Grasslands are the most converted and least protected habitat type both globally and within the United States. This project will demonstrate the ability of carbon offset markets to generate new revenues to accelerate rangeland conservation and contribute to climate change mitigation. Building upon a methodology developed with financial assistance from a 2011 Conservation Innovation Grant, the project will begin testing the implementation of a market-based conservation incentive system for avoided rangeland conversion similar to those commonly used in the forestry sector.

Project Goals and Objectives

  • Enroll 50,000 acres of rangeland, encompassing approximately 100 ranches, into a carbon offset program by layering perpetual conservation easements and direct carbon payments
  • Generate new revenue for additional rangeland conservation – up to $7 million over 20 years
  • Target perpetual conservation easements to areas most threatened by conversion and areas with highest carbon storage in soil
  • Complete market assessments required by Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands (ACoGS) methodology to extend carbon offset programs to nine additional counties in North Dakota
  • Certify first round of carbon offsets for sale on the voluntary market

Key Project Elements

Project Location: Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and South Dakota
Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGe) Reduction Goal: 750,000 t CO2e
Emission Source Targeted: Soil Carbon
GHGe Quantification Method:  Biogeochemical model of emissions following conversion of grasslands to row-crops
Engagement Level: 100 private ranches encompassing 50,000 acres
Crop(s) Targeted: Native rangeland
Protocols/Methodologies Engaged: The project will implement a methodology recently adopted by the American Carbon Registry for quantifying carbon stores in undisturbed native prairie soils

Project Summary

This project will demonstrate the ability of carbon offset markets to generate new revenues to accelerate rangeland conservation and contribute to climate change mitigation.