Estimated values of carbon sequestration resulting from forest management scenarios
Recent USDA policies, such as the Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, aim to sequester and mitigate greenhouse gases in the forestry and agriculture sectors in the United States. To make informed decisions, the USDA will need to evaluate the carbon benefits of various potential policies. In this paper, we use detailed forest inventory data to project the carbon impacts of a range of modeled policies through 2060: 1) a policy resulting in reduced deforestation due to development, 2) a policy combining a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) afforestation policy targeting private forestland in the eastern U.S. with a reforestation policy targeting historically understocked acres on federal forests in the western U.S., and 3) a policy that reduces the rate of stand-replacing fire events by 10 percent. We then apply the social cost of carbon (SCC) to the carbon benefits of each policy to estimate the value of carbon associated with the policy scenarios. The analysis finds that a policy targeting both afforestation on private land in the Eastern U.S. and reforestation on public land in the Western U.S provides the largest dollar carbon benefit, with a present value of about $649 billion at a three percent SCC discount rate, and an increase in the present value over the reference scenario of $131.6 billion. This analysis demonstrates the carbon value to society provided by potential USDA policies. Future analysis should include policy costs, and consider the additional costs and benefits of ecosystem services such as those associated with water quality, habitat, and biodiversity.