Spot fires smolder near trees damaged by the Bootleg Fire on Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Paisley, Ore. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

Bootleg Fire is burning up carbon offsets

Updated 2127 GMT (0527 HKT) July 22, 2021

(CNN)Oregon's largest wildfire so far this season, the Bootleg Fire, has burned nearly 400,000 acres spreading approximately four square miles a day across the southern parts of the state. At the time of this report, the flames spread through one fifth of forests set aside for carbon offsets in the immediate area. The trees in these forests were meant to survive one hundred years. As persistent drought and wildfire conditions threaten carbon offsets, the question is whether these offsets matter at all if their stored carbon goes up in smoke in a warming climate.

What started as a lightning strike on July 6, the Bootleg Fire has now grown to roughly twice the size of New York City with 2,250 personnel fighting these blazes spanning over 40 miles east to west. Now the fire is generating its own weather with only 32% of the fire contained. A mountainous and forested region, Klamath county sits just north of the Oregon and California border and is home to US National Forest land.
Some of that land is private, including the carbon offset known as Klamath East owned and operated by the Green Diamond Resource Company, a forest products company. Since the Bootleg Fire started, it has spread through nearly 90,000 acres of trees set aside to offset carbon emissions on behalf of businesses and individuals. That's around one fifth of Klamath East's total land, according to a CNN analysis.