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Potential for Coastal Wetland Blue Carbon Offset Projects in the Point Reyes Area

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  • Point Reyes is a 100-square mile peninsula located on the California coast about 30 miles north of San Francisco. The peninsula, surrounding bays, and neighboring coastal mainland are a unique biodiversity hotspot. The area underwent heavy human use, including ranching and logging, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Conservation efforts beginning in the 1950s have resulted in most of the area remaining undeveloped as family-run ranches, rural villages, and State, County, and National Parks. However, many of the coastal wetlands are drained, impounded, or otherwise degraded. This paper examines historical and current uses and management of the bays, estuaries, and lands of the Point Reyes peninsula and neighboring mainland and the ecological status of the area’s coastal wetlands. It then explores potential economic support for restoration of degraded coastal wetlands through carbon offset projects, called “blue carbon” projects, and provides recommendations for the implementation of blue carbon projects there. The area’s patchy collection of small restoration sites and low prices for voluntary carbon offset credits challenge the viability of a blue carbon project, but this can be counteracted by developing a grouped project and combining funding sources. Development of a grouped blue carbon project for the area would generate supplemental funding for coastal wetland restoration, which supports the area’s goals of ecosystem restoration, sustainable agriculture, and adaptation to sea level rise. Inclusion of blue carbon as an approved offset category in California’s Cap-and-Trade program would support these goals and statewide greenhouse gas reduction goals more than voluntary carbon offset credits.
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