Climate-Smart Forestry

View of the forest from the trail summit at High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary
High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary

Climate-smart forestry (CSF) is an emerging approach to managing forests that:

  • Helps forests adapt to changing climate conditions
  • Removes carbon dioxide from the air & stores it in the forest to mitigate climate change

Why Manage Forests with Climate in Mind?

Forests in Massachusetts are already affected by climate change—more extreme weather events damage trees, and the warmer climate makes forests vulnerable to invasive pests like the LD moth (Lymantria dispar). While these and other stressors make it difficult for some tree species to survive, we can act to manage forests specifically with climate in mind.

CSF practices promote healthy forests and support carbon sequestration under changing conditions, allowing forests to be part of the climate change solution. For these reasons, Mass Audubon is committed to climate-smart forest management on its wildlife sanctuaries and on lands across the state.

CSF practices cover a range of activities depending on the condition of the forest. Some practices, like removing invasive plants and planting climate-adapted trees, build the resiliency of the future forest to climate change's threats. Other practices protect and grow the carbon already in the forest, like by creating no-harvest reserves or limiting intense harvests.

Resources for Climate-Smart Forestry in Massachusetts

Mass Audubon is laying the groundwork for conservation organizations and government agencies to help us meet our stewardship goals and promote CSF for all forest landowners. We partner with the MA Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR), New England Forestry Foundation, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, The Nature Conservancy, and Massachusetts Woodlands Institute to create resources and broaden understanding and implementation of CSF.

Here are a few resources to help you learn more and get involved:

Foresters assessing a forest for a climate-smart forest management plan

Forest Stewardship Planning

With our partners, we're updating the Massachusetts Forest Stewardship Plan for climate change adaptation and mitigation. We're also creating resources, offering trainings, and conducting outreach to help landowners, foresters, and harvesters manage forests accordingly.

Caring for Your Woods: Managing for Forest Carbon [PDF]
Learn about carbon as a land management goal and how to manage forests for carbon benefits.

Caring for Your Woods: Adapting to Changing Conditions [PDF]
Climate change is affecting forests. Learn about actions to promote healthy forests long-term.

Caring for Your Woods: Setting Goals [PDF]
Explains goal-setting process for forest landowners obtaining a 10-year Forest Stewardship Plan.

Looking up at the forest canopy at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in spring

Forest Carbon & Resiliency

We're working to create opportunities for landowners to implement recommendations in their forest management plans. In addition, we provide technical assistance and outreach to municipalities interested in forest carbon offset projects. Contact us to learn more.

Forest Carbon Market Solutions: A Guide for MA Municipalities [PDF]
Learn the basics of how carbon markets function, the benefits and tradeoffs of municipal carbon projects, and common pathways for carbon projects.

Municipal Carbon Project FAQ [PDF]
An FAQ that reviews the core content found in the "Forest Carbon Market Solutions" guide (listed above).

Topics to Discuss with Project Developers [PDF]
Suggested questions to ask a carbon project consultant when discussing project feasibility and determining overall fit.

Forest Carbon, Net Zero,& Climate Action Planning: Key Considerations for MA Municipalities [PDF]
Learn about different pathways to enhance the role of forests in your town's climate action planning.

Project Case Studies [PDF]
Learn about three aggregated forest carbon projects in Massachusetts, Washington, and Vermont. The information in these studies was gathered through conversations between project staff and Mass Audubon in early 2021. (If you would like more detailed information and/or additional project context, just email us.)

Webinar: Climate Adaptation & Resiliency in Your Community
This Mass Woodlands Institute webinar provides an introduction to the role of carbon in forests as well as forest management options.

Webinar: Bird Habitat & Climate Adaptation in Your Community
A Mass Woodlands Institute webinar that provides an introduction to DCR’s Foresters for the Birds program; assessing habitat for forest birds; and silvicultural approaches to create desired habitat conditions.

Climate-Smart Forestry in Action

Planting a tree as part of a floodplain forest restoration project at Arcadia
Planting trees to restore floodplain forest

At Elm Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Brookfield and North Brookfield, we're fulfilling the "working landscape" terms of an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) by harvesting trees with wildlife habitat in mind. Instead of farming hay, we're harvesting the patches of forest that divide up the fields, creating a large, contiguous grassland for birds like American Woodcock, Eastern Towhee, and Chestnut-sided Warbler that need wide expanses of open space. Learn more about managing forest for bird habitat through Mass Audubon's Foresters for the Birds program.

At Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Northampton, we're replanting a floodplain forest, which helps control erosion and flooding, and we're also introducing trees that will thrive as other (northern) species lose ground.

Mass Audubon also implements controlled, selective hunts during hunting season at specific wildlife sanctuaries where deer populations have grown to unsustainable numbers and municipal regulations permit hunting. Reducing deer browse helps to promote natural forest regeneration and ensure there will be a future forest.

More Information

All forest landowners in Massachusetts can get involved in climate-smart forestry. Contact Mass Audubon to learn more about opportunities for climate-smart forestry on private and municipal lands.

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