What if there were a carbon project that would help revitalize our native grasslands and put money in the pockets of our ranchers as well? For more than five years, WSE has been working with Native, a Vermont-based carbon developer and offset provider, to do just that. And last month, the duo announced the program became the first existing grassland carbon capture program in the U.S. to be validated by an internationally recognized carbon registry.
SO, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
It means the Northern Great Plains Grasslands Regenerative Grazing Program has undergone rigorous review by Verra, a third-party independent certifying organization, utilizing their Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) to reach the validated status. “Going through this process is not for the faint of heart. It has taken more than two years to get through the first phase,” Lill Erickson, WSE Executive Director, said. “But what it means to our ranchers, let alone the carbon offset buyers and the general population, is extremely important.”
Ranchers, of course! This validation gives them peace of mind that the project is here for the long term and the confidence and motivation to become better land stewards. “It’s been a game-changer for us,” Kevin Halverson, a Big Timber rancher who was one of the first to sign up for the program, added. “I have a son and grandson who want to continue to ranch. The infrastructure we’ve been able to install with twice-annual payments will allow my family to continue well after I’m gone.”
Being a part of this program means landowners receive payments based on the amount of additional carbon they capture by changing their grazing to regenerative practices. Through Native’s HelpBuildTM program, ranchers can receive upfront financing to help with infrastructure. “The nice thing about this program is the flexibility,” Chris Mehus, WSE Program Director, says. “It’s completely up to the decision-maker on the ranch how quickly and to what extent they implement these practices. The common denominators are non-selective grazing, more frequent moves, and extended rest periods.”
The public at large also stands much to gain from this program. “Ranchers are not the only ones to benefit,” said Erickson. “We all benefit from the healthy soil, improved water quality, and protected fish and wildlife habitat that result from the same practices that pull carbon dioxide out of the air.”
WHAT’S WSE’S ROLE?
WSE’s role is to work with Montana ranchers interested in transitioning to regenerative grazing. Our staff is responsible for:
- Recruiting new applicants to the program
- Walking them through the application process
- Helping determine changes to their grazing in pasture-by-pasture detail
- Developing annual grazing plans
- Identifying infrastructure needs
WSE also takes soil samples to determine baseline carbon levels which are then used as a benchmark to calculate the changes to soil carbon that result from the regenerative management. “It’s a win-win opportunity for everyone involved,” Mehus said. “The program allows ranchers to transition to regenerative practices, improving soil health, enhancing biodiversity, and giving landowners another revenue stream.”
Verra’s validation and verification processes use detailed procedures for quantifying the project’s actual greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits and ultimately quantifying the GHG emissions that were removed by our program. During the validation stage, which was just completed, documents, procedures, and field and lab methods were reviewed and approved as meeting the rigor of the Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard.
The next phase is the initial verification process, which ensures that these practices and processes have actually taken place on the ground and that they did, in fact, sequester measurable amounts of carbon in the soil. Once that step is complete, a company can then receive third-party confirmation of the quantity of carbon sequestration credits they purchased. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the environmental integrity businesses demand from the voluntary carbon market,” Erickson said. “Once the initial results are fully verified, companies who reduced or offset their greenhouse gas emissions by supporting the project can rest assured they have enabled real removals of CO2 from the atmosphere.” Verification is planned for each year of the project’s 20-year crediting period.
- Learn more about the carbon program and WSE’s partnership with Native
- How does Verra’s validation and verification program work?
For more information about the carbon project, please contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org