May Ranch Avoided Grassland Conversion Project

Project Type: Biodiversity and Wildlife Protection, Carbon Sequestration
Location: Prowers County, Colorado
Year: 2017-2021
Standard: Climate Action Reserve
Climate Impact: 35,000 tonnes CO2e
Beneficiaries: May Family, Ducks Unlimited Inc.

Grasslands store over one-third of Earth’s carbon, making it crucial to halt their demolition. Over 70% of the native grasslands in the United States have already been lost due to agricultural and commercial development, and they continue to decrease by over one million acres each year. This impact can be devastating as it is estimated an acre of grassland can store as much as 200 tonnes of carbon, but when these areas are disturbed, 50%-70% of carbon kept in the soil has the potential to be released as CO₂ into the atmosphere.

By ensuring the protection of grasslands, projects like this keep carbon in the soil and vegetation where it belongs and provides a naturally sustainable solution against climate change.

Project Description

Located in Prowers County, Colorado, this project prevents the conversion of 14,546 acres of native grasslands to crop-based agriculture or other activities. A conversion of the family-owned working ranch would result in the loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat—including an important corridor for lesser prairie chicken (which only number 150 in Colorado), various migratory birds, and other wildlife. The project will permanently conserve the grasslands and prevent release of carbon (oxidized and released through tillage and leveling operations) that has been sequestered in the soils over millennia.

This project exemplifies how conservation can work hand in hand with production agriculture, supporting livelihoods, important cultural resources, and a variety of wildlife.

Impacts & Benefits

Looking at the big picture, this project helps to protect the land, biodiversity and habitat for numerous species of plants and animals. The project area includes seven miles of the Big Sandy Creek, wetlands, open water habitat, and is designated by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as a priority area. Native grasses and forbes are protected along with habitat for many rare bird species. The area provides critical stop-over habitat for migratory waterfowl.

The project is even more significant considering that in Colorado, 48% of native grasslands have been lost. This property is truly one of the last remaining large tracts of native prairie that connects to the Arkansas River in Colorado.

Validation & Verification

This project has been verified according to the Climate Action Reserve Grassland Protocol.