This study investigates the preferences of small forest landowners regarding forest carbon credit programs while documenting characteristics of potentially successful frameworks. We designed hypothetical carbon credit programs with aggregated carbon offset projects and requirements of existing voluntary and compliance protocols in mind. We administered a mail survey to 992 forest landowners in Vermont’s Current Use Program utilizing best-worst choice, a novel preference elicitation technique, to elicit their preferences about these programs. We found that small forest landowners see revenue as the most important factor in a carbon credit program and the duration of the program as the least important factor. Landowners reported that shorter program duration, higher revenue, and lower withdrawal penalties positively impact their willingness to accept forest carbon credit programs. Notably, our study includes carbon credit program implementer as a key program attribute, allowing us to quantify landowners’ tradeoffs between non-profit, for-profit, and government organizations. Overall, we found that landowners significantly prefer working with a nonprofit organization. Based on monetary estimates of willingness-to-accept compensation, our results suggest that aggregated forest carbon offset projects incorporating small forest landowners could be piloted successfully in Vermont by non-profit organizations while maintaining relatively strict guidelines of existing carbon offset protocols.
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