Opening the door to Local Forest Conservation for Skiers
According to the Green Mountain Audubon Society, Vermont’s forests are among the world’s most diverse and productive breeding grounds for migratory birds, and several species on its Watchlist (such as the Wood Thrush and Canada Warbler) rely on the state’s forests for survival. Forest-based carbon offset projects—which provide payments to forest landowners for securing carbon dioxide by planting trees, using improved forest management techniques, and avoiding development—can offer a powerful incentive to landowners to leave these important natural areas intact.
As Founder and Managing Partner of Conservation Collaboratives (which owns and manages more than 1,000 acres of forestland in Northeast Vermont), and before that at Conservation International and the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business in Washington, DC, much of Laury Saligman’s work has revolved around conservation incentives. Her TogetherGreen fellowship will enable her to apply them in a new way: to create a pilot program to sell locally generated forest-based carbon offsets to skiers to neutralize travel-related carbon emissions. In conjunction with colleagues at the Northern Forest Center, University of Vermont, and Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, the program will include selling offsets at one ski area as an add-on when a customer purchasers a lift ticket or ski package online. Laury plans to reach 5,000 skies with the offer over the winter of 2013, with a results-analyzing timeframe of that same winter and the spring of 2014.
“It is possible to estimate the miles driven or flown to enjoy a ski day or week,” Laury explained. “An additional 90 pounds of CO2 is released during travel for each skier day in Vermont. A locally generated offsets would help offset that addition carbon, and would be a small percentage of a $75 lift ticket.”
Though the pilot program has modest goals initially, Laury sees big things ahead, including partnering with at least three ski resort areas, and marketing affiliations with environmental organization—both in the state and elsewhere.
“Although some skiers are active conservationists and grasp the connection between skiing and the forested landscape, many others do not,” she added. “My conservation vision is that all citizens understand the connection between themselves and the natural world, and based on this comprehension, act as dedicated environmental stewards. My project creates the mechanism to enable this change to occur.”