WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. Forest Service is teaming with a nonprofit foundation to allow consumers to participate in a voluntary program to ``offset'' their carbon dioxide emissions.
Under the agreement to be announced Wednesday, the Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation will allow individuals or groups to make charitable contributions that will be used to plant trees and do other work to improve national forests.
The Forest Service estimates that the nation's 155 national forests offset about 10 percent of carbon emissions in the United States. Forest Service scientists believe that figure can be raised to as much as 25 percent by doing such things as planting more trees in urban areas or reforesting old cropland.
Under the new program, known as the Carbon Capital Fund, consumers can ``offset'' their carbon emissions by investing in projects on national forests to plant trees and improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and help restore public lands damaged by natural disasters such as wildfires.
Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell hailed the program, the first of its kind for the federal government. It will allow Americans to learn more about their carbon footprint while helping trees be planted on national forests, she said.
``People have an opportunity to contribute to the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests, not only by countering climate change, but also by replanting forests for the benefit of future generations,'' Kimbell said.
The forest foundation said the new program would include independent verification of projects that have a ``specific and measurable'' reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. For every $6 donated, one metric ton of CO2 emissions can be offset, the foundation said.
The Forest Service has identified several reforestation projects to kick off the new program, including one in the Custer National Forest in Montana and South Dakota and another in the Payette National Forest in Idaho.