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Taking Action on Forests & Climate 2021-22

In November, 2020, the CT Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) published a series of important reports on topics such as Forests, Agriculture/Soils, Rivers, and Wetlands.

The top recommendations from all of these reports were released on January 15, 2021 as Taking Action on Climate Change and Building a More Resilient Connecticut for All. In "Taking Action" are 61 near-term priorities for Connecticut to implement in 2021 and 2022.

The Governor is expected to introduce bills in the 2021 and 2022 sessions and support policies that would address several of the "Taking Action" priorities. CFPA will continue working both individually and with partners to ensure strong policies for forests result in on-the-ground actions with long-term benefits to climate, forest health, and to many related ecosystem and social benefits that forests provide.

The following 8 recommendations in "Taking Action" focus on the important role that Forests and other natural and working lands play in our state’s near-term climate considerations (copied from pages 40-41 in the “Taking Action” report):

24. Evaluate usable models to reliably monitor and report on negative carbon emissions related to working and natural lands, including, but not limited to models developed by federal, state, academic, and nonprofit partners including efforts of the U.S. Climate Alliance as part of considering a negative carbon emissions strategy alongside reported emissions for the building, energy, and transportation sectors. (cross-listed with Science and Technology, Progress on Mitigation Strategies)

25. Evaluate approaches and best practices for siting of renewable and non-renewable energy infrastructure to avoid loss of forests, farmland and other sensitive lands. As Connecticut deploys large-scale solar projects, it is important that this development does not supersede other climate change mitigation strategies, including the carbon sequestration and storage potential of natural and working lands. The state should encourage developers to site their projects on brownfields, rooftops, parking lots, and other developed spaces. (cross-listed with Progress on Mitigation Strategies)

26. Explore option of statewide “no-net-loss of forest” policy. Engage with stakeholders regarding the “no- net-loss of forest” policy to evaluate its feasibility, needed resources, and associated programs to maximize mitigation potential. Consideration should be given to the following actions as part of the evaluation of this policy: avoid forest conversion; protect healthy, intact, and resilient forests; offset all planned or permitted forest losses; provide incentives for stewardship, forest retention, and forest resiliency; and protect urban forests, build more parks, and plant more trees.

27. Increase adaptation and resilience of Connecticut’s forests through keeping forests as forests and supported actions to maintain un-fragmented forests.

a. Support keeping forests as forests and evaluate mechanisms to achieve this goal, such as encouraging private landowners to protect forestland through easements, ecosystem payment mechanisms, and strong markets for local forest products.

b. Support and enhance statewide, regional, and local actions that align to maintain un-fragmented forests within and across political boundaries with emphasis on connections to waterways and wetlands, core forests, and wildlife habitat linkages, including continuing work under the Coalition of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers on resolution 40-3, Resolution on Ecological Connectivity, Adaptation to Climate Change, and Biodiversity Conservation.

28. Increase mitigation of greenhouse gases in Connecticut’s forests through sequestration and storage of carbon.

a. Evaluate feasibility of a goal of permanent protection of at least 50% of core forests greater than 250 acres by 2040 and identify resources that would be needed to achieve that goal.

b. Consider actions to increase statewide forest cover from 59% to over 60% by 2040.

c. Pursue opportunities to improve guidelines for vegetation management utilized by electric utilities, Department of Transportation, and public works within available resources.

d. Evaluate how to improve forestry practices in Connecticut’s working forests by following scientific principles including the emerging body of knowledge on how to manage forests for resilience and to store and sequester carbon.

29. Protect vulnerable communities from climate change. Support urban forestry and community interest in tree planting and maintenance, parks, and/or community gardens in densely populated areas. Support these climate solutions that could meet multiple needs such as protecting against extreme heat events and increasing health outcomes, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities and that address the Social Determinants of Health. Consider the creation of a Youth Conservation Corps to help community- based groups with implementation and support existing youth outreach efforts.

30. Protect forests with a changing climate through state and federal land acquisition, stewardship and protection programs and research for adaptive management.

a. Consider reevaluation of Connecticut's Green Plan and open space grant programs to prioritize acquisition of land and conservation easements for habitats with the most climate resilience benefits.

b. Support federal funding programs that support habitat stewardship and protection such as the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, and others.

c. Evaluate research opportunities for adaptive management for ecosystems vulnerable to climate change.

31. Identify funding, programs, and resources needed for implementation of recommendations.

a. Incorporate more specific climate-related criteria into selection of projects/level of funding. These include the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program (OSWA), the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program (RNHT), and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

b. Preserve fully authorized funding for the Community Investment Act (CIA) and support state authorization allowing municipalities to adopt a buyer’s real estate conveyance fee to fund resilience and other community environmental projects. (cross-listed with Financing & Funding Adaptation & Resilience).

c. Evaluate strengthening the Urban Green and Community Garden Program to include Urban Forest Improvement Projects.

If you have questions about these priorities or would like to get further involved, please contact CFPA Executive Director Eric Hammerling via ehammerling@ctwoodlands.org.