Why the NCX Forest Carbon Program May Not Be a Good Fit for Your Land
Lillian Hogan
Lillian Hogan
10 May, 2022 min read

At NCX, we’re thrilled to be democratizing access to carbon markets. For too long, family forest owners have been locked out by 100-year contracts and six figure fees. The Natural Capital Exchange encourages enrollment from all landowners with working forests in the contiguous United States. Whether you own 30 forested acres or two million, you can participate and make an immediate impact for the climate.

Eligibility, however, is dependent upon key aspects of a landowner’s forest, and not everyone will meet the criteria. Full details are outlined in our NCX Seller Agreement (example here) that all landowners sign to participate. This article is a non-exhaustive list of some of the situations our Landowner Customer Success team has encountered. If you have further questions about our program, or want to confirm your eligibility, please contact landowners@ncx.com.

Here is a list of reasons why the NCX program might not be a good fit for your forest: 

  1. You wouldn’t entertain a harvest solicitation

To make a difference for the climate, your participation must mean your forest is storing more carbon than it otherwise would have. Essentially, some or all of your trees would have likely been harvested without this program. Some people simply would never cut down any trees in their forest, for environmental or other personal reasons. As stewards of the land, this is your choice and we support it! However, as stated in our legal contract:

…Seller agrees to give good faith consideration to solicitations for timber harvest on Seller’s property, up to the Maximum Harvest Deferral quantity in amount, and arranged by NCX and its affiliates.  For avoidance of doubt, the intention of this provision is to ensure that the Seller only offers Deferral Credits in connection with timber that the Seller would otherwise actually consider harvesting during the Performance Period.  

So if you wouldn’t entertain a harvest solicitation, signing our contract is a false representation and we would void your enrollment.

  1. You can’t provide documentation of ownership or management control

You cannot enroll land you don’t own, or aren’t in charge of managing. Accepted forms of ownership documentation include a copy of the most recent deed, the county tax assessor’s property record card, recent title insurance report, or an attorney’s title opinion. 

We can only sign a contract with the individual who makes the harvesting decision. Only individuals who own the property enrolled or have signatory authority to act on their behalf are able to sign the NCX Seller Agreement required to participate in our forest carbon program.

We recognize that legal ownership can sometimes get opaque and complex. We want to take a moment to acknowledge the excellent work that organizations like Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation do to address challenges associated with property ownership and help families protect their legacy through clarified legal support and sustainable forestry practices.

  1. You wouldn’t be willing to enroll your entire property holdings

NCX requires that participating landowners enroll their entire property holdings. Why? Because of a phenomenon called activity-shifting leakage. Read more about it here. This policy ensures participants don’t just move their harvesting activity to a different location on their property. This doesn’t mean you can’t harvest on any of your properties, just that your cumulative landholdings are included for assessment purposes. Any harvest activity that occurs during the Performance Period will be reflected in the assessment generated at the end of the term.

For more, see the NCX Seller Agreement definition for Assessment Area.

  1. Your land is already under a no-harvest or Forever Wild conservation easement, or enrolled in a different carbon program

Only land that is legally harvestable can enroll. As examples, if your forest is in the state of California and you do not have an approved Timber Harvest Plan, or if your land is already under an easement that prohibits timber harvesting, then those acres are exempt from our program. Working forest conservation easements, or others that do not explicitly restrict harvesting are often compatible with our program. However, any easement that extinguishes the right to harvest (e.g., Forever Wild) are not eligible for our program. If you have any easement on the land, we will need to verify that harvesting is not restricted. 

Additionally, the NCX Seller Agreement stipulates under Article 4.1.C that there are “no encumbrances on any of the land within the Eligible Assessment Area that would impair or limit Seller’s ability to harvest timber on such land.” Participants who cannot legally harvest the timber on their property are not eligible to enroll those acres under NCX’s forest carbon program.  

  1. Your land is somewhere with no mill demand, or isn’t operationally feasible

If you would be unable to convince a logging operation to come to your property, you probably wouldn’t get a good offer from NCX. Some forests don’t need extra incentive to keep growing. If you’re far from a mill, or on a sloped mountainside that’s inaccessible for logging operations, you’re likely to receive an assessment that reflects low harvest risk. Our assessment process takes into account road access and proximity to mill wood baskets as indicators of harvest risk. As a result, in 2022 we have assigned zero harvest risk to over 100 properties that requested an assessment and therefore were not accepted into the NCX program. 

  1. Your working forest is primarily for maple syrup, or is a fruit or nut tree operation

We at NCX love maple syrup and some of our team members collect maple syrup from their own forest properties. However, if your forest is primarily a non-timber production asset, we can’t accept you in the program. Similar to reason #1, our sustainability partners are interested in providing landowners with an incentive to let their trees grow longer than they would have otherwise.

  1. You have less than 20,000 board feet of standing timber

You would be surprised how many small suburban backyards we see attempting to enroll. Generally a good rule of thumb — if your land has been developed for other uses than growing timber, it’s probably not a working forest.

  1. You’re in a fire-prone area and being encouraged to manage your land to reduce fire risk

NCX encourages landowners to consult local accredited foresters for management guidance in fire-prone areas. Our mission is to have all benefits of a forest to be fairly valued, starting with carbon. We’re working on expanding our crediting system to support local fire management best practices.

If none of these circumstances apply to your woodland, sign up to get a free assessment of your eligibility to participate in less than 15 minutes.

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about the author

Lillian Hogan

Lillian Hogan

Landowner Customer Success Manager
Lillian is the Customer Success Manager at NCX focused on building strong relationships with landowners and foresters to understand and advocate for their needs, ensuring their success with the company’s Natural Capital Exchange Program. She is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in agricultural economics. She currently resides in Indianapolis, IN. In her free time, you can find her outside with her dogs, tending to her garden, or at the barn riding horses.