A New Tool for Rangeland Trusts

A New Tool for Rangeland Trusts

A New Tool for Rangeland Trusts

by David Priddy, Vice President of Business Development | June 24th, 2020

A New Tool for Rangeland Trusts

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 ClimeCo, 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 the 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, thus removing a potential barrier for the landowner.

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.  ClimeCo’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 ClimeCo’s Vice President of Business Development. He has more than 25 years of experience in the environmental management field.  He is responsible for the strategy, development, and promotion of ClimeCo’s Nature-based Solutions initiative, and for developing mutually-beneficial partnerships with both landowners and conservation organizations that result in projects that generate positive environmental attributes. David holds a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.

More Than Grassland

More Than Grassland

More Than Grassland

Few scenes are more classically American than rolling hills of prairies and grassland. They are, however, more than just a pretty picture. While the importance of grasslands may not be front of mind for some, many Americans rely on them every day.

There are about 528 million acres of privately-owned pasture and rangeland that represent over a quarter of the land in the 48 contiguous United States.[1] Additionally, the federal government holds around 155 million acres that are available for grazing through the Bureau of Land Management.[2]

Ranchers use both public and private grasslands to graze their cattle and sell meat to feed American families. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent analysis, the cattle industry brought nearly $80 billion of gross income in 2015.[3]  But the value is not limited to just the cattle industry – healthy grasslands are an important part of the environment. A balanced grassland ecosystem protects watersheds, which in turn helps to avoid droughts and floods and maintains a clean supply of drinking water. Over 100,000 species make grasslands their home, including birds and pollinators that are an important component of the agricultural system.[4]

Although many people are aware of the economic and environmental value of grasslands, they may not be aware that grasslands are also important in an unexpected way: storing carbon. Grasses do a great job soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and through their root system, depositing the carbon into the soil. If the land is not tilled or developed, the carbon will stay there indefinitely. This process makes grasslands a “carbon sink.”

Recently, a study by U.C. Davis found that grasslands serve as an incredibly effective and resilient carbon sink – they can withstand drought, and because they store carbon underground, they will not release as much stored carbon into the atmosphere in the event of a wildfire as do other carbon sinks, like forests.[5] Although this study is limited to California, the message is clear: while there is no question that forests serve as a vital carbon sink around the globe, grasslands are an important piece of the puzzle that is often overlooked.

Despite their incredible value, grasslands are under threat. Only about half of the nation’s native grasslands remain intact, and millions of acres are converted every year.[6] In most cases, grasslands become converted into croplands as prices rise for commodity crops like wheat, corn, and soy.  Some landowners face a difficult decision: maintaining their land as it has been for generations or convert it for a purpose that may be more immediately profitable.

Grasslands have value – they not only keep our environment healthy and clean, but they provide food and livelihood to countless American families. It’s time to acknowledge this value. Companies are stepping up to help reduce their own carbon emissions and are willing to put money towards the value of carbon stored in the soil. They can feel good about the fact that preserving this land not only stores carbon but also provides a suite of other economic and environmental co-benefits.

Creating and selling environmental commodities like carbon credits is complex. ClimeCo leverages the expertise of our environmental commodity staff who have decades of experience developing carbon offset projects for the North American carbon markets. ClimeCo can address a growing need in the marketplace for high-quality carbon offsets based on agricultural land management and the conservation of natural ecological systems. The preservation of native grasslands is an important tool in the protection of our environment against the effects of climate change.

[1] Natural Resources Conservation Service, “Range and Pastureland Overview,” accessed January 21, 2019, [2] Bureau of Land Management, “Livestock Grazing on Public Land,” October 2, 2016, [3] National Agricultural Statistics Service, “Overview of the United States Cattle Industry,” June 24, 2016, [4] United States Forest Service, “Ecosystem Services from National Grasslands,” accessed January 21, 2019, [5] Pawlok Dass et al., “Grasslands May Be More Reliable Carbon Sinks than Forests in California,” Environmental Research Letters 13, no. 7 (2018): 074027,
[6] Anne M. Gage, Sarah K. Olimb, and Jeff Nelson, “Plowprint: Tracking Cumulative Cropland Expansion to Target Grassland Conservation,” Great Plains Research 26, no. 2 (November 23, 2016): 107–16,

About the Author

Lauren Mechak is a Policy Associate at ClimeCo who has more than 5 years of experience in environmental market policy and statistical analysis.  She is a graduate from Duke University where she worked part-time at the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative to help Duke achieve carbon neutrality and wrote policy briefs for Duke’s Center for Science and Society.