||In 2012, the California Air Resource Board initiated the first Cap-and-Trade (Cap)
compliance market in the United States. It is a rigorous and iterative program that
was launched under extreme scrutiny, with protocols that command high performance.
So far, the Cap appears to be promoting new opportunities for greenhouse gas reductions
and improving land conservation. Forest carbon is one of the four approved protocols
under the Cap and projects can be developed throughout the United States. There is
a projected shortfall in forest carbon offsets available to satisfy the growing demand.
This could be a new incentive for land conservation throughout forested areas of the
United States. The Southeastern United States contains a large amount of forested
land in the hands of non-industrial private landowners, and appears to be a prime
target for new forest carbon projects under the protocol. The region is also under
immense development pressure, even though more agricultural land is turning back into
forests than being developed. But ecosystem services are not well-understood throughout
the United States, and resource conservation services in general are under-utilized
in Tennessee. So the situation begged whether or not the forest carbon market could
incentivize land conservation by non-industrial private landowners in Tennessee. A
policy analysis was conducted to compare four alternatives that are in practice elsewhere
in the United States with six separate criteria developed from the extensive research
of existing literature. The Cap came out on top dues to its rigorous protocols, current
success, and strict oversight. The compliance regime also assured a new level of assurance
for the price of the carbon offsets. Project developers certainly have an opportunity
in Tennessee, but the real challenge will be in identifying and developing relationships
with willing landowners.