Sealaska is constantly looking for ways to optimize its land and natural resources for the greatest cultural, environmental and financial gain. Sealaska has begun a significant carbon offset project that will protect watersheds, help maintain healthy salmon and other wildlife habitats, provide safe access to rural communities' drinking water, while creating financial benefit from our traditional lands.
Over the last few years, Sealaska analyzed and selected the lands that will be set aside into a carbon offset program. Instead of logging these lands for their timber, Sealaska set them aside and created a carbon bank. The trees will store carbon emissions from the atmosphere through a process called carbon sequestration. One major benefit of doing this is to protect watersheds in communities such as Hydaburg, which support healthy runs of salmon and clean, safe supplies of drinking water.
Sealaska is near completion of verifying the amount of carbon that is annually banked – or sequestered – on our lands. This is quantified as "carbon credits." To ensure the highest degree of integrity, eligible carbon offset activities are approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the governing and regulatory authority that approves carbon offset credit sales in North America.
Once verified, the credits are available to sell to any buyer that wants to offset their carbon emissions. Sealaska has a contracted buyer for all of its credits, with the sale occurring over multiple years. Carbon emitters, like power utility companies or oil companies, typically buy credits to offset their emissions that exceed their emissions cap.
How is carbon stored?
Out of the 365,000 acres of land Sealaska manages, 165,000 of those acres have been set aside for a carbon offset project. The trees on these acres will not be logged for large-scale commercial timber. Instead, Sealaska has set these trees aside to store carbon through a process called carbon sequestration.
Carbon sequestration is the natural process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in a carbon reserve, such as trees. Carbon dioxide can enter the atmosphere through emissions of fossil fuels, wood fires . The trees on our lands convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and store it as new tree growth. You can see this added carbon when you look at log and count the tree rings to see how old it is. With each year, a new ring of growth is added to the tree. This is a visual example of carbon storage.
How does this impact Sealaska's lands and communities?
The 165,000 acres in the carbon program are still owned by Sealaska and accessible by shareholders. Sealaska will continue to actively manage the lands over the course of the 100 years. Shareholders can continue subsistence activities on the lands. The land is available for harvest, such as berries, totem logs and cedar bark.