This project seeks to expand adoption of grassland conservation by lowering the barriers to entry for landowners seeking to participate in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission markets. These barriers include:

  • Complexity and effort required for project development and verification
  • Landowner education
  • Lack of applied experience implementing projects
  • Unavailability of tools to streamline credit generation

This project seeks to solve all four of these problems, leading to large reductions in GHG emissions as landowners choose to pursue long-term conservation of threatened grasslands. Solutions will be achieved through the following deliverables:

  • Development of tools to reduce effort of project development and verification
  • Outreach workshops to educate landowners and project developers
  • Development of a pilot project to test the protocol and tools
  • Updated protocol version to address issues discovered through the pilot project

Due to the GHG benefits of grassland conservation, there have been multiple efforts in recent years to develop the policies and market infrastructure necessary for the generation of GHG offset credits to incentivize it. Highlights of recent work include:

  • 2010: CIG awarded to Environmental Defense Fund, Inc. for the “Development of Protocols and Accounting Methods for Carbon Sequestration on US Rangelands” (NRCS 69-3A75-10-172)
  • 2011: CIG awarded to Ducks Unlimited (DU) to develop a grassland avoided conversion project in North and South Dakota
  • 2012: Issue paper studying the options for standardized protocol development around grassland conservation published by the Climate Action Reserve
  • 2013: Methodology for Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands to Crop Production adopted by the American Carbon Registry (developed through the DU CIG)
  • 2014: DU negotiates purchase of GHG offset credits with Chevrolet generated by their innovative CIG-funded grassland conservation project, signaling market interest in credits generated by grassland projects
  • 2015: Grassland Project Protocol v1.0 adopted by the Climate Action Reserve 

This work has laid the foundation for the development of a robust market in GHG offset credits from the avoided conversion of grasslands. Unfortunately, the DU project remains the only example of this project activity, and through that project a number of technical and policy issues were identified with the existing methodology that make implementation more difficult. The Reserve protocol development effort focused on creating a streamlined and standardized project protocol, but barriers still exist to the widespread entry of landowners into the GHG market for grassland conservation projects. That is where the opportunity exists for this CIG-funded project. This project will advance the tools and implementation experience needed to streamline the process for generating offsets through grassland conservation. The project partners are recognized leaders in the development of policies and solutions for GHG markets, offset project methodologies, and environmental conservation.

Key Project Elements

Project Location: Continental U.S., mainly states in the Midwest and West
Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGe) Reduction Goal:  Hundreds of thousands of tCO2e
Emission Source Targeted: Loss of soil organic carbon, as well as N2O and CO2 associated with cultivation
GHGe Quantification Method:  Climate Action Reserve Grassland Project Protocol v1.0 (default emission factors created with DAYCENT model)
Engagement Level: At least six targeted educational workshops, aiming for dozens of attendees at each
Crop(s) Targeted: Row crops
Technology Required: Remote sensing, as well as other tools, for project development and verification
Protocols/Methodologies Engaged: Climate Action Reserve Grassland Project Protocol v1.0

Project Summary

This project will expand adoption of the avoided conversion of grassland to cropland protocol and greatly reduce barriers to implementation of this project activity by: (1) developing tools and procedures to assist landowners and project developers; (2) conducting outreach and education; (3) identifying and implementing a pilot project; and (4) translating any lessons learned into updates and improvements to the protocol.