Elizabeth Hardee, The Climate Trust
May 19, 2016
In the ongoing effort to curb worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, increasing attention is being paid to land conservation. While much of this attention has been focused on forests, there are also abundant opportunities to conserve another type of land that possesses significant environmental and social benefits—grasslands.
Preserving prairie (or grasslands) plays a key role in preventing the release of greenhouse gases, protecting water quality, maintaining wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and providing recreational opportunities. Grasslands and shrublands have the third-highest rate of sequestration of ecosystem types; covering nearly 60 percent of the West and containing 23 percent of the region’s stored carbon.
When grasslands are tilled for conversion to agricultural or development use, the carbon stored in those soils is released into the atmosphere. This is a very real threat, as grasslands are the most common source of land for new conversions to crop production; a largely more profitable enterprise than keeping the land intact. In fact, research has shown that uncultivated land (since at least 2001) accounted for 7.34 million acres of converted land in the U.S.
Climate Trust Capital wants to help grassland owners protect their lands from the risk of conversion by offering an upfront investment for conservation. We offer projects up to one half of the overall carbon credit value as an upfront investment—determined in part by the current market carbon price, and the projected credit volume over 10 years.
To be eligible for a Climate Trust Capital investment, grassland properties must be located in the U.S., have been maintained as grasslands for 10 years or more prior to implementation of a carbon project, and the landowner must be willing to place the property under a conservation easement. Under this type of easement, land is protected from conversion, but grazing activities may continue. Projects that can generate 50,000 credits or more over a ten year lifetime are most favorable, but Climate Trust Capital will perform an analysis to determine credit potential.
By providing upfront financing for conservation easements on grasslands, we hope to accelerate conservation of these important lands, and the greenhouse gas benefits they provide. Applications for Finance are managed through our online portal.
Image credit: Flickr/David Cantu