Comparing Forest Carbon Programs for Family Landowners
Alex Macintosh
Alex Macintosh
2 August, 2021 min read

In the recently published Family Forest Ownerships of the United States, 2018: Results from the USDA Forest Service, National Woodland Owner Survey (February 2021), researchers reported that “Family forest ownerships control 39 percent of the forest land in the United States, excluding interior Alaska.” And of the family forest ownerships who own 10 or more acres, “This group includes an estimated 3.7 million ownerships who collectively own 253 million acres of forest land; 34 percent of the U.S. forest land, excluding interior Alaska.”

Yet small family forest landowners play an unrecognized role in removing carbon from the atmosphere. Because of the expensive technical and certification hurdles required to enroll in carbon credit programs, small family landowners such as yourself have traditionally been unable to participate in these programs and receive financial compensation for sequestering this carbon.

That is until last year. Now, you have the option of enrolling in one of three forest carbon credit program programs that are specifically tailored to small forest landowners: The Natural Capital Exchange (NCX) Program, Finite’s CoreCarbon, and American Forest Foundation Family Forest Carbon Program.

A side-by-side comparison of forest carbon programs from NCX, Finite’s CoreCarbon, and American Forest Foundation

By enrolling in one of these programs, you can begin receiving financial compensation and recognition for the carbon removal that your forest land is doing. However, with three carbon credit programs available to choose from, how to decide which is best for your management and revenue objectives?

If you are planning a timber harvest within the next 1-10 years, all three programs will provide financial compensation for you to defer the harvest, yet the enrollment eligibility differs. Both Family Forest Carbon Program and CoreCarbon require that you own a minimum of 30 and 40 acres, respectively, to be eligible for their programs. (They also have caps on the amount of acreage you may own.) In contrast, NCX does not have minimum or maximum acreage threshold requirements to enroll in our program.

There are also different options you may choose for how long to defer your timber harvest. NCX offers a one-year contract length, which can be renewed annually, and at the end of the contract term, you will receive 100 percent of the payment if the trees are still standing. CoreCarbon and Family Forest Carbon require landowners to sign long-term contracts—ranging from 5 years to 40 years. And although you can expect to receive annual payments, the full value will be spread out across the length of the contract.

Another consideration is the upfront costs required to enroll in the program. The Family Forest Carbon Program requires that a professional forester complete the steps required to enroll in their program, which includes conducting a standing inventory and filling out the paperwork. With the NCX and CoreCarbon programs, there are no upfront costs borne by you. At NCX, we developed stand inventory models that can accurately estimate the volume of trees on your forest land without asking you to conduct an expensive on-the-ground inventory.

Which state you live in will also determine your eligibility. The NCX program has the widest reach in the United States, covering the contiguous US in the lower 48. Currently, Family Forest Carbon Program is only open to small forest landowners in Pennsylvania, and CoreCarbon is only available in six states starting in Fall 2021.

If you’re ready to enroll in a forest carbon credit program and think that NCX is a good match with your management and financial objectives, contact us at to begin the process of enrollment and earning revenue.

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about the author

Alex Macintosh

Alex Macintosh

Director, US Origination
Alex leads the U.S. Origination team and is responsible for increasing the participation of landowners and consulting foresters in the NCX program. Alex and his team also focus on improving and evolving the NCX landowner experience as the company grows. Alex’s prior work experience is focused on product management, most recently at an agriculture services company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Born and raised in British Columbia, Canada, Alex earned his BA from Harvard University.