Project Report:
US Forest Carbon Pricing Initiative
Wishbone Timber Sale, King County Washington
Carbon rich old growth trees slated for logging in the Wishbone Timber Sale Area, King County Washington. These trees and many others nearby are now protected as a result of CSE's climate litigation, which the Walker Foundation helped support.

- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


With support from Walker Foundation, CSE will continue to advance its goal of including the logging and wood products sector in federal, state, and local climate action plans and regulation of this sector’s climate impacts through market-based solutions. At the federal level we are participating in new regulatory processes initiated by Executive Order 14008 (climate smart forestry) Executive Order 14072 (mature and old growth forests), and the US pledge to end deforestation and forest degradation by 2030. At the state level, we are focusing efforts on executive actions by governors in North Carolina, Maine, Oregon and Washington. In addition, the Forest Carbon Coalition, co-directed by CSE, is mobilizing scientific, community, and conservation organizations to promote climate action agendas at both levels that includes accounting for logging and wood products sector emissions, a forest carbon tax and reward program and other market-based solutions.


The following provides an overview of CSE's work on the US Forest Carbon Pricing Initiative from May 2023 through April of 2024. It covers activities of CSE as well as the Forest Carbon Coalition, which is a network of 100+ organizations coordinated by CSE and United Plant Savers.

Project update 4-12-24

Two additional updates since the December grant report:

The first is exciting news about our groundbreaking litigation against Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for failing to consider the climate damages of logging mature, structurally complex forests. We won a major victory in King County Superior Court in early April and received an excellent decision and order from the court finding that DNR had violated the State Environmental Policy Act by ignoring the greenhouse gas emissions, loss of carbon sequestration capacity, and increase in climate risks associated with heat waves, droughts, water shortages, wildfires and other stressors made worse by DNR's clearcutting plans. This is the second favorable court ruling CSE and its partners have received on this issue in the last two years.

In addition, the Chair of the King County Council, who is now running for DNR Commissioner, firmly endorsed our litigation and has promised deep reforms consistent with what we have been asking DNR to do if elected: account for climate damages, steer away from carbon rich forests, and develop new sources of revenues based on carbon and other ecosystem services instead of timber.

The second piece of good news is that the journal Environment, Development, and Sustainability has published our paper calling for forest carbon taxes on industrial logging operations and developers as a way to reverse alarming deforestation and forest degradation trends across the US. Since this sector is currently left out of any climate action framework at the federal or state level, forest carbon taxes can play an important role. The paper establishes the climate damages associated with industrial logging and deforestation for urban sprawl, goes through the design options for a forest carbon tax, and models the effect of the tax on large forestland investors. The good news is that such a tax can be levied without major disruptions of timber supply and can greatly increase the amount of forestland managed with climate smart practices.

Project update 12-11-23:

Under a partnership with United Plant Savers, we hired a new coalition coordinator last May. His name is Tanner Filyaw, and he is based at the UPS office in Rutland, Ohio. He’s a great fit for the coalition since he specializes in promoting non-timber forest uses, plant biodiversity, carbon and other ecosystem services. In addition to keeping in touch with our 100+ member coalition and handling the nuts and bolts of our Zoom calls, outreach efforts, and participation in a few high-level decision-making processes (like federal forest planning), he is an educator and has a nice portfolio of YouTube videos that are being disseminated to educate members and supporters about the nexus between forest carbon and plant conservation and cultivation.

In June, Center for Sustainable Economy (the FCC secretariat) filed new litigation to halt the deforestation of native, mature rainforests in western Washington by the State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). As you may recall, last year, we scored the first legal victory in the country on the failure of a regulatory agency (DNR) to consider the climate impacts of clearcutting including its social costs. The high-profile battle to save Washington’s legacy forests is regularly featured in major media outlets, like the Seattle Times, who published a story on our litigation against the Wishbone timber sale in King County (home to Seattle). As you know, CSE’s case is based on the catastrophic climate and biodiversity costs of DNR’s logging program, and this new round of litigation is likely to have a big impact on state policy, if successful.

Also in King County, FCC coalition members (including CSE) were successful in getting the King County Council to support our lawsuit by filing a request to DNR asking for the same relief we asked for in the lawsuit – full and fair accounting of climate impacts and adoption of climate smart alternatives to the timber sale design. As a result of all the positive feedback they received, Council Chair Dave Upthegrove decided to run for Commissioner of State Lands, something he had been mulling over for a few months prior to our lawsuit. He would be a staunch ally of FCC if elected.

In July, and at the request of one of our member groups, CSE/FCC released an analysis of the climate impacts of the proposed Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forest plan, quantifying greenhouse gas emissions associated with logging, grazing, and road building over the life of the plan as well as other climate impacts, such as increases in flooding, heat waves, and water shortages. Funded in part by this grant and partially by the member group Friends of the Clearwater, the analysis is a valuable tool for FCC members nationwide as they participate in the forest planning process and try to hold the US Forest Service accountable. Tanner subsequently disseminated the report to the entire membership, and we’ve already received several requests to replicate the effort in other regions. Also, the report received front page coverage in the Idaho Statesman Journal. The reporter Julie Jung did an excellent job of covering our concerns.

In late August, capping out about 3 months of steady work, FCC released version two of Repairing America’s Tattered Forests: Maximizing natural carbon removal while revitalizing our forgotten rural areas. The new version is updated to reflect a wealth of new policy, scientific, and economic information that has emerged since 2021, including the Glasgow Leaders Declaration to end deforestation and forest degradation by 2030. The report was disseminated broadly using our movement infrastructure tool Congress + to roughly 200 legislative aids and environmental policy leads at progressive member offices on Capitol Hill as well as broadly to the media and our members and partners.

In October at a webinar hosted by the Sierra Club, John Talberth presented “The Climate Impacts of Industrial Logging Practices” to a large group (110+) online as part of the Forest Protection Forum’s lecture series. The talk, summarizing over three years of research, makes the case that compared to the natural carbon cycle, industrial logging practices reduce carbon storage and carbon sequestration on the land and greatly increase GHG emissions and the vulnerability of our forest dependent communities to climate change. This was the largest turnout yet in the forum’s three-year history. The full Youtube video is available on request.

In November, John Talberth received word that he was appointed to the Washington DNR’s Carbon and Forest Management Work Group, created by the legislature to promote the conservation of older, carbon dense forests on state-owned lands. This is an exciting opportunity to get good science and economics to the forefront of DNR’s management, which has been pro-timber for decades. He looks forward to representing FCC and its regional members in this venue.

In mid-December, authors John Talberth and Ella Carlson submitted the revised manuscript "Forest Carbon Tax and Reward: Regulating greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in the US" to the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability. This is the first academic paper of which we are aware that applies the idea of carbon taxes to emissions from the logging sector. Two reviewers asked for several revisions to the original manuscript submitted last August, and we now eagerly await a final decision in the next few weeks. If published, the article will form the basis of our outreach efforts in Congress and state legislatures to pursue a forest carbon tax program along the lines of what we modeled.


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, no net loss and climate resiliency plans for large owners.


We are working at the federal level by participating in new regulatory processes initiated by the Biden-Harris Administration via Executive Order 14008, Executive Order 14072, and the new US pledge to end deforestation and forest degradation by 2030. The Forest Carbon Coalition serves as our primary partner within these processes. We are also working at the state level in parallel executive-order processes, primarily in the states of Maine, North Carolina, Washington and Oregon.

Information Dissemination

Results and findings from this work are being disseminated via this website, CSE's website, in targeted mailings to FCC members and stakeholders, and through news stories in major outlets, such as the Seattle Times and Idaho Statesman Journal, who have covered our work this year. A link to Repairing America's Tattered Forests with our policy blueprint for US forests is provided below.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$50,000.00 on 6/8/2023 (Check sent: 6/21/2023)

Wishbone Timber Sale, King County Washington


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

Posted 3/16/2023 2:05 PM
Updated   5/14/2024 8:56 PM

  • Nonprofit

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