Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, Sustainable Northwest, and Oregon State University Launch a Carbon Ranching Pilot Project in Oregon

October 7, 2020

Falls Church, VA

Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), Sustainable Northwest, Oregon State University (OSU), and four Oregon ranchers are collaborating in a pilot project to enable ranchers to participate in ecosystem services markets. The pilot project will also test innovative soil carbon sampling strategies, rangeland conservation practices, and reduce GHG emissions to mitigate climate change. The project, Securing Oregon Rancher Access to Ecosystem Service Markets, received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through their state Conservation Innovation Grant program.

The project is one of nine pilots that ESMC is launching/has launched this year with its consortium members and partners to assess the ESMC market program prior to 2022 market launch. The pilots will test credit generation and sales, ensure all other program aspects are operational, and ensure the market meets both grower and buyer needs.

The Oregon rancher program will implement the rangeland soil carbon sequestration component of ESMC’s protocol, and road test the soil stratification app being developed for ESMC’s soil testing requirements. The soil carbon assets generated by the ranchers will be verified and sold in ESMC’s market program. Paying ranchers for these ecosystem services will help to increase economic viability for producers, while providing an opportunity for buyers who procure beef from the region to meet corporate sustainability and climate change mitigation goals.

Dylan Kruse, Director of Government Affairs and Program Strategy at Sustainable Northwest noted, “Ranchers are essential stewards of the landscapes in the Pacific Northwest and any marketplace for ecosystem services must include a role for rangelands. This project will fill a critical gap by highlighting regenerative rangeland management as a solution to fight climate change and ensure that ranchers in Oregon and across the West are rewarded for the valuable services they provide.”

Sustainable Northwest serves as the pilot’s on-the-ground project manager and evaluator. Participating producers include family ranches and represent a breadth of geographic and climate diversity across the state, including Klamath, Wasco, and Wallowa counties. Four locations have already been enrolled in the project, totaling 450 acres. In 2021 and 2022, ranchers will implement a range of conservation practices to increase carbon sequestration, monitor the impacts of these activities, and recommend process improvements to the program to help scale regenerative ranching across the region. The regenerative system activities implemented include rotational grazing, strip grazing, cover cropping, fencing, and prescribed burning.

“This pilot will expand field demonstration of ESMC’s science-based, standards-based protocols on working agricultural lands, and monetize rancher actions while meeting corporate sustainability reporting requirements in a credible, verified, certified program,” said ESMC’s Executive Director Debbie Reed. “Sustainable Northwest’s leadership in this pilot will test our program in a new geography, and we are thrilled with the opportunity to expand and to scale soil carbon sequestration outcomes across the country as we prepare for a market launch in 2022.”

OSU research staff will analyze the soil samples for soil health and organic carbon to set the baseline for future improvements. This involves the collection of soil samples and laboratory analysis across a range of soil health indicators.

“We enthusiastically support the development of incentives programs that support soil health and offer ranchers a streamlined experience. The partnership with ESMC has the potential to unlock a wholly underdeveloped segment in the voluntary carbon markets and bring the benefits home to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest,” said Ben Dair Rothfuss, Conservation Finance Manager at Sustainable Northwest.