires burning across the West and that the federal government’s response should be to vastly scale up the pace of heaviliy subsidized salvage logging. These op-eds received widespread attention. John Talberth’s op-ed in The Hill was shared 1355 times so far. Calling attention to the vast subsidies associated with salvage logging was one of the keys to the success of this article, and one that built on previous work by CSE documenting that the federal logging program costs taxpayers nearly $2 billion per year. This attention attracted several organizations to become new members of the FCC. We also have seen that multiple members of the FCC have begun incorporating our information into their communications with their communities and elected officials.

Executive Order 20-04, Oregon

Last spring, Governor Brown decided to bypass the legislative gridlock in Salem by folding her climate action plan into an executive order (EO 20-04) instead. That Executive Order contains some very good language that can be used to leverage forest protection as a climate solution and, to that end, CSE and FCC have been active in organizing groups to track and provide expert input into the EO process as it relates to the Oregon Department of Forestry. Twenty-eight groups signed on to FCC’s initial submission back in May of 2020 and we are now pressing our case to the Board of Forestry as they develop their final implementation plan. Forest carbon pricing is one of the key asks to the Brown Administration.

Victory on protecting carbon rich northern spotted owl habitat:

In early February 2021, CSE and Natural Resource Economics released a socioeconomic analysis condemning the Trump Administration’s last-minute decision to exclude 3.5 million acres of northern spotted owl habitat from critical habitat designation under the Endangered Species Act. Simultaneously, CSE, the Coast Range Association and Lincoln County Community Rights – all organizations with memberships in the rural areas now threatened by more logging – provided notice to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that they intend to sue to force reinstatement of that protection on the grounds that the consideration of benefits and costs was grossly negligent and runs afoul of Section 4(b)2 of the Act and its implementing regulations. In particular, contrary to facts on the ground, the Service nonetheless concluded that more logging is necessary to protect community stability, the local tax base, and the customs and culture of rural towns.

CSE countered this tragic decision by documenting, in its socioeconomic analysis, that logging faces diminishing returns – with too much of it local economies suffer more costs than benefits in the form of community instability, chronic poverty, erosion of the local tax base, costly environmental damages and vulnerability to right wing extremism. We also documented the high climate price tag associated with opening up these areas to more logging. Using median estimates for the social cost of carbon, we estimated that the decision would result in economic damages of roughly $3.2 billion per year associated with increased logging activity.

Partially in response to our filing the 60-day notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service did exactly what we had hoped and put lifting of the owl critical habitat designation on hold pending further review and an additional round of public comment. This gives us the opportunity to have our socioeconomic analysis firmly included in the record and the USFWS the opportunity to rescind the proposal entirely after review of that evidence and any additional evidence we can generate over the next month. A couple of choice quotes attributing the decision to our filing:

“We have also received at least two notices of intent to sue from interested parties regarding allegations of procedural defects (among other potential defects) with respect to our rulemaking for the final critical habitat exclusions.”

“In light of the litigation history of northern spotted owl critical habitat designations, the clear intentions from some parties to file suit to challenge the January 15, 2021, Final Rule, and other questions raised, we are reviewing whether the rulemaking was procedurally adequate.”


Climate change has been referred to as the most spectacular market failure ever. The market’s failure to incorporate the costs of climate change into prices of wood and paper products supports a tremendous level of over-production, over-consumption, and wasteful uses of these commodities.

Putting a price on high-emissions logging operations is a critical market-based solution for internalizing the catastrophic costs associated with climate change and rebalancing markets to support efficient use of energy resources, forestlands, and wood products.

With respect to forestlands, CSE has pioneered the development of several market-based policy interventions that decision makers can use to help expedite the transformation of industrial forest practices to climate smart alternatives. These include forest carbon tax and reward, subsidy reform, cap and invest and climate resiliency plans for large owners.


In 2021, CSE will continue to work with public officials and partners in Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Georgia, Maine and other states to advocate for these interventions within ongoing decision-making processes and campaigns at the state level. In North Carolina, this includes work with our partner Dogwood Alliance to follow up with the Cooper Administration on our work documenting the harmful climate impacts of industrial forest practices and the range of policy options Governor Cooper and the legislature has at their disposal to address the problem. In Oregon, legislators have introduced several market-based measures we drafted and so we will continue our work to advance these through the legislative process.

We will also continue to work nationally with members of the Forest Carbon Coalition, co-managed by CSE. The goal of the coalition is to develop a US Forest Carbon Agenda for the Biden-Harris Administration that can serve as the basis for the US Departments of Agriculture and Interior to comply with President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, which calls on these agencies to develop a climate action strategy for US forests this year.

Information Dissemination

CSE disseminates its analyses and policy recommendations directly to the agencies it targets. For this project, these include the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, the US Departments of Agriculture and Interior, and state forest agencies in North Carolina and Oregon. We also have partnered with Dogwood Alliance to disseminate our reports via an extensive social media platform they manage. In addition, our op-eds are published and disseminated via several national-level networks we are part of, including the Northwest Forest Coalition, Stand-4 Forests, and Biomass Watchers.

Project Link

Dr. John Talberth at Opal Creek, Oregon. This watershed was severely burned in the 2020 wildfires and is now being threatened by subsidized salvage logging that does far more harm than good and costs taxpayers over $2 billion/year.


1016 Madison Street
Port Townsend, WA 98368

(510) 384-5724
(703) 667-0208
(360) 344-2080


Dr. John Talberth
President and Senior Economist, Center for Sustainable Economy

Posted 3/22/2020 3:19 PM
Updated   5/16/2021 5:36 PM

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