Seven years ago Shannondale Minister Jeff Fulk was full of desperate prayers. His rural mission in north Shannon County had a proud history, but was teetering on the edge of ruin. Although its tree farm had stood since 1949, its future was in question due to the tough times created by the Great Recession.
“After the economic downturn hit in 2008, donations went down for not only us but for our entire conference, the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the United Church of Christ,” Fulk says. “There was serious talk of Shannondale being sold like many other outdoor ministries. I remember sitting up here one day and praying ‘God I need a miracle, I need you to tell me what we are going to do.’”
Fulk says his plea was answered three days later in the form of a forester with the L-A-D Foundation who told him about a new innovation, carbon offset credits.
“I’d never heard about any such thing before. At first I was thinking what’s the catch, this sounds too good to be true,” Fulk says. “But now, after a lot of hard work getting through red tape, we are remodeling our chapel and making other emergency repairs thanks to our conference receiving $900,000 by selling carbon credits, while still having some in the bank… This program has really been our savior. There’s a good chance Shannondale would not be here today if it weren’t for the carbon offset program.”
Shannondale’s success has been made possible by California passing the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006. The law’s goal is to cap the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions allowed in that state to 1990 levels by the year 2020. It works by giving California corporations the option to account for a small amount of their total greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon offset credits from registered tree farms, managed forests and other entities that absorb some of the carbon dioxide these corporations produce.
“The forests are managed in such a way that as to maximize the amount of carbon they capture, such as growing bigger trees for a longer period of time,” Jenkins says. “All of this is done voluntarily by the property owner, and they can still actively produce wood products through a sustainable harvest. It’s not an all or nothing kind of deal.”
Jenkins says since the Shannondale Tree Farm’s establishment in 1949, it has offset 120,000 metric tons of carbon pollution, and will annually offset another 2,000 tons per year.