Forests in the United States provide important carbon sequestration services that could be leveraged for climate change mitigation. There is increased interest among decision makers and investors to extend forest carbon payment programs to family forest owners (FFOs), the largest category of private forest owners. Since FFOs manage forests for multiple objectives, it is unclear which contract requirements and payment levels will appeal to early adopters and perhaps establish the direction of innovation. To answer this question, we conducted a comprehensive review of the research literature assessing forest owner preferences for carbon payment programs. Out of 22 papers reviewed, a total of 13 stated preference studies were included in the meta-analysis. Robust regression modeling and benefit transfer techniques were used to generate estimates for carbon payment contracts for different categories of FFOs. Results show significant variation in forest owner willingness to accept (WTA) as a function of management objectives, contract length, number of forest acres, management plan requirement, and management restrictions. Average annual per acre payment values were lowest for conservation-oriented forest owners, followed by passive and production-oriented forest owners. Overall, findings suggest the need for diverse types of contracts and payment levels in order to have widespread participation in carbon programs by forest owners.
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