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Maximizing the Environmental and Economic Benefits of a Million Acres of Forestation in Minnesota Through an Ecosystem Restoration Approach

On January 15, 2010, the Minnesota Forest Resources Council (MFRC) released a report entitled, “Assessing Forestation Opportunities for Carbon Sequestration in Minnesota” (MFRC 2010). The report was directed by the 2009 Minnesota Legislature in response to a key recommendation of the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG). The MCCAG proposed the planting of 1,000,000 acres of trees in Minnesota as one component of a statewide strategy for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions (MCCAG 2008). The purpose of the MFRC report was to evaluate the feasibility of creating one million acres of new forests in the state within the context of increasing carbon sequestration. MFRC identified 7.6 million acres of potentially forestable land, almost eight times the land area needed to achieve one million acres of forestation.

The purpose of this report is to demonstrate that a holistic approach to forestation, based on the diversity of Minnesota’s ecosystems and the services provided by those ecosystems, will maximize the benefits of such an initiative. We conducted literature reviews, expert interviews, and introductory analyses to explore the environmental and economic impacts of a million acres of forestation. Specifically, we show that: (1) there are multiple benefits of forestation beyond carbon sequestration; (2) a million acres of forestation in Minnesota is a feasible goal; and (3) existing resources can be used in large part to accomplish large-scale forestation.

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