Grasslands provide a wide range of economic, social and ecosystem services, many of which the general public is unaware.  In addition to being used as grazing lands and recreational lands, grasslands provide habitat for different species, can improve water quality, and be a sink for carbon dioxide in the soil.  For the most part, these intrinsic benefits get little recognition; however, there is growing attention towards the role grasslands play in sequestering and storing carbon in the soil.  Soils represent the largest terrestrial sink of carbon on the planet, so sustaining these soils as carbon sinks is vital.

Preventing the conversion of grasslands to cropland is recognized as an effective and quantifiable method for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, for which there is value through the carbon market.  The voluntary carbon market enables corporations, individuals and other entities wanting to lower their carbon footprint to purchase carbon credits in the market and apply them against their footprint.

To ensure additionality, these entities cannot be required to reduce their emissions due to regulation.  Landowners who put their property under a conservation easement, which restricts tillage on that land, can not only preserve this land for generations to come but can also generate carbon offset credits, which can be sold on the voluntary carbon market.

Once the conservation easement is put in place, the main activity related to the project is ongoing monitoring of land management; this includes maintaining records and data related to grazing, recreation, and any other practice.  In order to develop a tradable carbon offset credit, the project must be verified by an independent third-party to ensure that all claimed sequestration is quantified according to the industry accepted methods and meets the standards of the credit issuing agency.

Landowners are already seeing the benefits of participating in the carbon market.  To date, six projects have registered credits for avoiding the conversion of grassland to cropland, and an additional five projects have been listed to indicate they are in the process of being developed, totaling approximately 100,000 credits.  These projects have occurred mostly in the Western States of Oregon, Colorado and Montana, along with North Dakota.  At this time, organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy, and individual land trusts have taken a lead in developing these projects.  With the precedent set by these previous projects, we see the opportunity for landowners to benefit from participating in environmental markets while conserving their land for the future.

Want to know if you qualify for a grassland project?

  1. Are you interested in preserving your land as grassland into the future?
  2. Is the land either privately-held or non-federally owned?
  3. Has the property had at least 10 years of continuous grassland cover?
  4. Is the grassland at least 5,000 acres in size and located within the 48 contiguous states in the U.S.?

If you answered yes to the above questions, then please reach out to us for a complimentary screening of your property.


About the Author

Shahira Esmail is a Project Advisor at Edenfort and is based in San Francisco, California.  She has broad experience in working to implement scientifically rigorous programs which result in the adoption of innovative practices, the quantification of environmental benefits and the reporting of these successes for the agricultural, forestry and clean-tech sectors.  Shahira earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Guelph and a Master’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo.  With a strong background in environmental research and policy and detailed expertise in data management and analysis, climate change strategy, carbon mitigation, and project development, Shahira leads with passion in helping to develop solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change on a warming planet.