This page last reviewed November 13, 2013

Compliance Offset Protocol U.S. Forest Offset Projects

This page describes the ARB Compliance Offset Protocol for U.S. Forest Projects and all supporting documents for project implementation.  Estimating volume and converting biomass to CO2e varies by project location.  Forest projects may be located anywhere in the lower 48 states.  Forest land in Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. Territories are not eligible at this time.  Projects located in California, Oregon, and Washington should refer to the first table on this page.  Projects located within the other 45 contiguous states should refer to the subsequent table.


Skip to: Approved Growth and Yield Models

Skip to: Guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions

Skip to: Documents for projects in California, Oregon and Washington (table); documents for all other eligible states (table)

Skip to: Compliance Offset Program Forms to obtain forest offset project listing forms and forest Offset Project Data Report forms

Introduction

The Compliance Offset Protocol U.S. Forest Projects (Forest Offset Protocol) provides requirements and methods for quantifying the net climate benefits of activities that sequester carbon on forestland. The protocol provides offset project eligibility rules; methods to calculate an offset project’s net effects on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals of CO2 from the atmosphere (removals); procedures for  assessing the risk that carbon sequestered by a project may be reversed (i.e. released back to the atmosphere); and approaches for long-term project monitoring and reporting. The protocol is designed to ensure that the net GHG reductions and GHG removal enhancements caused by an offset project are accounted for in a complete, consistent, transparent, accurate, and conservative manner and may therefore be reported as the basis for issuing ARB or registry offset credits.

Offset Project Operators or Authorized Project Designees must use this protocol to quantify and report GHG reductions and GHG removal enhancements. The protocol provides eligibility rules, methods to quantify GHG reductions, project-monitoring instructions, and procedures for reporting Offset Project Data Reports. Additionally, all offset projects must submit to independent verification by ARB-accredited verification bodies. Requirements for verification bodies to verify Offset Project Data Reports are provided in the Cap-and-Trade Regulation.

U.S. Forest Protocol Resources

Compliance Offset Protocol U.S. Forest Projects (Forest Offset Protocol) pdf (PDF - 1.15MB)


Documents for Projects Located in California, Oregon, and Washington

Description

Instructions




Applicable to projects in CA, OR, and WA only
The Compliance Offset Protocol U.S. Forest Projects (Protocol) requires estimates of total above-ground and below-ground biomass. Offset Project Operators (OPOs)/Authorized Project Designees (APDs) with projects located in California, Oregon, and Washington should use these instructions to convert biomass to tons of CO2e emissions or removal enhancements.
Supersection Maps:




Applicable to projects in all locations
Supersection MapStep 1:  Supersection maps identify the appropriate Supersection and Assessment Area corresponding to the project’s location.  An OPO/APD must first determine the geographic Supersection within which the Project Area is located by reviewing the Supersection maps.  A GIS shapefile of the Supersection may be downloaded to map the project boundaries for reporting purposes.  
Assessment Area Data File




Applicable to projects in all locations
Step 2:  After the OPO/APD identifies the correct Supersection for its Project Area, the OPO/APD must consult the Assessment Area Data File to identify the Assessment Area that best corresponds to the project, based on the dominant vegetation present in the "forest type" category within the spreadsheet.  The Assessment Area Data File provides information that must be used as inputs to meet Protocol requirements.  Click here for more details on the categories contained in the Assessment Area Data File.
Volume Estimation and Biomass Equations - Projects Located in California, Oregon, and Washington




Applicable to projects in CA, OR, and WA only
Step 3a:  The OPO/APD must find and use references and coefficients associated with each species in a Project Area for projects located in CA, OR, and WA.  The volume equation references and coefficients in this document must be used in conjunction with the biomass equations provided for CA, OR, and WA (referenced in Step 3b).

Step 3b:  The OPO/APD must use the biomass equations presented in this document for projects located in CA, OR, and WA.  Biomass equations have been obtained from the U.S. Forest Service FIA National Program.  These biomass equations must be used in conjunction with the volume equation references and coefficients by species for projects located in CA, OR, and WA (referenced in Step 3a).
Estimating Carbon in Wood Products














Applicable to projects in CA, OR, and WA only
Step 4:  For projects that include harvesting, the OPO/APD must estimate the carbon stored in harvested wood products. The following documents are needed to estimate carbon in harvested wood products:

Step 4a:  Regional Mill Efficiency Data
The OPO/APD must identify the mill efficiency factor and use that factor as an input to estimate carbon in harvested wood delivered to mills.  

Step 4b:  Table C.1 Specific Gravity and Wood Density by Forest Type for CA, OR, and WA
The OPO/APD must check Table C.1 (duplicate of table on page 94 of the Protocol), which provides gravity and wood density factors by forest type.  Once the forest type is identified, these factors are used as an input to help determine the carbon in harvested wood delivered to mills.   

Step 4c:  Wood Product Classes
The OPO/APD will need to estimate the average carbon stored over 100 years in in-use wood products.  The OPO/APD may do this using the Supersection default values in the “Wood Products Generated” worksheet within the Assessment Area Data File or by obtaining a verified report from the mill(s) where the Project Area’s logs are sold indicating the product categories the mill(s) sold for the year in question.
Calculation Worksheets
  • Inventory Assistance Worksheet (Coming soon!)
  • Summary Data Worksheet (Coming soon!)
  • Harvested Wood Product Worksheet (Coming soon!)
Applicable to projects in all locations



Documents for Projects Located Within the Other 45 Contiguous States (Outside California, Oregon, and Washington)

Description

Instructions












Applicable to projects outside CA, OR, and WA only
The Compliance Offset Protocol U.S. Forest Projects (Protocol) requires estimates of total above-ground and below-ground biomass. Offset Project Operators (OPOs)/Authorized Project Designees (APDs) with projects located in all approved states except California, Oregon, and Washington (lower 45 states) should use these instructions to estimate volume and convert biomass to tons of CO2e emissions or removal enhancements.   The Protocol has approved specific volume and biomass equations developed by the United States Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) National Program using a procedure known as the Component Ratio Method (CRM) (Heath et al., 2009).  The CRM is applicable to all states except California, Oregon, and Washington because regional equations have been adopted by ARB for those states.
Supersection Maps

Applicable to projects in all locations
Supersection MapStep 1:  An OPO/APD must first determine the geographic Supersection within which the project area is located by reviewing the Supersection maps in this table.  Supersection maps identify the appropriate Supersection and Assessment Area corresponding to the project’s location.  A GIS shapefile of the Supersection may be downloaded to map the project boundaries for reporting purposes. 
Assessment Area Data File




Applicable to projects in all locations
Step 2:  After the OPO/APD identifies the correct Supersection for its Project Area, the OPO/APD must consult the Assessment Area Data File to identify the Assessment Area that best corresponds to the project, based on the dominant vegetation present in the ‘forest type’ category within the document.  The Assessment Area Data File provides information that must be used as inputs to meet Protocol requirements.  Click here for more details on the categories contained in the Assessment Area Data File.
Volume Estimation and Biomass Equations - Projects Located Outside of California, Oregon, and Washington






























Applicable to projects outside CA, OR, and WA only
Step 3a:  “A. Cubic Foot Volume Equations for the U.S. Outside CA-OR-WA” document
This document provides volume equations for calculating cubic foot volume by species1.  The OPO/APD will need the accompanying “B. Volume Equation References and Coefficients by Species for Supersections Outside of CA-OR-WA” Excel spreadsheet to determine which equations to use and to retrieve the appropriate coefficients relevant to the species.  Equations to calculate gross cubic foot volume (VOLCFGRS) are provided.  VOLCFGRS must be converted to sound cubic foot volume (VOLCFSND) by subtracting rotten and missing cull volume.  Biomass is then calculated for individual tree components for each tree using the Component Ratio Method, with DBH and VOLCFSND as inputs.  The resulting VOLCFSND is then used to estimate biomass using the "C. Biomass Estimation Component Ratio Method" document.

Step 3b:  
"B. Volume Equation References and Coefficients by Species for Supersections Outside of CA-OR-WA" document
The document may be used to identify references and coefficients necessary to estimate volume for each species.  The OPO/APD must use this Excel spreadsheet in conjunction with (Step 3a).  Species are listed according to the corresponding Supersection.  The look-up table of scientific references should be used to identify the appropriate volume equation and coefficients to estimate volume.

Step 3c:  "C. Biomass Estimation Component Ratio Method" document
This document is an excerpt from the FIA Database User’s Manual2 and should be used to calculate biomass for all projects outside California, Oregon, and Washington.  It provides a nationally consistent method of estimating tree biomass, called the component ratio method (CRM)3.  The CRM involves calculating the dry weight of individual components before estimating the total above-ground or below-ground biomass.  The tables in this document describe the equations used to estimate various components of tree biomass (stem wood, top and branches, bark, stump, course roots).  Most components are estimated through a series of ratio equations4.  Document “D. Biomass Coefficients for Use with the Component Ratio Method” must be used in conjunction with the document in Step 3a.  It provides the coefficients for common species that are necessary to estimate biomass using the Component Ratio Method.
Estimating Carbon in Wood Products














Applicable to projects outside CA, OR, and WA only
Step 4:  For projects that include harvesting, the OPO/APD must estimate the carbon stored in harvested wood products. The following documents are needed to estimate carbon in harvested wood products:

Step 4a:  Regional Mill Efficiency Data
The OPO/APD must identify the mill efficiency factor and use that factor as an input to estimate carbon in harvested wood delivered to mills.  

Step 4b: 
USFS Wood Handbook
This handbook provides gravity and wood density factors by forest type; these factors are used as input to determine the carbon in harvested wood delivered to mills.

Step 4c:  Wood Product Classes
The OPO/APD will need to estimate the average carbon stored over 100 years in in-use wood products.  The OPO/APD may do this using the Supersection default values in the “Wood Products Generated” worksheet within the Assessment Area Data File or by obtaining a verified report from the mill(s) where the Project Area’s logs are sold indicating the product categories the mill(s) sold for the year in question. 

Calculation Worksheets
  • Inventory Assistance Worksheet (Coming soon!)
  • Summary Data Worksheet (Coming soon!)
  • Harvested Wood Product Worksheet (Coming soon!)
Applicable to projects in all locations
Footnotes
[1] Cubic foot volume calculations are necessary for trees with diameter at breast height (DBH) greater than 5 inches.  Trees with DBH less than 5 inches do not require cubic foot volume calculations to estimate biomass using the Component Ratio Method.  Biomass for trees less than 5 inches in DBH is calculated using Appendix J with DBH only.
[2] Appendix J. December 2009. Draft Forest Inventory Analysis Database and Users Manual for Phase 2, Version 4.0, Revision 2.
[3] Heath et al. 2009.
[4] Jenkins et al. 2003.

References

Bailey, R. G.; Avers, P. E.; King, T.; McNab, W. H., eds. 1994. Ecoregions and subregions of the United States (map). Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service. 1:7,500,000. With supplementary table of map unit descriptions, compiled and edited by W. H. McNab and R. G. Bailey.

Forest Inventory and Analysis.  2009.  Appendix J.  In: DRAFT FIA Database Description and Users Manual for Phase 2, version 4.0, revision 2.  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Heath, Linda S.; Hansen, Mark; Smith, James E.; Miles, Patrick D.; Smith, Brad W.  2009.  Investigation into calculating tree biomass and carbon in the FIADB using a biomass expansion factor approach.  In: McWilliams, Will; Moisen, Gretchen; Czaplewski, Ray, comps. 2009. 2008 Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Symposium; October 21-23, 2008; Park City, UT. Proc. RMRS-P-56CD. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 26 p.

Jenkins, Jennifer C.; Chojnacky, David C.; Heath, Linda S.; Birdsey, Richard A.  2003.  National scale biomass estimators for United States tree species.  Forest Science. 49: 12-35.

McNab, W.H.; Cleland, D.T.; Freeouf, J.A.; Keys, Jr., J.E.; Nowacki, G.J.; Carpenter, C.A., comps. 2007. Description of ecological subregions: sections of the conterminous United States [CD-ROM]. Gen. Tech. Report WO-76B. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 80 p.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis National Core Field Guide (October 2010)

Woodall, Christopher W.; Heath, Linda S.; Domke, Grant M.; Nichols, Michael C.  2011.  Methods and equations for estimating aboveground volume, biomass, and carbon for trees in the U.S. forest inventory, 2010.  Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-88. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 30 p.

Resource Materials for Projects in All Locations

Resources for Offset Project Operators

Resources for Verifiers

References for U.S. Forest Protocol




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For questions or comments regarding the U.S. Forest Protocol please contact

Barbara Bamberger at 916-324-2303 or e-mail bbamberg@arb.ca.gov.

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