Lush and lofty, the big trees in a 520-acre forest gracing the vista of Mount Rainier are now doing double duty, in the first-ever carbon-capture program of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

Microsoft bought the carbon credits in this forest under California’s rigorously verified cap-and-trade program. Washington has no such program. The purchase was part of the company’s voluntary $20 million-a-year effort offsetting 100 percent of its carbon emissions worldwide across all operations, from employee air travel to energy use.

The forest, near Ashford in the Nisqually watershed, will generate 37,000 carbon-offset credits, the equivalent of taking 6,000 cars off the road. And the total will get bigger as the trees do.

Microsoft bought 35,000 of the credits from the Nisqually Land Trust for an undisclosed price. The purchase helped the trust buy the $3.3 million property, taking the land out of industrial forestry, with its shorter rotations before harvest. Under the program and the land trust’s ownership, the trees will have a chance to get big and fat, as they gobble carbon dioxide from the air for at least the next 100 years.

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