REGIONAL— A new bill that would establish a Lowland Conifer Carbon Reserve in Minnesota has been laid over for possible inclusion in an upcoming omnibus environment and natural resources bill. …
REGIONAL— A new bill that would establish a Lowland Conifer Carbon Reserve in Minnesota has been laid over for possible inclusion in an upcoming omnibus environment and natural resources bill.
The measure, authored by Rep. Kristi Pursell, of Northfield, would establish a permanent reserve designed to sequester carbon in the fight against climate change. The measure would also require a portion of any future forecasted budget surpluses go to reimburse the Permanent School Trust Fund for any lost revenue resulting from establishment of the carbon reserve.
The measure is co-authored by Rep. Rick Hansen, of South St. Paul, who currently serves as chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee.
Forest managers in Minnesota have known for years that forests can serve to sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is absorbed by trees and other plants as they grow. Carbon dioxide is emitted from a wide range of sources, but most significantly from the burning of fossil fuels and the increasing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is believed to be the primary driver of climate change.
Some types of forest are more effective at removing and keeping carbon out of the atmosphere, according to the Minnesota Forest Resources Council (MFRC), which drafted a report on the subject in 2021. According to the MFRC, the state’s vast stretches of peatlands and the predominantly black spruce forests that grow there, provide the most effective forest type for sequestering carbon. In total, Minnesota has just under five million acres of peatlands. According to the MFRC: “Around 3 million acres of those peatlands are forested, many by black spruce and other lowland conifers, and are a natural trove of both living and dead organic material. Preserving these peatlands and avoiding their conversion and drainage should be a top priority of any carbon storage and climate mitigation strategy for the state of Minnesota. Working to restore degraded peatlands and improve their hydrologic function may also help to enhance carbon storage on the Minnesota landscape.”
The new legislation, known as HF 2353, would establish a state lowland conifer carbon reserve, comprised of “all stands in the state forest system identified as lowland conifer… and includes the underlying peatlands associated with the stand or adjoining stands.”
If approved, the DNR commissioner would have until Jan. 1, 2024 to identify the areas encompassed by the reserve.
Establishment of the reserve would not prohibit timber harvesting, but would limit harvesting to stands that are 90 years of age or younger and that are accessible to heavy logging equipment.
While timber harvesting would be allowed in some cases, the measure would permanently prohibit peat mining in the designated reserves.
Many of the areas that would likely be included in the reserve are highly inaccessible since many of the state’s peatlands are vast, stretching dozens of miles in some cases, with limited or no road access.
Similar legislation was introduced last year in St. Paul but failed to advance.