Medford Spring Grassland ConservationHB
Project Type: Biodiversity & Wildlife Protection, Carbon Sequestration
Project Structure: Help BuildTM
Location: Bent County, Colorado
Standard: Climate Action Reserve Grassland Protocol
Climate Impact: 96,000 tonnes CO2e
Area: 6,900 acres in Colorado
Grasslands store one-third of the Earth’s carbon, and just one acre of grassland can store an estimated 50 tonnes of carbon or more. Yet, in the U.S., over one million acres of grassland are still converted each year, which has the potential to release 50%-70% of the carbon they hold as carbon dioxide (CO₂).
The Medford Spring grasslands in southeastern Colorado are facing an imminent threat of conversion to cropland given its soils are suitable for farming, and cropland rental rates for winter wheat, milo, sorghum, alfalfa, and other row crops, are more than five times pastureland rates in Bent County, CO. A permanent conservation easement will preserve the grasslands and avoid conversion of the land to farming or development. This will prevent an estimated 190,000 tonnes of CO₂ from entering the atmosphere over the next 50 years. This is the equivalent of almost 208 million pounds of coal burned.
Support from NativeEnergy’s Help BuildTM program is enabling Southern Plains Land Trust, a local organization dedicated to preserving shortgrass prairie, to acquire and conserve the 6,900 acres of grassland in February 2020.
“NativeEnergy’s unique investment structure provides finance when we need it most, enabling us to purchase the Medford Spring grasslands and accelerate our ability to conserve shortgrass prairie throughout Colorado,” explains Nicole Rosmarino, executive director of the Southern Plains Land Trust.
More than 70% of native grasslands in the United States have already been lost, and while the sale of carbon credits assists in land conservation, selling a small number of credits each year fails to generate upfront capital when it is needed to acquire land. NativeEnergy’s Help Build model changes this. Upfront payments change capital flows and bring early financing to local organizations before they acquire land and easements, better equipping them to conserve Colorado’s last remaining prairie lands at pace and scale.
Companies supporting this project receive verified carbon credits from the first 20 years of the 50-year project period, consistent with the Climate Action Reserve’s Grassland Protocol.
The Impacts & Benefits
This project will help halt the loss of the remaining 50% of Colorado’s shortgrass prairie — an ecosystem being reduced at a higher rate than any other type of ecosystem in the state, and linked to the decline of several animal species. With the conservation of the Medford Spring grasslands, bison and black-tailed prairie dogs will help limit shrub and tree encroachment and preserve habitats for native swift fox, ferruginous hawks, burrowing owls, elk, pronghorn antelope, and the mountain plover.
The Medford Spring grasslands will be accessible, through Southern Plains Land Trust, for educational events in collaboration with local public schools and the historical society.
The 6,900 acres to be purchased with the investment from project supporters is the first of a plan to eventually conserve a total 24,500 acres adjacent to an existing 18,000 acre preserve. By enabling this first purchase, supporters ensure Southern Plains Land Trust maintains its option to purchase and conserve the entire 24,500 acres.
The Validation & Verification
The project will be verified against the Climate Action Reserve Grassland Protocol. To assure the permanence of the sequestration, the Medford Spring grasslands will have a permanent conservation easement, a 150-year agreement with the Climate Action Reserve, and be included in an insurance pool that covers any unintentional reversals. Easements prevent conversion to cropland, but allow existing livestock grazing to continue.
To provide upfront payments for local land trusts to acquire and permanently conserve prairie grasslands, NativeEnergy is estimating and forward-selling carbon credits (Carbon Reserve Tonnes) in 2019 and 2020. With this forward sale, Southern Plains Land Trust will purchase the property in early 2020. Credits from the American Prairie Avoided Conversion conserved prairie lands will be third-party verified, and the first credits will be issued in 2020.
This project, formerly Jagers Ranch, is now named the Medford Spring Grassland Conservation Project. Medford Spring is an important natural feature of these grasslands.
To learn even more about soil carbon and authentic, community-scale sustainability projects focused on soil carbon, click here to listen to the podcast NativeEnergy sponsored in partnership with Sustainability Defined.