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Can Cows Stop Climate Change?

MALT Newsletter - Fall 2013 (View full newsletter.)

On a recent summer afternoon, a herd of cows quietly watches as MALT Stewardship staff Patricia Hickey and Jim Jensen assess handfuls of fertile Marin County soil.

“Look at this soil,” Patricia looks up smiling. “This rangeland has been actively managed for carbon sequestration and it’s incredibly nutrient rich. The soil now supports nutritious forage for livestock, which improves the quality of our food. From an environmentalist’s perspective, it substantially increases on-farm biological diversity too. With the increase in soil organic matter, it also holds more water for longer periods of time, enhancing plant growth and reducing runoff and erosion—all of which increase the quantity and quality of our water resources.”

 “All those things are good for people, the environment and the farm,” she continues. “Now that we’ve scientifically demonstrated that improving soil fertility can also measurably reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, thus potentially reducing rates of global warming, it is possibly the most valuable stuff on the planet. "The Marin Carbon Project is a collaboration of MALT, UC Cooperative Extension, UC Berkeley research scientists, Nicasio Native Grass Ranch, the Marin Resource Conservation District, and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. These groups have been working together over the past several years to study and measure the potential for carbon storage in actively managed rangeland. The ultimate goal is to engage agricultural producers in mitigating climate change through widespread adoption of innovative management techniques that would be funded principally through emerging carbon markets.

 The results of the initial studies have proved so promising that the participants in the project are taking it to the next level by creating carbon farms. These farms will show that rangeland can provide critical greenhouse gas reduction by not only increasing soil health, but by employing climate-friendly livestock practices, conserving natural habitat,increasing biodiversity and producing local food.

 “This is an exciting project because it holds the potential to really benefit the farmer’s bottom line while also improving the health of the natural environment and combating climate change,” Patricia says.

 Carbon Graffic