Program helps landowners improve soil health
“There are towns in Wyoming, such as Jackson and Laramie, looking to be carbon neutral by 2030 or 2040,” says Encore Green Environmental President John Robitaille during the 2020 Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup and Convention General Session Dec. 9. “Rangeland is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world and provides a perfect opportunity to combine grass and grazing with soil health.”
In cooperation with partners Encore Green Environmental and Synergy for Ecological Solutions, the Carbon Asset Network (CAN) is a new program available for landowners to improve soil health, and in turn, decrease the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
Meeting in the middle
CAN works by bringing together different groups of people to satisfy very different, but related needs, according to Encore Green Environmental General Manager Jeff Holder.
“On one hand, we have change agents, or those who want to make a difference by putting money towards soil health and atmospheric carbon reduction,” Holder explains. “On the other hand, we have landowners dedicating acres toward soil health.”
“What CAN does is identify people with acreage to participate in the program, figure out their goals and needs for the land and come up with a customized soil health plan at the discretion of the landowner,” he continues. “This is not a government program dictating what has to be done, but a program to help producers be more productive on healthy soils.”
Holder shares funding for soil improvement projects and practices comes to the landowner from donors through CAN. Progress updates from the ground are shared with donors to let them know the impact their actions have on improving soil health and decreasing carbon in the atmosphere.
“Our main goal is to increase soil health, resulting in greater photosynthesis. Greater photosynthesis decreases carbon in the air through a process called carbon sequestration,” Holder says. “Nature’s way of improving the air is through photosynthesis.”
The CAN focus of improving soils results in greater above- and below-ground productivity, and one of the results is increased carbon sequestration. Removing carbon from the atmosphere is a motivating factor for donors, especially those looking to have greater impact than simply recycling.
“This program is free to the landowner because it is a nonprofit organization,” says Holder. “They will have to do some work, but financially the burden does not fall on the landowner.”
Project Agroecologist Neal Fehringer adds, “This is a free market program tailored to the individual place. Landowners enact recommendations by what they can do.”
Fehringer monitors soil improvements using metrics such as soil organic matter, soil organic carbon, the Haney Test for scored soil health and potentially water infiltration.
Although not a necessity, landowners with oil wells have the opportunity to take advantage of both CAN and Encore Green Environmental’s water repurposing program, adding more moisture to improve soil health.
“This program is a way we can engage people on the Great Plains to use their millions of acres to increase carbon sequestration,” says Fehringer. “We are already doing it, but if we can improve soil health, we can increase carbon capture.”
“We know increasing soil health increases agricultural programs through better vegetation,” Robitaille adds.
More information on the Carbon Asset Network can be found at carbonassetnetwork.com. Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.