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Colorado Grasslands, USA

Preserving the short grass prairie of the Great Plains using grazing animals such as native bison to naturally maintain the health of the rangeland

Bison by Sean Boggs for Environmental Defense Fund
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Project overview

  • Region: North America

  • Project type: Forestry and landscapes

  • Standards: CAR

A beneficiary of one the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service's Innovation Grants, this project’s goal is to create financial incentives for conserving valuable grasslands through payments for protection of belowground soil carbon and avoidance of direct emissions from cultivation. The project, developed in conjunction with EDF, is located on two properties (Raven’s Nest and Heartland Ranch) in southeast Colorado covering approximately 23,000 acres. Southern Plains Land Trust is a nonprofit organization that works to preserve the shortgrass prairie ecosystems of the Great Plains, and they receive 100% of the net revenue from the sale of carbon, which is used to accomplish further land preservation. Grasslands are an important and stable carbon sink and are described as the reverse of a rainforest, as 90% of their biomass is below ground in the long roots of the grass.

Sustainable Development Goals

In addition to delivering emissions reductions to help take action to combat climate change (SDG 13), the project delivers other sustainable development benefits. The following SDG impacts are currently indicative and subject to change upon further analysis:  

  • Life on Land: The land contains shortgrass prairie, intermittent and perennial riparian areas, and season wetlands that are home to rare, threatened, endangered and endemic flora and fauna. The land provides food, shelter, breeding ground, and migration corridors for several wildlife species, including Colorado Species of Special Concern such as swift fox and ferruginous hawk, State Threatened species such as burrowing owl, and populations of the Colorado green gentian and rare dwarf milkweed on the property.  SPLT uses grazing animals such as native ungulates like bison, elk, deer, and pronghorn, to naturally maintain the health of the rangeland. With no hunting, commerce nor recreation on the property, these species are able to thrive.
  • Quality Education: SPLT allows public access to the property for educational purposes. Forty students in the fifth grade of the local public school, Las Animas Elementary, come and spend a day at SPLT once a year to gain hands-on experience learning about botany, zoology, and geology.

Swift fox, ferruginous hawk, and burrowing owl are some of the species found in the grasslands

The project received a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant

The project was developed in conjunction with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

Globally, every year roughly 1.7 million hectares of natural grasslands and shrub lands are being converted for crops or other uses

Nature4Climate

With the support of companies like Microsoft, grassland projects are able to demonstrate their critical role in reducing carbon.