SIG-NAL and Indian Land Tenure Foundation Continue Carbon Farming Site Visits with Comanche Nation and the
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
As the impacts of climate change become more pronounced in Indian country, Native American nations and Indian landowners are faced with the challenge of implementing resource conservation land management systems while sustaining economic vitality. Market-based approaches to conservation present an opportunity to improve resource management and realize revenue from emerging environmental markets such as carbon offsets. Work on our collaborative USDA Conservation Innovation Grant project to pilot new approaches to facilitate tribal access to voluntary carbon markets continued this spring and summer with site visits and meetings at the Comanche Nation in Oklahoma and the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. In April, John Gunn (SIG-NAL), Erick Giles (Indian Land Tenure Foundation), and Dr. Jeff Creque (Carbon Cycle Institute) met for two days with the Comanche Nation Secretary of Agriculture Milton Sovos and Realty Specialist Stephen Lee. Also joining the group was the Oklahoma Carbon Program Director Stacy Hansen. Site visits included potential agricultural lands for implementing carbon farming practices such as converting from conventional to no-till agriculture and planting tree-lined shelterbelts. Next steps include quantifying the potential carbon benefits of farming practice changes and finalizing the parcels to be included in an initial voluntary market transaction.
In late June, Shane Romsos of SIG joined John, Erick, and Jeff at the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Reservation to meet with tribe’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Recreation to discuss how the carbon benefits of restoring native grassland could generate revenue to support restoration activities. For more than 10 years, the tribe has restored grassland habitats for many species of wildlife including pronghorn antelope, sharp-tailed grouse, and the greater prairie chicken. Fish and Wildlife Director Ben Janis and wildlife biologist Dr. Shaun Grassel maintain an active program planting formerly-tilled cropland to native grass species to support the Lower Brule’s wildlife management objectives. These practices also result in significant carbon benefits by building prairie grass root systems that allow much more carbon to be stored in the soil than can be achieved under a tillage system. The project team hopes to turn these carbon farming benefits into revenue for the tribe through a voluntary carbon market transaction. Maintaining the native grasslands is costly and management actions could benefit from the sale of carbon offsets. Follow up activities will consist of mapping the restored grasslands, quantifying current and future soil carbon benefits, and discussions with potential buyers.
(pictured above, L to R: Stephen Lee, Milton Sovos, and Jeff Creque at a potential carbon farming site on Comanche Nation land)