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The Wild Rose Conservation Site

SCB’s carbon offset project for 2010-2013

Since 2007, SCB has contributed money to a carbon offset project in order to offset greenhouse gas emissions due to SCB operations, International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) meetings, and other elements of SCB’s carbon footprint.

The Society's first project was a native thicket restoration project in South Africa (from 2007-2009). Ron Abrams, an SCB board member and the chair of the Society's Ecological Footprint Committee, went on Spotlite Radio in August 2013 to discuss the project in the Bavaiaanskloof Mega Reserve and ongoing efforts there to restore sensitive habitat that supports rhinos, elephants and other wildlife. Listen to Ron discuss the project and the Society's interest in offsetting it's carbon footprint (skip to the 14:15 mark to hear Ron's six-minute interview). 

The Society's has continued its carbon offset program for ICCB meetings and SCB operations. The current carbon offset project is the Wild Rose Conservation Site (WRCS) in southern Alberta, Canada. 


Wild Rose Conservation Site
Project Name and Location:

The WRCS is a 390-ha cattle ranch in Cardston County in southern Alberta (49°N, 112°W; Section 36-3-23-W4M, N-25-3-23-W4M). The ranch is on the Milk River Ridge, an open, rolling landscape of native mixed grass prairie in the Foothills Fescue Natural Subregion dominated by fescue grassland (Festuca scabrella), with patches of short shrubs in more mesic areas.

Project Activity:

The project activity is quite simple, involving purchase of the WRCS and elimination of grazing on the property. The partner organizations mentioned below are purchasing the ranch from Thompson Livestock Ltd., the current owner (total purchase price = $768,000). SCB will obtain rights to the carbon sequestration achieved by the project over the next 20 years for its investment of $50,000 toward the purchase of the property, to be paid over the next 4 years.

Partners:

Environment Canada, the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), Nature Conservancy Canada, Ducks Unlimited, and the Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA) contributed to the purchase of the WRCS. ACA and AFGA are the deed holders, and they entered into the carbon offset agreement with SCB.

Baseline Scenario (What would happen without this conservation project?):

If management were to continue by Thompson Livestock Ltd., carbon stocks on the property would continue to deteriorate slowly. Currently, the WRCS stands in stark contrast with the lightly grazed McIntyre Ranch that is adjacent to the east of the property. Another potential scenario is that Thompson Livestock Ltd. would sell the ranch, resulting in conversion to cropland as for lands immediately to the north (e.g. 2 large Hutterite colonies nearby). Indeed, Hutterites have been very aggressive in their land acquisitions in the area and it is highly likely that they would convert these native grasslands to cropland. Thus reasonable baseline projections would be that the property is not retained as native grassland. Although most of the species at risk on the property are likely to continue if maintained as heavily grazed pasture, all of them would be lost if the land were converted to cropland.

Biodiversity benefits:

From a biodiversity perspective, southern Alberta hosts more species at risk than anyplace else in the province with 7 of 9 endangered species in the province occurring in southern grasslands. Species at risk that occur on the property include Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis), Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), Sprague’s Pipit (Anthus spragueii), Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), American badger (Taxidea taxus), and possibly Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus).  The property is especially good habitat for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), coyote (Canis latrans), and Sharp-Tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus). Grassland birds have been declining in North America, especially recently because of reductions in the CRP program in the United States, making this project of particular value.

Estimated carbon sequestration:

Grasslands are purported to store more carbon on a per area basis than any other ecosystem on earth. Grasslands sequester carbon in the soil, in contrast to ecosystems where a substantial amount of the carbon is above ground. Carbon stored in the soil is more securely stored than above ground, where fire, timber harvest, insect outbreaks and other disturbances can return carbon to the atmosphere.

The security of this carbon storage is dependent on how the grasslands are managed. The largest threats to the security of this long-term storage of carbon in grasslands are overgrazing, soil erosion, and conversion to cropland.  Under proper management grasslands are among the most secure places to sink carbon, and Canada is a politically stable country where we can be assured of the long-term continuity of the project. SCB's Ecological Footprint Committee estimates that the WRCS project can conservatively be expected to sequester 11,478 metric tons of carbon over the next 20 years, which should be sufficient to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions of SCB’s operations for the years 2010-2013.

Current Status:

SCB has prepared an Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA) stipulating the conditions of SCB’s participation in this agreement. We are in the third round of editing this ERPA, which should be executed very soon between ACA, AFGA, and SCB.

Next Steps:

ACA and AFGA need to prepare a formal management plan for the WRCS, and all of the parties need to agree on an appropriate monitoring and reporting protocol to verify the project’s performance over the next 20 years. Monitoring of carbon sequestration is fundamental to this project to demonstrate that the investment is indeed achieving its objectives.