Fifteen years ago, Chandler Van Voorhis and Carey Crane saw the opportunity to help battle climate change and make a significant profit at the same time. In 2003, they founded ACRE (Advanced Carbon Restored Ecosystem) Investment Management, a conservancy-based organization in The Plains, stirring a vision to grow trees that would create valuable carbon credits that could be sold. Today, that emerging market has become white hot and the pair sells carbon credits to giants like Shell, Norfolk Southern Railway, Duke Energy, United Airlines, and a growing list of corporations eager to offset their carbon footprint.
To create the credits, they have more than 500 partnering landowners and have put more than 120,000 acres under easement across the southeast. That’s about 72 million trees already.
Their goal? One million acres planted. If they can reach that goal, they will help offset carbon emissions, and by extension, global warming. Here’s how they plan to get there.
The ACRE business model is simple in concept, but unique in practice. No one else in the country offers the same service. They grow the saplings they plant (about a million per year). They partner with landowners using that land to grow the trees. They manage the trees for the landowners. They translate the science of how the trees hold the carbon (CO2) into a monetary value for each landowner. The root structure helps clean the water runoff before it reaches nearby streams, creating more monetary value for the partners. The trees create the credits as they grow, and when demand is highest, the credits are sold to the large, carbon-creating corporations. At that point, ACRE shares the financial reward with their partnering landowners. Everyone wins.
The science is defined. The calculations are verified by an independent organization, and the credits are registered with the American Carbon Registry. Already this year, ACRE has moved more than 1,000,000 credits and is on target to double that by the year’s end.
Great Meadow in The Plains and Montebello in Orange are large properties owned by area landowners. Both saw that ACRE’s programs mighthelp anchor their futures. Great Meadow hosts some 40 events, including the prestigious Virginia Gold Cup, drawing 200,000 through the gates each year. Montebello is a historic property.
In 2013, the board of Great Meadow embarked on an ambitious plan to double its size, build a world class, all-weather arena, and bring high performanceeventing to its popular park. Most of the cost was donated by generous supporters, but more money was needed.
Robert Banner, president of Great Meadow at the time, saw more could be raised with the revenue from a conservation easement. This, plus the income from a new Verizon cell tower (disguised as a farm silo) on the property would help. ACRE’s program helped close the deal.
“Chandler and Carey devised a nutrient banking plan that used 25 acres in the back of our newly purchased land. We wrote an easement for that parcel that allowed them to grow treesthatwould protect the nearby Broad Runstream. It worked easily over the existing conservation easement,” said Banner.
The trees pull carbon from the air as they grow. At the same time, their root structure filters the runoff to Broad Run that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. All of this helped finish the biggest project Great Meadow has undertaken since opening in 1983. His work done, Banner decided the ACRE model was so attractive, he decided to join ACRE in May.
The family of Colin Rosse owns Montebello, a property held by the family since 1728. Recently, The Land Trust of Virginia named the Montebello Family Trust “Landowner of the Year” for work done to protect this historic site in perpetuity. The first order of business was to put the land into a conservation easement protecting it against future development. That done, they have started looking at a nutrient banking program with ACRE to help provide an endowment for future generations that will help fund restoration projects that may be needed then.
According to ACRE founders, the larger the stand of trees, the better the benefit for all. The staff at ACRE is always looking for partnering landowners. With the financial return on each project, they envision no problem reaching their goal.
To learn more, visit ACRE’s website at www.acre-investment.com or phone 540-253-2504.