KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee AgResearch and The Nature Conservancy have been recognized by the Forest Stewardship Council with one of the organization’s 2020 Leadership Awards for their historic Working Woodlands partnership and commitment to forest conservation. The FSC’s mission is to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests.

Each year, the FSC recognizes businesses and organizations of all sizes for excellence in advancing responsible forest management and conservation.

The primary goals of the Working Woodlands partnership are to achieve the highest standards of forest management while also working to combat climate change through the sale of carbon credits. This is the first time a university has entered into a carbon offset project with TNC.

“In this type of agreement, companies or institutions voluntarily purchase verified carbon credits to offset their emissions of carbon dioxide,” said Trisha Johnson, TNC’s director of forest conservation in Tennessee. For example, a landowner can quantify the amount of carbon on their property and, after verification by a third party, can sell the credits to a willing buyer at market value. Johnson adds, “Through this partnership, UT and TNC can test, improve and promote an approach that can benefit millions of acres of Tennessee’s public and private forests.”

The FSC lauded the UT AgResearch-TNC partnership and its potential for improved forest management to deliver natural climate solutions in the United States. “It’s an exciting time for us at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center,” said Hongwei Xin, UT AgResearch dean. “This historic, 40-year agreement allows us to carry out our land-grant mission by researching impacts of climate change on forests, managing our forest land to the highest standards and providing sustainability for years to come.”

In addition, the partnership also creates a Climate Smart Forestry Fund that will support the UT Institute of Agriculture’s research on how climate change affects forests and forest owners. “The Climate Smart Forestry Fund will enhance our ability to train pre-professionals such as student interns and conduct mission-oriented research by our faculty and graduate students,” said Xin.

“This was an unexpected honor,” said Kevin Hoyt, director of the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center and one of the primary architects of the partnership. “To receive this national recognition from a prestigious organization like the FSC is a testament to our commitment to the best forest management practices, research and our work to promote sustainability,” he said.

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