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California’s Yurok Tribe earns millions through carbon credits

North Cowichan’s standing forests have economic value

Indigenous peoples from around the world — Panama, Brazil, Indonesia — are making their way to the forests of the lower Klamath River Valley in northern California. 

 

They seek knowledge on these forests — not how to profit from them through clearcutting, but how to obtain carbon-credit cash for leaving them standing.

 

Javier Kinney, carbon manager for the Yurok Tribe, believes that carbon credits align with traditional Indigenous values regarding good stewardship of the land and natural resources. 

 

“It’s an exciting time,” he told sixmountains.ca. “Old is new again.”

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The Yurok comprise California’s largest tribe at 6,300 members. 

 

That’s not much more than Cowichan Tribes, which is involved in talks with North Cowichan and other local First Nations on the future of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve, also known as the Six Mountains.

 

A parallel public consultation process on the forest reserve has been suspended while talks with these First Nations continue in private.

Let’s hope that carbon credits are part of the discussions. After all, forestry experts from the University of BC have told the municipality that it stands to earn as much or more from carbon credits by leaving its forests intact than by logging.

 

The Yurok Tribe keeps its profit numbers to itself, but allows that it earns "millions" of dollars per year though carbon credits, money that is pumped into a variety of initiatives, including job-creating forest and watershed restoration. 

 

The standing forests are also available for Indigenous cultural activities, including basket weaving, canoe building and the harvest of traditional medicines and food.

 

The Yurok’s carbon program flows from California state’s Bill 32: Global Warming Solutions Act, a so-called cap-and-trade initiative aimed at combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The Tribe obtains credits based on the amount of carbon stored in its standing forests. Companies supportive of the Yurok Tribe’s goals and beliefs purchase these credits to offset their own carbon footprint.

 

With government and foundation financial help, the Tribe purchased about 9,000 hectares of forestland near their reservation in 2011. The purchase of another 20,000 hectares of forestland followed in 2019.

 

Other Yurok economic initiatives — either current or forthcoming— include organic farming, craft brewery, construction, Redwood Hotel Casino, tourism such as jet-boat and canoe tours, RV and camp sites, and, yes, some timber harvesting, but not on a large industrial scale, Kinney says. 

 

“Clearcutting has been one of the adverse actions that has impacted our lands,” he says. “What you’re seeing the Yurok Tribe doing is more sustainable and regenerative timber practices. What are we leaving our children and grandchildren for health, wellness and economic security for generations to come?”

 

The Tribe also hopes to reintroduce the endangered California condor to their lands.

 

If any First Nations from the Cowichan Valley are interested in visiting, the Yurok Tribe is only too eager to show off its carbon program and other initiatives.

 

“To share our experience is one of the critical components of why the Yurok Tribe does what we do,” Kinney says.

 

North Cowichan has posted information on carbon credits: https://bit.ly/2NIdbZl. So has the forestry watchdog group, Where Do We Stand: https://bit.ly/3uz5AwM.

 

Read more about the Yurok’s carbon project: 

 

— The New Yorker Magazine: https://bit.ly/3bLuvET

— Los Angeles Times: https://lat.ms/3kskUXn

— Nature Conservancy: https://bit.ly/37PuaQl

— Native Business Magazine: https://bit.ly/3razQMc

 

Also visit the National Indian Carbon Coalition: https://www.indiancarbon.org/

 

— Larry Pynn, Feb. 26, 2021