Agriculture & Forests

Agricultural activities and forest management practices can contribute greenhouse gas emissions in a variety of ways: 

  • Deforestation from logging and other practices causes the carbon stored in trees to be released into the atmosphere. Deforestation also prevents trees from capturing more carbon from the atmosphere—a process known as carbon sequestration, described below.

  • Land management practices on agricultural soils can lead to increased concentrations of nitrogen in the soil and result in emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas. Specific activities that emit N2O emissions include the application of synthetic and organic fertilizers and inefficient irrigation practices.  

  • Livestock, especially cattle, produce methane (CH4) as part of their normal digestive processes—another potent greenhouse gas. This process, called enteric fermentation, represents nearly half of the emissions from Thurston’s agriculture sector. 

  • Manure management from livestock also emits potent methane and nitrous oxide gases. The amount of gases produced varies depending on the manure treatment and storage method.

To reduce emissions related to agricultural activities and deforestation, strategies will need to incorporate sustainable agriculture practices, such as no-till agriculture, and improvements to forest management and tree canopy cover.

Carbon sequestration refers to the ability of plants, soils, and other organic material to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere. By planting trees, spreading soil amendments such as compost to soil in parks, and creating natural drainage systems with certain plant species, the Thurston region can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in plant matter and soils.

Key Sector Targets

Strategies and Actions

Strategy: Reduce emissions from agricultural practices.

Farms can reduce their impact with better management of animal waste and fertilizer, and reducing their water and energy consumption.

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Nutrient management. Provide education and incentives (e.g., grants, loans, technical assistance) reduce nitrous oxide emissions when managing fertilizer.

Strategy: Support agricultural practices that sequester carbon.

Farms can play a role in offsetting the region’s emissions. Land management practices like cover cropping, low-till conservation practices, crop rotations, manure and compost application, and changes in grazing management have been shown to increase the rate of carbon storage.

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Regenerative agriculture. Expand regenerative agricultural practices (ex. low-till, no-till education programs) among farmers that aim for a "whole farm" approach. Provide education on how to increase organic matter content and water retention in soils within urban and agricultural settings. 

Strategy: Preserve trees and manage forests to sequester carbon.

Conserving our remaining tree canopy, expanding forest management, and restoring areas that have been cleared can help to offset emissions from other activities, while providing a host of benefits for our local environment.

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Reforestation & afforestation program. Develop a coordinated reforestation/afforestation program. Begin by identifying priority areas where reforestation and afforestation may have carbon reduction benefits. 

  • Municipal canopy. Maximize tree canopy on City-owned or City-controlled land, where appropriate in balance with other City goals.

  • Tree canopy preservation. Develop a tree canopy ordinance that establishes a baseline for current urban canopy and sets goals for future canopy to increase cities' resilience. Combine direct cooling value (urban heat island mitigation) with carbon sequestration value when evaluating urban tree management.

What You Can Do

The plan will lead directly to projects and resources spent in your community. Here’s how you can help determine which projects we undertake and where we should focus our resources: 

  • Take the Survey by clicking the “Share Your Feedback” tab above.

  • Read the Plan and get all the details in the full document.

  • Sign Up for updates via 

  • Email comments to the project manager at  

  • Call the project manager at the Thurston Regional Planning Council at 360-956-7575.  

  • Ask Questions and tell us what you think about the draft Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan.

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