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Doe Mountain Recreation Authority registers 8,600 acres for forest carbon project in Northeast TN

Brian Fulton, left, and Jill South smile for a photo taken by a drone on top of the historic Kettlefoot Fire Lookout Tower on the top of Doe Mountain at the Doe Mountain Recreation Area in Johnson County TN. The tower is 60 feet high and was built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Doe Mountain Recreation Area is now a registered forest carbon project. Photo by Kelley Germain of Germain Media LLC.

By Tamas Mondovics

The Doe Mountain Recreation Authority (DMRA) announced earlier this month that its Doe Mountain Recreation Area is now a registered forest carbon project.
“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,” said Gabby Lynch, director of protection, The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Chapter in Trade TN.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters.
Lynch explained that the project demonstrates the economic and ecological benefits of sustainable forestry and recreation management. As markets for forest carbon have matured, managing forests to maximize value beyond timber alone is a growing, international strategy used to diversify both biological and financial gains.
She emphasized that the project aims to protect wildlife habitat, promote biodiversity, and sequester atmospheric carbon to mitigate climate change, all while fostering important 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.
Jon C. Lundberg, Tennessee Senator for the 4th District, agreed when he said, “Doe Mountain is a vital regional asset for Johnson County and an important part of our future. This partnership will create a base of stability for years to come.”
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 that will ensure a healthy ecological future for Doe Mountain, and vibrant economic growth for Johnson County,” said Mike Taylor, Johnson County Mayor.
Officials with The Nature Conservancy emphasized that Doe Mountain’s diversity of tree species and habitats will prove more resilient to the future impacts of climate change, “so long as the mountain stores more forest carbon than is released into the atmosphere via timber harvesting.”
In 2017, the DMRA Board voted unanimously to enter into a Carbon Development and Marketing Agreement with Bluesource, a leading North American carbon offset development firm. The DMRA Board committed to increasing the property’s forest carbon storage above the baseline level over a 40-year period.
Guided by the technical expertise of Bluesource, a leading carbon offset developer in North America, approximately 100 monitoring plots were established across Doe Mountain to measure the forest’s current carbon storage levels.
“By managing the forests sustainably to “grow” and store more carbon in the standing timber stock than is cut down/released into the atmosphere,” Lynch said. “In other words, 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, which is where the carbon is sequestered and increases over time, above the baseline level.”
In return for this commitment, Bluesource reportedly will, on the DMRA’s behalf, quantify, market, and sell carbon credits to corporations voluntarily choosing to offset their businesses’ carbon emissions.
While commercial timber harvesting is now prohibited, the minimal removal of trees for trail construction, scenic overlooks, and the DMRA’s usual daily operations is permitted within the agreement.
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 for future generations. “I am encouraged by this partnership that will ensure that Doe Mountain will be around for my children and generations to come,” said Representative Timothy Hill, Tennessee Representative for the 3rd District.