Reforestation program sprouts as business in Delta area|[06/29/08]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2008

A private, Virginia-based company is looking for Delta-area landowners interested in reforestation to help jump-start its emerging business in the carbon offset industry.

“This is a program that can provide short-term and long-term income streams for landowners, and will provide numerous benefits to the Delta ecology,” said Page Gravely, C2I senior director.

C2I, a for-profit conservation company, began its Green Trees program this year. The company sells carbon credits to businesses that wish to offset the greenhouse gases they emit by reinvesting in carbon-producing ventures such as reforestation.

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Green Trees is offering $350 an acre to any landowner who will agree to plant about 300 trees on each acre and cease any clear cutting of the land for 70 years.

“We’re not looking to buy any land,” said Gravely. “The owners still retain rights to the land; they can hunt on it or lease it out to be hunted on.”

A minimum of 50 acres must be dedicated to reforestation and the land must have a soil index of 85 or better to qualify for the Green Trees program. Demand for carbon credits is very high, said Gravely. All that’s needed now is the land on which to plant the trees.

“We’re hoping to enlist 3,000 to 5,000 acres in the program this year,” Gravely said.

The Delta has been chosen to launch the Green Trees program due in part to the large amount of cleared land, but also because of a personal connection C2I’s co-founder Korey Crane has with the area. Crane is the son of Maggie Bryant, who founded Tara Wildlife, the 17,000-acre conservation area about 30 miles north of Vicksburg.

Yazoo County’s Rickey Lowery was one of the first Mississippi residents to sign a contract with Green Trees earlier this year. He agreed to reforest 75 acres and planted the trees in March.

For more infoContact Blaine Lanier at 662-560-7362, or visit for more information on the Green Trees reforestation program.”Agriculture hasn’t been so good. I quit farming, and we were having to mess around with leasing it out every year,” Lowery said.

It’s not only the one-time payment per acre that led Lowery to decide to reforest his land. The Green Trees program allows for the thinning out and harvesting of one-third of the planted cottonwood trees after 10 years. Another third can be harvested after 17 years, and the rest after 25 years.

C2I also has a type of profit sharing built into the Green Trees program, by which participants will receive money if the carbon industry is particularly lucrative. The reforestation should also transform his cleared land into prime hunting grounds, said Lowery.

“Leasing out land for hunting and recreation fetches good money these days. Our land will be worth as much – and maybe more – as it would be if it was agricultural land,” he said. “We may lose a little bit of yearly income, but we’re not devaluing our property by doing this.”

Cottonwood trees are preferred by Green Trees because of the species’ rapid growth – as much as ten feet per year for the first three years. Cottonwoods are planted with an identical number of slower-growing hardwoods, which cannot be harvested under the program.

Those who participate in the Green Trees program can also qualify for another reforestation program offered by the government.

The Mississippi Farm Service Agency currently operates a Conservation Reserve Program called State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, which aims to establish up to 7,950 acres of bottomland and hardwood forests and wetlands.

The program provides 50 percent funding for reforesting acres, as well as an average annual payment of about $70 per acre for up to 15 years, varying from county to county, as well as signing bonuses of up to $100 an acre.

Lowery’s 75 acres in Yazoo County are also a part of the CRP, and he has 80 more acres in Sharkey County he began reforesting eight years ago through the state program.

“With CRP you’re guaranteed to pay 50 percent of the costs out of pocket right away, but you get 15 years of annual payments. With the Green Trees program you get the planting completely paid for and still have a little money left over,” he said. “When you can combine those programs, it’s a pretty good deal.”