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Hurricane Michael Family Forest Restoration

In 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida panhandle as the first Category 5 hurricane in 26 years, and one of the most powerful to ever hit the United States.  Michael’s 160 mph winds caused approximately $25 billion in damage including an estimated $2 billion in damage to the forest industry in Florida and Georgia.  With forestry as the area’s primary industry and source of employment, the hurricane had a significant economic and cultural impact on the rural communities affected. 

The Hurricane Michael Family Forest Restoration project is a demonstration of the use of carbon-based finance to reforest lands that would not otherwise recover to productive working forests in a meaningful timeframe.  This project will also explore the financial benefit to landowners of producing climate-smart timber. Supporting sustainable forest economies for climate-vulnerable communities is a strategic priority for The Climate Trust (TCT).

The Hurricane Michael project includes approximately 1,400 acres owned by three family forest owners.  After the storm, the Florida Forest Service assessed the decimated properties and deemed them a total loss in need of replanting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided critical emergency funds to clear debris to reduce wildfire risk, but additional funding was still needed to restore the area’s working forests.  By providing up-front carbon funding to pay for–and manage–tree planting, TCT is addressing this key shortfall.  The Hurricane Michael project will also demonstrate how carbon revenue and climate-smart forestry practices can sustain communities during the long wait from forest re-establishment to timber value generation.  Carbon revenue provides the interim income necessary to incentivize landowners to reforest, which is critical for these landowners whose near-mature forests were lost before their economic value could be realized.  Not only does carbon revenue help compensate economically challenged communities for lost timber revenue, but it also directly supports climate change resiliency and a more sustainable timber harvesting model. Only acres that will not sufficiently regenerate on their own are included in the project. Co-benefits of restoring the properties to the native pine forest ecosystem are rehabilitated wildlife habitat and increased biodiversity, along with a more climate resilient ecosystem and rural community.  

Completed in early 2024, the planting was overseen by a local forester and was composed of longleaf, loblolly, and short leaf pine seedlings selected for site conditions. Carbon will be registered with Climate Action Reserve’s Climate Forward program. Over 10,000 forecasted mitigation units (FMUs) are expected to be generated once third-party confirmation (audit) is complete.

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Our Mission & Vision

As a nonprofit organization, our investments are driven by climate impact and put landowners first. We work alongside our partners to develop and fund projects that support grassland conservation, reforestation, and improved forest management strategies.