A forest set-aside program removes harvested timberland from production, converting it to unharvested forestland. By removing timberland from harvest, carbon that would otherwise be released through the wood products or in the harvesting process continues to be sequestered.

There are many ways a forest set-aside program can be designed. For example, the government could offer payments to landowners to remove land from timber production. Alternatively, the government could purchase the land outright and convert it to forestland, permanently removing it from production.

Though forest set-asides have the potential to store large amounts of carbon, it is worth noting that leakage (carbon emissions being moved to other countries) can be an issue when the production of wood products moves to other forested areas, in particular those with higher carbon storage density. Therefore, when designing a set-aside program, it is important to consider how restrictions on harvestable domestic timberland will affect purchases from foreign countries and how those changes will impact global carbon emissions.