Rodney Mullins lives in Hazard, but likes to spend as much time as possible on his hilly, woodsy 820-acre farm in Morgan County.
He cuts some hay there, plants things that attract wildlife, and has had it certified as a tree farm.
And last week, he received a check for $11,376.90 for helping to fight global climate change.
Mullins, a retired state employee, was one of seven landowners who shared $65,000 in what is believed to be the first sale of carbon credits for trees in Kentucky. That means they were paid for allowing their trees to do what comes naturally: Absorb carbon dioxide.
Together, their 5,000 acres of woods are estimated to have stored 14,500 metric tons of carbon during 2007. Mullin's 767 acres of forest were calculated to have captured 2,528 metric tons.
The blue moon fund, a philanthropic group that grew out of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, bought the credits for that carbon to offset the carbon footprint created when its staff travels.
The fund had previously awarded grants to the organization that arranged the sale — the Berea-based Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, or MACED.
MACED is, among other things, an aggregator. It lines up people with forested land and helps them through the steps needed to sell carbon credits.
Aggregators are especially vital in Kentucky, where nearly half the land is forested, but 89 percent of forests are owned by private landowners. Mullins was one of the first landowners to sign up for MACED's carbon credits program.
He already had worked with Chuck Wilburn and Floyd Willis of the state Division of Forestry to get the land certified as a tree farm. Then, after learning about the carbon credits program, he had forester Gavin Wilson do an assessment of his timber.
"I saw it as a really great opportunity," Mullins said Monday. "I felt like I was actually being paid for doing the right thing, and often that doesn't happen."
MACED had been planning to sell credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange. But carbon credits are trading very low there now as that emerging market waits to see what Congress will do about climate legislation.
Proponents say that if that legislation includes a cap-and-trade plan, it will bolster a market in which companies that put carbon into the atmosphere pay landowners for allowing their trees to absorb carbon.
MACED decided to go with the blue moon fund because it had a previous relationship with the fund, and because the people who run the fund called and inquired about ways of offsetting their carbon footprint, said Justin Maxson, MACED's executive director. The credits sold for just over $5 a ton.
Diane Edgerton Miller, the fund president, said in a statement that MACED "is leading the way in developing multiple-benefit carbon forest projects in the Central Appalachians — a biodiversity hotspot in North America."
The carbon credits that Rodney Mullins was paid for were from 2007. MACED also has credits registered for 2008, and will have 2009 credits.
Maxson said that MACED likes the carbon program because it can bring in money for Appalachian landowners, and because it encourages them to manage their forests, which is good for the environment and the long-term value of their timber.
"I hope this sale signals to landowners that this is real and that this is just the first in a series," Maxson said.