Unami Monthly Meeting recently introduced a Carbon Forest Project through their Peace and Social Concerns committee. As one of their first projects, they have made plans for a ten-acre site to build Old Growth forests, an ecologically diverse native forest that can sink carbon permanently by planting 435 trees per acre, tending to the need for organic surface, shrubs, and herbs. They plan to steward these forests as they grow to maturity.
The Peace and Social Concerns committee acted on an expressed sentiment of the Meeting by writing a proposed action that was given to the Meeting for Business. The Meeting drafted a “Minute” establishing the Project and at the next Meeting for Business it was adopted by Unami Monthly Meeting. The project is being facilitated by John Munro as the project manager, Nancy Donnelly as current Unami Meeting Clerk and P&SCC member, Mary Hanisch, past Meeting Clerk, and others). The group has been busy working out details, contacting land conservancies, writing the primer.
Currently, The Unami Carbon Forest Project is in preliminary talks about the possible first 10-acre planting project. They hope to continue with more as sites and funding become available. An optimistic in-the-ground site project start is probably 2-years away; this depends on funding, planning, a cooperating landowner, and other details.
The project is being managed by John Munro who has worked in applied ecological restoration for over 40 years. His career work has been as an applied ecologist focusing on terrestrial and wetland ecological inventory and problem solving for private and government clients. He worked on federal and state regulatory processes, prepared permit processes, ecological inventories, alternatives analyses, mitigation, and restoration plans, prepared thousands of maps. in recent years the consulting company that his own focused on ecological restoration of waterways, shorelines, wetlands, ponds, grasslands, and forests.
John Munro of Unami Monthly Meeting shared a story of the origin of the Unami Carbon Forest Project in the PYM’s Eco-Justice Collaborative Newsletter. The story below was first published in the Eco-Justice Collaborative Newsletter for January 2022.
Read the story by John Munro about the project’s inception below:
A Modest Proposal, A Legacy Undertaking by John Munro
I grew up in southern New Jersey in a house three blocks from the Delaware River, and not far from the Pine Barrens. My mom could always tell when I had ridden my bike to the river to explore the beaches, because my sneakers would have the black smears of Bunker-C oil stuck on them somewhere. The oil looked like a blob of sand until you stepped on it. That was my first lesson in Nature versus industrial sloppiness. The era of environmental protection by governments was just beginning.
In my first real job, I immersed myself in the Delaware River tidal marshes for a major study of wetland productivity, making vegetation inventories, mapping and drawing land cover maps, delineating wetlands, and doing environmental impact analyses all over the East coast. Ecological consulting brought me into the realm of dealing with clients—government, industry, development—with large and small interests. I spent many years watching the protection of water quality, wetlands, and endangered species surge forward, then be attacked and reduced repeatedly. I eventually started my own ecological restoration business..
In 2019, as the media in all forms held before us the reality of Global Climate Change (GCC), at a conference at Tyler Arboretum I circulated a “query” posing the possibility of planting Carbon Forests for carbon sequestration as a way to deal with climate change. A few signed on.
That same year, Unami Monthly Meeting, where I am a member, listened to my leading to address climate change, and we held three discussion sessions on Global Climate Change, a lot of time to deal with a single topic. I again circulated the “query” on Carbon Forests to those present, and the response was, “We should do this!” The Unami Peace & Social Concerns Committee was charged to come up with a plan of action. A proposal to create the Carbon Forest Project was presented to the meeting and minuted. After that, the Committee began detailing all aspects of the Project.
I had just spent several years teaching restoration to graduate students interested in doing professional environmental design work. We lived this question together: If you are going to build/construct/plant a new forest, like one that historically existed, what data and directions do you need to give to a contractor or bidder? Naturally occurring forests are not monoculture tree farms but amazingly complex systems. Finding the “rules” for building a new ecosystem, you need to: (1) see what is there before you—your project site—above and below ground, (2) perceive what has been done to damage, repair, or “improve” it, (3) research what the forest ecosystem would have looked like if the damage had not been inflicted, and (4) imbed the needed corrections in the planting/restoration plan.
Now we are at the confluence of my personal story, my Meeting’s leading, and world events. Global Climate Change is here and rapidly advancing. Collective action from governments is in disarray and paralysis. Forests around the world are burning and dying. Powerful political and financial interests want to manage action regarding GCC in order to profit. Misinformation generation and spread has become well entrenched. Dividing the mindset of the population has become a driving force.
In the midst of this, Unami Meeting is choosing to do something about sinking carbon, which is one factor in the escalation of climate change. As of the beginning of 2022, we have our first financial contribution to the project. Also, several land conservancies have indicated an interest in partnering with us to find sites and provide some legal expertise.
We have made plans for a ten-acre site. Anything less is not a forest. We will build Old Growth forests, an ecologically diverse native forest that can sink carbon permanently. It will not be logged. We will plant 435 trees per acre, tending to the need for organic surface, shrubs, and herbs. We will work to enhance the mycorrhizal community of a healthy forest as it exchanges nutrients and communicates individual needs. We will protect these intentional Old Growth forests from elements that are undermining forests in the temperate Piedmont region. We will install deer fencing. We will steward these forests as they grow to maturity.
We expect to forge conservation easements/deed restrictions that will protect them. We have already done work to argue that this kind of project should have PA government standing as a carbon sequestration method. It will cost around a million dollars to do a 10-acre project. This is where hope and optimism come into the picture. We expect that others will join us in this legacy work.
If other meetings would like to know more about the project, you can connect with John W. Munro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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