The prairies of the western United States, consisting of millions of acres of grassland, habitat and complex ecosystems, have supported ranchers and their families for generations. A symbol of pride, freedom, and independence, the prairies have sustained the American ranching lifestyle – a lifestyle that promotes hard and honest work, strong family values and resilient communities. Unfortunately, this lifestyle that embodies images of the old west and the growth of America is in jeopardy.
You see, prairies in the U.S. are quickly disappearing because they are being converted into farmland, though invasive species, overgrazing, and climate change are also culprits. Many ranchers struggle to hold on to their family legacy due to rising property taxes, as the next generation considers other career options. All of this contributes to a lifestyle that is sadly fading away.
A New Tool for the Toolbox
Rangeland trusts and other organizations dedicated to preserving the land and its legacy work tirelessly to combat this problem through the implementation and management of conservation easements. Now, these organizations have a new means available to them that can further incentivize landowners to consider easements on their property. This new tool utilizes the power of environmental markets by promoting good ranching practices that sequester carbon in the soil. This can result in the development of carbon offsets, which are units of greenhouse gases that are prevented from being released into the atmosphere, the rights to which can be purchased and applied by another entity. These offsets are typically sold to organizations that desire to voluntarily mitigate, or “offset”, their carbon footprint, the proceeds from which can generate additional revenue streams for ranchers. With more and more corporations and not-for-profit organizations committing to carbon-neutral goals, the demand for offsets continues to grow.
The process for developing grassland-based carbon offset projects on ranchland is a straight-forward one. First, a property is evaluated for its eligibility and project feasibility by a facilitator such as Edenfort, and then a financial proforma is developed and presented to the rancher and land trust partner. Once the decision has been made by the landowner to proceed, the land trust will work to implement an easement that restricts future tillage of the land. After this is in place, the project developer will coordinate all subsequent steps, to include independent, 3rd-party project verification and then registration, certification, and monetization of the credits. Depending on the project and the desires of the landowner, the developer may also choose to invest in the project to cover the upfront development costs, to include the implementation of the easement, so that the rancher does not need to make any personal financial investment.
These offset projects can present multiple benefits to the rangeland trust:
- First, the revenues from these projects may combine with Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) funding to entice ranchers to preserve more land.
- Secondly, the upfront payments to cover the cost of implementing and maintaining the easement can help address a typical hurdle faced by many landowners.
- Finally, knowing that the project facilitator will handle all the activities outside of what the land trust does best will provide them with peace of mind.
Like ranchers, rangeland trusts must rely on tools of the trade in order to advance the preservation of our nation’s grasslands. Edenfort’s grassland offset program provides the latest tool for the land trust’s toolbox and we are ready to help you on your next preservation effort.
To learn more about grasslands preservation, please contact us.
About the Author
Dave Priddy is Edenfort’s Vice President of Project Development. He has more than 25 years of experience in sales and project development in the environmental management field. He’s responsible for the strategy, development, and promotion of the Edenfort brand, and for developing mutually-beneficial partnerships with both landowners and conservation organizations that result in successful, environmental commodity-producing projects. David holds a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.