Category Archives: Ecosystem Restoration

Plow, or Preserve and Profit?

Konza Prairie Biological Station

This weekend, long-time Minneapolis Star Tribune outdoors columnist and reporter Dennis Anderson wrote a revelatory call to arms about the dire state of conservation in Minnesota:

"This ain’t working, and we need to try something different. Radically different."

Directly to the West of Minnesota in the Prairie Pothole Region of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, annual losses of native grasslands have averaged approximately 50,000 acres per year since 2007, leading to a significant loss of soil carbon. High prices for commodity crops make it much more attractive to plow grasslands than to keep them intact.

What if a market-based initiative paid farmers and ranchers for keeping grasslands grass? A new carbon offset protocol announced yesterday may just do that.

The protocol officially titled the “Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands to Crop Production” was developed through a partnership effort including Environmental Defense Fund, Duck’s Unlimited, The Climate Trust, The Nature Conservancy and Terra Global Capital and was funded in part by the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Innovation Grant.

Just approved by the American Carbon Registry, this first of its kind voluntary protocol will be best applied to grasslands in the Midwest. Producers of these offsets can sell them to any willing buyer in America. Ranchers in the Midwest already recognize the value of their land lies in the soil health below ground where the soil translates to healthy food for their cattle. Now these same producers can quantify this value and sell it through new environmental markets.

“This project provides Northern Great Plains producers with new ways to earn income from conservation activities, expanded opportunity for outdoor recreation and an opportunity to create jobs in their communities,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment. “The American Carbon Registry’s approval of this innovative ACoGS protocol enables vital projects like our partnership with Ducks Unlimited to preserve a treasured national landscape, while also preventing the release of greenhouse gas emissions.”

This first project the Under Secretary mentions, is estimated to perpetually conserve 5,000 – 6,000 acres of native mixed-grass prairie. The protection of grasslands will also indirectly protect 500-600 acres of seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands situated in the protected grasslands.

And these lands are protected not through onerous regulations or hollowed out federal conservation programs but through innovative new revenue streams for the agriculture sector from emerging environmental markets such as California’s carbon market.  Between now and 2020, companies in California can purchase more than 200 million metric tons of offsets.  This protocol has the opportunity to help supply that demand.

This is an exciting step forward for Midwest producers. By making ecosystems a part of the economy ranchers and their families will benefit from diverse opportunities to make more money off their land.


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The Future of Offsets Just Got Brighter

Yesterday the California cap-and-trade program hit another milestone. The American Carbon Registry, an approved Offset Project Registry, issued the first compliance offset credits, a significant breakthrough because these offset credits are the first ones that can be used by California companies to comply with the requirements of AB 32, California's greenhouse gas law. The credits were issued for a refrigerant destruction project which collected refrigerants from residential, commercial, and industrial sources. While these gases came from a variety of geographic areas, a significant amount came from California sources like kitchens, garages, basements, and attics.

This is the first of many goals we expect from the offset market in 2013.  Earlier this year, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) planted a seed when it launched a process to develop a carbon offset protocol for rice growers. California is the second-largest rice growing region in the U.S., and the ground that is being plowed here, both literally and figuratively, will set the stage for the development of future agricultural offset protocols across the country with practices such as fertilizer management for lettuce and corn.

As the largest uncapped sector under the cap-and-trade program, agriculture represents a major potential to reduce near-term greenhouse gas emissions.  Unlike refrigerants, offsets generated by agriculture are perennial and a grower can get a long-term income stream for their practices. Because the U.S. has more than 442 million acres of cropland, agriculture has many opportunities to reduce greenhouse gases.

EDF's research and pilots have demonstrated that it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease input costs, maintain yields, and generate revenue – all at the same time – creating a win-win for both farmers and the environment.

Consider this: If just 5% of U.S. agricultural land were able to reduce or sequester half a ton of CO2e per acre, more than 11 million tons could be reduced – equivalent to taking more than 2 million cars off the road for a year.  By approving the rice offset protocol this fall, the ARB will take the first step toward unleashing this potential.

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A Blueprint for Advancing California’s Strong Leadership on Global Climate Change

A key reason California has become a global leader on climate change is its ability to successfully adopt the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state’s climate law that uses market-based tools to significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emission levels.

A group of tropical forest experts has now presented a blueprint for how California can secure significantly more reductions in global warming pollution than the law requires, while keeping pollution control costs down and helping stop the catastrophe of tropical deforestation.

California is widely recognized as the major first mover in the United States on climate change, but tropical states and countries are making strong progress in stopping climate change, too. Brazil and Amazon states have reduced emissions from cutting and burning the Amazon forest by about 2.2 billion tons of carbon since 2005, making Brazil the world leader in curbing climate change pollution.

Research has shown that government policies played a big role in this major achievement. But so far this success in reducing deforestation has been entirely from government “command-and-control;” promised economic incentives for reducing deforestation haven’t materialized.  Pushback from ranchers against environmental law enforcement and the officially recognized indigenous territories and protected areas that cover an area four times the size of California have weakened critical environmental legislation.

Brazil and the Amazon states will continue to reach their ambitious deforestation reduction targets, at least for the next few years, but deforestation rates recently appear to be edging upward.

California now has an opportunity to send a powerful signal that forests in the Amazon – and ultimately elsewhere – can be worth more alive than dead by partnering with sustainable development leaders outside the United States.

Since state-wide, or “jurisdictional,” reductions in deforestation and forest degradation are large in scale and relatively low-cost, it’s critical that well-governed and effective pollution control programs from early movers, like the state of Acre, Brazil, are recognized by California’s carbon market. Ultimately, this can help California control costs, while giving these environmental leaders the sign they need to keep deforestation under control.


REDD Offsets Working Group report

The REDD Offsets Working Group (ROW), along with observers from the governments of California, Acre and Chiapas, Mexico, calls for the Golden State to allow limited amounts of carbon credits from Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) into its carbon market, but only from states that can show that they have reduced deforestation state-wide and below historical levels.

The ROW report: Recommendations to Conserve Tropical Rainforests, Protect Local Communities, and Reduce State-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions" recommends:

  • Partner states receive credit for a part of their demonstrated reductions only after showing they have succeeded in halting deforestation through their own efforts.
  • Free, prior and informed consent for local communities in REDD+ programs.
  • Adherence to internationally recognized standards for protection of indigenous and local peoples’ rights and participation in policy design in partner-state REDD+ programs.

REDD+ programs are especially important for indigenous and forest-based communities because these groups have historically protected forests, and typically want to continue doing so, but they have largely lacked access to markets, modern technology, quality health care and social services that REDD+ could help deliver. With California’s help, forest communities can achieve better economic opportunities and forest conservation.

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Auction results present golden opportunity for California landowners

Last Friday, results from California’s second cap-and-trade auction were released and by all accounts it was a huge success. More importantly, it sent a signal that this is a strong and viable carbon market and presents a golden opportunity for landowners.

Through agricultural offsets, landowners have the potential to provide companies a lower priced option for meeting California’s greenhouse gas targets than available through the auction. Companies that must meet the requirements of the cap-and-trade program are allowed to use offsets for up to 8 percent of their greenhouse gas obligation and the price of carbon is going up with each auction — there was a 27 percent increase in the price of allowances between the November and February auction, from $10.09 to $13.62 per metric ton.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved four types of offset projects for use under California’s cap-and-trade program: forestry (improved management, avoided conversion, and reforestation), livestock methane capture and destruction, refrigerant destruction (limited to specific ozone depleting substances), and urban tree planting. At the end of March, CARB will start a rulemaking process for the consideration of two new protocols – rice cultivation and coal mine methane destruction. EDF is working closely with stakeholders throughout the U.S. to help develop and implement a rice protocol.

A related and positive development for the offset market occurred on December 14, 2012 when the Climate Action Reserve and American Carbon Registry were named as official "Offset Project Registries." The registries can now issue offset credits from protocols that have been approved by CARB. As additional agricultural offset protocols are approved, farmers throughout the United States can begin offering agricultural offset credits to companies to help them comply with California’s cap-and-trade program. We expect the first offsets to be issued by the registries and approved by CARB in the next three months.

While prices vary by year and type of offset, offsets were trading between $10 and $12 per metric ton prior to the second auction. This price will go up now that the results of the auction have been released. This means that agricultural producers will have an opportunity for a new and steady income stream for their conservation stewardship and for being part of the climate solution.

To learn more about agriculture's ability to offset climate change please visit EDF's web page here:


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Climate Protocol Approved for CA Rice Farming

 Today, the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) approved a new protocol for measuring the climate benefits of reducing  methane emissions from rice farming practices.  

CAR developed the protocol with participation from Environmental Defense Fund and other groups over several months.  The American Climate Registry (ACR) and the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) are expected to adopt rice protocols in 2012. 

EDF worked for the past several years on quantifying the benefits that can be achieved from changing current farming practices toward more climate-aware and ecosystem-beneficial practices.  In California, the most productive agricultural state in America, opportunities abound to maximize ecosystem services throughout the state – including:

  • changes to rice farming and fertilizer management;
  • application of compost to rangelands; and
  • restoring wetlands. 

 These practices, if credited by California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) as approved protocols, will not only reduce pollution from California’s agriculture sector, they will yield additional economic benefits to farmers as offsets that can be sold to companies that must comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program that is the cornerstone of its landmark climate law, AB 32

High-end estimates indicate that, if fully subscribed for optimal profits, about 180,000 tons per year of greenhouse gas pollution can be cut from changing to low-carbon rice management.

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New Dungeness crab law protects permitted fishermen and crab habitats

Fresh Dungeness crab catch of the day

California’s Dungeness crab fishery is one of the state’s largest and most important commercial fisheries and is an economic foundation for many of California’s ports.  A bill recently passed by the California Legislature, SB 369 (Evans), will cap the number of traps that individual fishermen can use.  This will not only protect crab populations for generations to come, but will protect the economic viability of the fishery and the coastal communities that rely on it.

The problem is that the number of crab traps being used in the fishery escalates each season as fishermen race to catch crab. This “arms race” creates unnecessary ecological impacts and threatens the long-term economic health of the fishery. This frenzied derby effect leads to a glut of crab on the market at the beginning of the season and correspondingly depresses the value of crab. It also leads to significant safety risks as the intense pressure to compete during the initial weeks of the season can lead fishermen to go out in dangerous winter weather.  This resulted in broad recognition among fishermen that trap limits are needed, but until now, agreement on what those limits should be could not be reached.

Bay Area crab fisherman preparing for the catch. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

To help address this problem, Environmental Defense Fund was approached by a group of crab fishermen in 2008 to help sponsor a bill (SB 1690 – Wiggins) to create the Dungeness Crab Task Force.  The group was charged with developing recommendations to the Legislature to address the challenges facing the fishery, including the “arms race.” It was comprised of an elected group of diverse fishermen from all major crab ports and representing both large and small boats. The group met during 2009 and 2010 and came to consensus on the design for a trap limit in the fishery. The new law incorporates the recommendations of the Dungeness Crab Force. Fishermen are broken out into 7 “tiers” basedon how much crab they’ve landed in the past. Fishermen who have landed the most can fish with 500 traps and those who have historically landedthe least can fish with 175.  The law also includes sufficient fees to cover all of the costs identified by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and was passed with bipartisan support by the Legislature. It’s supported by major fishing organizations such as the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and the Crab Boat Owners Association, as well as environmental groups such as EDF, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council

Let's thank Governor Brown for passing SB 369 and helping to ensure the long term biological and economic sustainability of California Dungeness crab fishery, while at the same time promoting fishermen safety at sea.


Also posted in Ecosystem Services, General, Pacific Ocean, Politics| Comments closed

Sustaining Environmental Capital in the Mokelumne River Watershed

Solar panels power Vino Farms (Mathew Grimm)

In July 2011, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a report to President Obama on Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy that called for a national inventory on the services that ecosystems provide and a better valuation of those services. The report recognized that environmental capital is a key underpinning of public health and economic recovery. Natural systems provide a wealth of services including clean water and air, productive soils and protection from floods and fires, among many others.

Mokelumne River (Mathew Grimm)

We are happy to announce that in late August, Sustainable Conservation, in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Incentives, Protected Harvest and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy was awarded a $372,000 Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a pilot program to measure environmental benefits in California’s Mokelumne River Watershed. Once developed, the program will attract funding to pay farmers, ranchers and foresters to enhance nature’s benefits, including water purification, erosion control and wildlife habitat. In addition, the program could potentially help establish better tools for valuing ecosystem services in watersheds throughout the country as called for in the report to President Obama. To read more about it please visit the Western Farm Press

The Mokelumne Program will provide economic incentives to landowners in the region (Mathew Grimm)

The Mokelumne River, which originates in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and crosses the Central Valley before joining the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, provides significant environmental and economic benefits to California and the region. The Mokelumne watershed produces hydro-electric energy, high value crops, timber, important habitat for wildlife, and recreational benefits like whitewater rafting and popular trout fishing.  Notably, the Mokelumne delivers water to 1.4 million people in San Francisco’s East Bay and provides agricultural water supply and storage within the watershed to irrigate over 800,000 acres of vineyards and other crops. 

In recent years, however, the Mokelumne watershed has faced an increased risk of catastrophic fire, significant development pressures, a lack of economic vitality and diversity in its communities, and high unemployment. In addition, development and poor vegetation management have contributed to fire, habitat degradation, diminished species populations and impaired water quality. Climate change is predicted to decrease the amount of water retained in the snowpack and will require dams to be operated differently to protect communities from increased risk of flooding. To address these threats holistically, EDF, in collaboration with other NGO’s, state and federal agencies, and a broad array of watershed stakeholders, is developing a watershed management approach that focuses on community participation. Specifically, the management approach focuses on compensating landowners for resource stewardship and habitat restoration. 

The Mokelumne Watershed Environmental Benefits Program will create a performance-based environmental accounting system so that public and private land managers can consistently pay for and track environmental improvements, and create a meaningful understanding of how conservation efforts in the upper and lower watershed benefit local communities, water users, hydroelectric power generators, and the California economy. Ultimately, this will raise investor confidence in restoration by showing the “bang for the buck” of each investment.  Investors in restoration, such as the USDA, the State of California and the private sector are particulary interested in improving how they target their limited resources so that there is greater accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.

EDF's Belinda Morris gets a tour of Vino Farms from viticulturist Chris Storm (Mathew Grimm)

The next stage of the Program will focus on developing metrics to better quantify the environmental outcomes associated with restoration activities that provide environmental benefits, such as improved water quality and increased water storage. We will build on current efforts underway in other regions where tools have been developed to measure improvements in habitat, water quality and instream flows, which are critical resource needs of the watershed.  This information will help us target those restoration activities (e.g., riparian vegetation restoration, instream channel stabilization, water conservation, etc.) that can result in the greatest environmental outcomes. We will partner with agricultural landowners to test the quantification tools and to measure the environmental outcomes from restoration activities. In addition, we will aim to demonstrate a watershed-wide approach to achieve conservation actions that will support local communities and other beneficiaries of the services that the watershed provides. Most exciting is the fact that the diverse ecosystems and valuable land uses across the Mokelumne Watershed are representative of many California watersheds, therefore by developing and proving out this innovative model in the Mokelumne, we believe there is huge potential to replicate it throughout California and possibly beyond.

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EDF and rice partners granted $1.1 million to expand rice GHG offsets effort

The next exciting phase of developing greenhouse gas (GHG) offsets from rice production in the United States is now possible thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service.  EDF’s second Conservation Innovation Grant project for rice GHG offsets will expand the first grant’s scope from California, the second leading rice-producing state (550,000 planted acres in 2010), to include Arkansas, the leading rice-producing state (1.8 million planted acres in 2010), as a model for other mid-southern states and will develop innovative technology to enable easier access to carbon markets. 

The new grant includes previous partners involved in the development of the rice methodology—California Rice Commission, Applied Geosolutions, LLC, and TerraGlobal Capital, LLC—as well as new partners—Winrock International, PRBO Conservation Science, USA Rice Federation and other leading rice industry associations and rice producers in each region. 

A Foundation: The first grant resulted in a methodology that provides a foundation for work to continue in California and begin in Arkansas.  California has been a successful testing ground for assessing offset potential because of its groundbreaking climate law co-authored by EDF, The Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), which establishes a cap-and-trade system in 2012.  However, including other rice-producing states will greatly increase the opportunity for GHG reductions and offset credits from rice production.  If the California Air Resource Board adopts a rice carbon protocol, California rice growers stand to benefit in the state’s cap and trade program by selling GHG offsets to capped sectors, and other rice growers outside of California also will be able to participate in the compliance market to help meet California’s demand. 

Phase Two: The methodology is awaiting approval by two leading carbon registries — the Verified Carbon Standard and the American Carbon Registry (where it is now open for public comment)—and it will be adapted as needed for use in two pilot projects, one in California’s Sacramento Valley and the other led by Winrock International in the Delta Region of Eastern Arkansas. These initiatives will demonstrate the process of producing and selling offset credits generated by rice farmers to voluntary and potentially to compliance carbon markets, with particular focus on California’s cap-and-trade program.  Each project will field-test a subset of GHG-reducing practices suitable to the region, such as straw removal or altered water management.  The pilot projects will help determine which additional practices can be added to the methodology. 

In addition to pilot project results, we will analyze rice GHG reduction practices in other states using the De-Nitrification De-Composition (DNDC) model.  DNDC is a computer simulation model of carbon and nitrogen biogeochemistry in agro-ecosystems that can be used for predicting crop growth, soil temperature and moisture regimes, soil carbon dynamics, nitrogen leaching, and emissions of trace gases including nitrous oxide (N2O), nitric oxide (NO), dinitrogen (N2), ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2).  Used to analyze California rice’s GHG reduction potential, DNDC will be applied in other rice-producing states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.  Practices such as mid-season drainage, which is currently not a feasible practice in California, may be more appropriate in other rice-growing states. 

Concurrently, a user-friendly technology will be developed for growers and aggregators to enable more accurate and cost-efficient quantification of GHG reductions.  Growers will test a tool that is accessible by personal computers and mobile devices, and they will also provide feedback on cost feasibility and process of the overall project.  Lessons learned will be widely distributed to other interested growers and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Since both rice-growing regions in California and Arkansas (known as a critical stretch of the Pacific Flyway and the rice and duck capital of the world, respectively) are key areas of habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and other species of wildlife, the project will also strive to understand how rice management practices can minimize GHG emissions and maximize benefit to waterbirds.  PRBO Conservation Science, a bird conservation non-profit, will lead the analysis of potential impacts of selected growing practices in California using habitat quality indicators and optimization models, which can be adapted to other regions. 

Benefit to Farmers: Economic benefit estimates are based on California modeling of potential GHG reductions and cost studies. The three practices currently in the methodology and their potential for GHG reduction are: dry seeding (4%), removal of straw before flooding (8%), and reduced winter flooding (16%).  The break-even costs for these practices range from $3 to $79 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent. However, though the break-even cost for straw removal, for example, is around $79, this cost can be reduced through sale of the straw, and as carbon prices increase once the compliance market begins, there may be a business advantage for some farmers.  Carbon markets could provide the additional value that enables a rice farmer to access these straw markets. Other practices yet to be analyzed may produce greater GHG savings, such as mid-season drainage in the mid-southern states, in which case economic return could be higher. 

A final goal of the project is to seek out regulatory approval of a rice carbon protocol, so that the GHG emission reductions achieved will have compliance value under a cap-and-trade program.

The project is expected to start in August and will conclude in 2014.

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New methodology creates access to carbon markets for California rice growers, model for the rest of the world

By Candice Chow, Agricultural Policy Fellow in EDF’s Sacramento office. 

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in partnership with the California Rice Commission, Applied Geosolutions, LLC, and TerraGlobal Capital, LLC, have developed a-first-in-kind methodology to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from rice production in California.

The methodology, drafted by TerraGlobal Capital, LLC, is a framework for developing offset projects using specific practices in order to sell credits on voluntary and compliance GHG markets.  This is an exciting step forward in reducing emissions from agriculture and the California rice industry is one of the first to lead the way.

"The California Rice Commission hopes to demonstrate how our rice growers can assist in addressing the state’s climate change program goals by voluntarily generating offsets and making them available to other affected industries in California," said Paul Buttner, Manager of Environmental Affairs at the California Rice Commission.

Modeling Rice Emissions

In 2007 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a grant for EDF and the California Rice Commission to study practices for reducing emissions from rice production.

Different environmental factors affect rice GHG emissions, preventing a one-size-fits-all solution. A process model like DeNitrification-DeComposition (DNDC) can more accurately predict GHG emissions when given specific parameters, such as soil type, temperature and water regime.  Applied Geosolutions, LLC calibrated and validated the DNDC model using field measurements and was able to identify management practices that reduce GHG emissions without affecting yields and to assess mitigation potential in California. 

Mitigation Practices

Changing water management, such as reduced flooding and altered drainage timing, provides the largest mitigation opportunity to reduce methane emissions. Water cuts off the oxygen supply from the atmosphere to the soil that results in anaerobic fermentation. Methane, a GHG with a global warming potential 20 times that of carbon dioxide, is a byproduct of anaerobic fermentation. 

 As a result of an economic feasibility analysis by UC Davis, GHG reduction practices in California were narrowed down to reduced winter flooding, straw baling after harvest, and dry-seeding (as opposed to seeding while flooded), and these three practices are included in the methodology.

Growers who implement one or more of these practices and produce emissions reductions based on DNDC modeling will be eligible to sell offset credits on carbon markets.  As a result, growers create an additional revenue source while providing GHG offset credits that are real, permanent, additional, and verifiable. 

Global Potential

"The methodology is a first step towards achieving the global mitigation potential for rice," said Belinda Morris, EDF’s Working Lands Regional Director.  "In the future, expanding the methodology to include other practices and other geographies could provide incentives for substantial GHG emissions reductions from rice production." 

Rice is grown on approximately 346 million acres worldwide, and 90 percent of rice land is flooded for at least part of the season.   The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that rice production emits between 31-112 million metric tons of methane per year.   Some academic studies have suggested the potential reductions from practices, such as mid-season drainage, in other parts of the world (it is not viable in California) could be in the range of 50 percent. Major emission variables include factors such as production of more than one crop per year and/or farming in certain regions that have higher emissions due to regional soil and weather factors.  

While this is an exciting step forward, more work is needed to accurately estimate reductions given economic and technical constraints in various rice-producing regions.  For example, in California where only one crop per year is produced, costs of production are high and the soils have relatively low emissions characteristics, it is difficult to envision a program that could achieve much beyond a 10 percent reduction level while other regions might deliver much greater initial reductions.

The methodology has been submitted to two registries, and it is currently open for public review through the Verified Carbon Standard before it is approved and available to generate offset credits.  EDF and its partners expect to have protocols approved by the end of 2011.  In the meantime, we will continue to find means of reducing transaction costs and further define the market potential of these emission reduction projects.

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EDF Wades into the Sierra Meadows: a photo tour

Whitney. Yosemite. Sequoia. Lake Tahoe. These show-stopping landscapes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range are well known and much loved. Yet nestled above the Sierra’s oak woodlands and amidst the alpine forests lie overlooked gems in the landscape—the Sierra meadows—wide open valleys with once meandering rivers. These working landscapes have the potential to provide high quality forage for the regions’ cattle industry, increased water storage for our cities, farms, and ranches, and key habitat for our state’s distinctive wildlife.

But while the Sierra meadows provide numerous benefits or “ecosystem services”, many are now damaged and degraded – approximately 40-60% or between 130,000 and 200,000 acres of meadows have altered hydrology. A new project of the Environmental Defense Fund is looking to prioritize the restoration of some of these meadows: Working Meadows on Private Lands in the Sierras.

Through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, EDF is coordinating a partnership of Sierra and rangeland experts to provide robust incentives to revitalize the Sierra meadows. We’re officially collaborating with American Rivers, the Cosumnes, American Bear Yuba Integrated Regional Water Management Group, and county resource conservation districts. The project will be extended through outreach to the larger Sierra community and other organizations such as UC Cooperative Extension, California Rangeland Coalition, and California Cattlemen’s Association.

The goal of this project is two-fold: further the scientific and economic data to illustrate the costs and benefits of meadow restoration in the Sierra and to build a Sierra-wide community in support of this effort.

Restoration has already begun on a small scale on a few sites in the northern reaches of the Sierra. We’ve gone on a series of site visits to learn first-hand from landowners and scientists about meadow restoration. I plan to write more about these site visits in future blog posts – but to give you a sneak peak, below you’ll find a photo tour of our first trip to Perazzo Meadows, in the Tahoe National Forest, taken by my talented colleague Mathew Grimm.

I can learn about meadow restoration from talking to my ecologist colleagues and reading peer reviewed papers. But there's nothing like pulling on some boots and walking a newly-restored meadow with the aspens showing signs of fall in the granite valleys of the Sierra.

Many thanks to Randy Westmoreland from the Forest Service and Beth Christman from the Truckee River Watershed Council for a great tour of Perazzo Meadows.

Next blog update on the Sierra Meadows? A closer look at meadow restoration and a trip to the Feather River.

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