Markets that pay woodland owners to store carbon are complex, controversial

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Through photosynthesis, trees and soil capture carbon dioxide and store it. It’s a process as natural as sunlight.

But planting more trees or managing a forest more intensively can increase carbon storage, sequestering more of a damaging greenhouse gas.

That added storage has value in the increasingly urgent fight to slow climate change. To recognize its worth, financial markets have been formed to pay woodland owners who agree to long-term measures to lock up more carbon.

The markets are loosely known as forest carbon offsets. Maine, the nation’s most heavily forested state, has been an early participant in carbon offset markets. Most of the projects, however, are relatively modest and typically involve conservation groups and owners not focused on timber harvesting. Taken together, they represent a small slice of Maine’s 17.6 million acres of forest.

Maine’s large commercial woodland managers, as well as its 86,000 or so family-sized…

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