This is the first in a two-part story of a company offering investment opportunities for a carbon-reduction project in California, an endeavor supported by its strategic partner, Coalition for the Upper South Platte, which is based in Lake George.

In November, the federal government released a report affirming the dire consequences of climate change to the U.S. and warning of worse to come without intercession of some kind.

Mike Smith, co-founder with John Cleland of RenewWest in Denver, is working on a solution to reduce the effects of carbon pollution using nature. “It’s taking a forest where it should be but it’s not coming back on its own, like the Hayman Fire area,” Smith said. “So you plant trees there to capture carbon dioxide. There are companies that will pay for that.”

RenewWest enters the climate-change investment market with the Collins Modoc Project in California. “Collins (company) lost 11,500 acres of their land about 6 or 7 years ago in the Barry Point Fire, which burned 92,000 acres in California,” he said. “It’s just not coming back on its own.”

A $3 million project, the reforestation will be done in three phases, beginning with analysis and the legal work. “We’re going to wrap that up in a nice little bow to raise investment in the project around that,” Smith said.

Granted, the project is long-term as far as a return on investment is concerned. “It takes a long time for trees to grow so you need somebody who’s in it for the longer haul. But there are definitely investor groups that operate that way,” he said.

The cycle goes like this: “Plant the trees and have a third party verify that there is no carbon emitted on the land,” Smith said. “Then you wait.”

Four or five years go by and the company measures the growth again. “The difference between what you observed at that time and what you measured the first time can be converted into carbon offset,” Smith said.

While it takes at least 75 years for trees to grow, the payoffs come during the growth period of the trees. “This shortens the returns, so you get intermediate chunks of money every four to five years,” Smith said.

The source of an $8 billion market, carbon offsets are fueled by the Western Climate Initiative. “You can create offsets in California that can be sold in Quebec and vice versa — each has created caps to their emissions,” Smith said. “And Oregon is very likely to create their own market this year that would probably align with Quebec.”

Coalition for the Upper South Platte, with headquarters in Lake George, is a strategic partner in the venture. “We can help identify additional sites for replanting,” said Carol Ekarius, executive director of CUSP. “We can use the carbon market in California to pay for fuel mitigation and post-fire recovery in areas such as the Hayman.”

Funded initially by a $175,000 grant through The Nature Conservancy’s National Climate Solutions Accelerator program, the grant is administered by CUSP, the umbrella organization for Coalitions and Collaboratives, Inc., a group of nonprofits dedicated to finding solutions to the effects of climate change.

Pikes Peak Courier Reporter

Pikes Peak Courier Reporter

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