By Jill Penley
While most residents may be unfamiliar with the value of carbon offsets, hardly anyone can dispute the importance of Doe Mountain to Johnson County tourism. Doe Mountain’s Board of Directors announced that Fat Tire Brewing Company, the fourth-largest craft brewery in the U.S., has purchased carbon offsets from Johnson County’s Doe Mountain Recreation Area (DMRA) as part of its corporate sustainability goal to achieve carbon neutrality.
“The commitment to protect Doe Mountain’s forest is now generating carbon offset ‘credits’ that may be purchased by business entities wishing to mitigate their carbon emissions,” explained Gabby Lynch, director of protection, The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Chapter in Trade TN.
The connection between a brewery and a natural wonder may not be obvious, but focusing on renewable energy sources, wastewater recycling, and the recycling of spent grains has been a focus for many breweries looking to improve the impact on the environment. Since the inception of Fat Tire in 1991, New Belgium Brewing has cut its environmental impact by becoming the first wind-powered brewery, establishing the first carbon footprint study for beer, and producing electricity onsite solar and biogas technology.
Founded in 1991 in Fort Collins, Colorado, the company expanded to Asheville, North Carolina in 2016 and Denver, Colorado in 2018, and is now the 4th largest craft brewery in the U.S. Fat Tire has embodied a commitment to social and environmental responsibility for nearly 30 years by implementing energy-efficient brewing practices, advocating for public lands protection, and, most recently, becoming America’s first certified carbon neutral beer in July 2020. Linch emphasized that the project aims to protect wildlife habitat, promote biodiversity, and sequester atmospheric carbon to mitigate climate change while fostering essential investments in the local economy.
“For example, one of the nation’s three largest banking institutions purchased carbon offset credits from the Doe Mountain project this summer, which resulted in approximately $117,000 in revenue for the recreation area’s operational support,” Lynch said.
With a total land area of 8,600 acres, Doe Mountain Recreation Area towers above Mountain City, the seat of Johnson County, and spans nearly 10 miles from town limits south to Watauga Lake. Since 2013, the DMRA has operated a multi-use recreational trail system here that draws outdoor enthusiasts from several states, particularly Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) users.
“I am extremely excited about this long-term partnership,” said Mike Taylor, Johnson County Mayor, “that will ensure a healthy ecological future for Doe Mountain, and vibrant economic growth for Johnson County.”
In 2017, the DMRA Board voted unanimously to enter into a Carbon Development and Marketing Agreement with Bluesource, a leading North American.
“We are allowed to remove some trees to maintain the trail system, scenic overlooks, etc., but we ensure that most of the forest is left standing,” Lynch said.
In return for this commitment, Bluesource reportedly will, on the DMRA’s behalf, quantify, market, and sell carbon credits to corporations that voluntarily choose to offset their businesses’ carbon emissions. The partnership provides the DMRA a regular income stream for the recreation area’s trail and infrastructure improvements while conserving Doe Mountain’s visually stunning landscape.