Land, whether for farming crops or livestock or beautiful open spaces, is expensive to maintain, and too often owners or their heirs reach the point where mega-bucks offered by developers appear mighty tempting. But suppose there’s a way to hang on to your land, protect it for future generations, and also make money…
Advanced Carbon Restored Ecosystem (ACRE) is all about trees, one of the planet’s most important natural resources, a source of life, food, and habitat for wildlife. Trees are nature’s air cleaners, breathing in everything, especially noxious carbon emissions and the carbon dioxide exhaled by all living creatures, then releasing oxygen back into the air. Reforestation is the aim of ACRE where trees are the currency of conservation and forests the most natural and effective strategy to achieve a healthier planet.
Founded in 1999, ACRE is the brainchild of Carey Crane III and Chandler Van Voorhis, in collaboration with Jerry A. “Dutch” Van Voorhis. Their expertise in conservation, ecology, education, finance, aerospace defense technology, and history makes them ideal pioneers in “natural capitalism” where the rewards of reforestation include cleaner air, revitalized soil, restoration of wildlife habitats, reduced carbon, and profit.
ACRE’s mission is to build new forests that are protected, that won’t be cut down by timber companies or cleared for residential or commercial development. ACRE doesn’t own any land, opting to work with landowners, whose properties range from 250 to 1500 acres, along with a few smaller plots. Supported by advanced technology, ACRE and its investors grow forests for carbon credits, a virtual yet valuable product.
GreenTrees is the jewel in the canopy of forests so far achieved by ACRE’s officers and investors, who are currently involved in a 10-year, one-million-acre plan to build new forests—the greatest single private conservation forestry initiative ever undertaken in the USA. Their vision to unite scale, speed, restoration, ecosystem repair, and climate impact will result in the planting of 500 million new trees and result in the generation of 300 million reforestation carbon credits.
To date, ACRE has planted over 30 million trees on 120,000 acres in partnership with privately owned marginal farmlands along the Mississippi River. GreenTrees began in 2003 when Crane and Chandler Voorhis, bonafide visionaries, set out to prove for the record that conservation can support itself.
Considered “America’s Amazon,” the Mississippi’s Delta provides a vital ecosystem for 60 percent of all migrating birds and serves as home to several endangered species. The Mississippi is the destination for 41 percent of North America’s rivers before it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Trees that are planted on marginal land bordering rivers and streams do more than sequester carbon from the air—their roots cleanse run-off water which benefits aquatic and, eventually, marine life.
It all starts with ACRE’s Big River and Big River Nursery, which is where the all-important cottonwoods are nurtured to begin the process of reforestation. Fast-growing at six to eight feet or so per year, the cottonwood is a workhorse of a tree, fully grown by year 4 and already pulling in hefty amounts of carbon and storing it. One-third of the cottonwoods are harvested at years 10, 17 and 25, as they fulfill their role as nursemaids to the enduring hardwoods which mature at about 30 years.
Cottonwood trees are essential, supplying the much slower-growing hardwoods with shade even as they expedite the business of marketing their own carbon credits within a few years. By inter-planting at certain intervals, the fast-growing cottonwoods help the spindly little hardwood saplings to grow straight and tall, reaching for the sky so that, by year 26, all of the foliage in the forest has grown into a lovely green canopy overhead, covering huge acres in the air. The entire purpose of the hardwood trees is to soak up record amounts of carbon and its derivatives and whatever other nasty stuff might be in the air. Hardwoods tend to grow very large as if the carbon on which they’re “feeding” makes them strong like living diamonds.
Advanced Carbon Restored Ecosystem 101
“Half of a tree’s weight is in carbon,” explained Jerry A. “Dutch” Van Voorhis, ACRE’s president and CEO. “We plant 600 trees per acre, half are fast-growing nursery stock, cottonwoods, the other half are hardwoods. By year four or five, the cottonwoods are 10, 15, 20 feet tall, towering over the slow-growing hardwoods. Our experts take samples to monitor the absorption of carbon by the cottonwood trees. We bundle that information, along with all the details, who owns the land, what the soil is, everything, and send it off to verifiers of carbon.”
The carbon verification process takes several months, with verifiers visiting the properties. It’s essential to monitor and measure the growth of the trees, check that they’re all hale and healthy. ACRE’s forests produce about one million tons of carbon, a mind-boggling amount, and expenses come off the top, but still…
“If you didn’t have the cottonwoods, you’d have to wait until year 15,” Voorhis stated. “We figured out the tools, and nobody else is doing it. We have 500 landowners so far in our program and every year their forests “produce” about one million tons of carbon, which we sell as credits to a lot of large corporations at about $10 per ton. Half of all that currently goes back to the landowners.”
If all of those zeroes don’t grab your attention, consider this: Carbon transforms from toxic pollutant to being stored as the marketable part of the forest, a very real, albeit virtual, money-winner. When ACRE-planted trees absorb those nasty little CO and CO2 micro-bits from the air, they’re just being forests. They certainly aren’t being exploited or, even liquefied, for profit. They’re just being trees and wildlife habitats, performing many functions, yet all they do is be trees—and, of course, thrive. This leads to all sorts of jobs because, of course, it’s part of taking care of business to watch over the forests and make sure they’re healthy and last a long. long time.
“Our acres grow, our trees grow, and after every bit of data is collected by the verifiers, they send it to one of four registries in the world, for approval,” said Van Voorhis. “We’re repairing the past and the corporations are buying partners. They need carbon credits to neutralize their debt to the atmosphere. Once emissions are up in the air, you can’t do anything to get them out of the air. Only forests can do the job.”
By growing forests, ACRE protects the land from development or being razed, and its program more than meets the objectives of conservation. What’s not to love about the financial reward for being part of the best solution that harnesses the power of the forests to bank carbon credits?
ACRE is win-win, one acre at a time.