What We’re Reading – January 2019

What We’re Reading – January 2019

Draft of California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan

Draft of California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan

This month California’s Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Air Resources Board (CARB), and Strategic Growth Council (SGC) released a draft of the California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan.  This plan recognizes and embraces the cost-effective and scalable role that nature-based solutions can play to stabilize the climate while at the same time generating valuable ecosystem services and economic opportunities.

According to the report, natural and working lands cover more than 90% of California. Not only do these lands play a critical role in providing clean air and water, healthy food, beautiful open-space, and rural economic growth, they also have immense potential to sequester greenhouse gases and serve as a crucial component in the state’s response to climate change.  According to current estimates, however, current management on many of these lands loses more carbon than it sequesters. To change this trajectory, the report’s authors write that California: “must boldly and immediately increase its efforts to conserve, restore, and manage natural and working lands.”

To do this, the authoring agencies propose an ambitious set of collaborative strategies that “more than double the pace and scale of State-supported land activities by 2030 and beyond” including a fivefold increase in soil conservation practices, twofold increase in forest management and restoration, threefold increase in oak woodland and riparian restoration, and twofold increase in wetland and seagrass restoration.

“State agencies will strive to meet multiple objectives with actions that also address additional economic, environmental, and public health goals. By moving toward an integrated multi-benefit approach that considers carbon, other critical ecosystem services, biodiversity, sustainable communities, public health, and the economy, we can leverage efforts for maximum and sustained benefit.”

While there are bound to be many challenges to achieving these important goals and building the essential inter-agency and public/private collaborations needed for success, it is important to note that many programs already exist and simply need to be scaled up to expand their impact.

One example is the CDFA’s Healthy Soil Initiative which currently provides incentives to farmers and ranchers to implement scientifically-supported best practices that can sequester greenhouse gasses and provide important co-benefits such as improved soil water holding capacity and wildlife habitat and resilience to extreme weather.  With $5.8 million in the program so far, CDFA has been able to start soil conservation practices on more than 8,600 acres with 110 funded projects across the state. These projects are expected to sequester 18,683 metric tons of CO2 equivalents over their 3-year project period. Looking to the future, CDFA estimates that increasing funding for the Healthy Soils Initiative to $36.3 million annually would allow them to incentivize climate-smart practices on 1,000,000 acres in California by 2030 and sequester 10.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents.

What We’re Reading

What We’re Reading

Natural climate solutions for the United States – Joe Fargione

In November, The Nature Conservancy and 21 institutional partners published a peer-reviewed study finding that nature-based solutions to climate change in the United States could offset 21% of the country’s net annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The study, Natural Climate Solutions for the United States, looked at a wide range of practices including restoration, conservation, and improved agriculture to better understand their potential contribution to offsetting GHG emissions and promoting a stable climate through increased carbon storage.

Excitingly, this study was one of the first to explore the impacts of preserving and restoring grasslands and coastal wetlands and took a holistic perspective by discussing both the GHG offsets and the multiple benefits that come from stewarding and working with natural systems such as improved water filtration and holding capacity, soil health and fertility, flood control, and wildlife habitat.

While reforestation and forest management showed some of the largest impacts, regenerative grassland and agricultural management were also demonstrated to be critical elements in an effective response to climate change.  The report is well-timed as grasslands are currently being lost in the US at a rate of over one million acres per year to development and farming releasing carbon stored in their fertile soils, destroying critical habitat, and diminishing biodiversity.

To read more, check out the full report at Science Advances.

What We’re Reading – The Soil Will Save US

What We’re Reading – The Soil Will Save US

Kristin’s Ohlson’s The Soil Will Save Us offers hope in the face of the many environmental challenges facing us today.  Ohlson introduces a range of inspiring visionaries—scientists, farmers, ranchers, and landscapers

Kristin’s Ohlson’s The Soil Will Save Us offers hope in the face of the many environmental challenges facing us today.  Ohlson introduces a range of inspiring visionaries—scientists, farmers, ranchers, and landscapers—figuring out how to build healthy soil that can solve myriad problems including drought, erosion, air and water pollution, food quality, as well as climate change.

According to Ohlson, thousands of years of poor farming and ranching practices have led to the loss of up to 80 percent of carbon from the world’s soils. That carbon is now floating in the atmosphere. Ohlson makes the case that we can heal the land and turn atmospheric carbon back into beneficial soil carbon and potentially reverse global warming.  Further, better care of the soil means healthier crops and animals, fewer flash floods, greater drought resistance, fewer chemical inputs, fewer issues with run-off and – best of all – massive amounts of carbon sequestration. Supporting the science of healthy soil, planned adaptive grazing, no-till farming, and cover cropping are among the tools she explores in depth that can help us accomplish that shift.

In addition to exploration of the big picture, the book is also a great introduction to the complexity of the soil ecosystem. Frighteningly, it is pretty clear that humans don’t know a fraction of what we need to know about the soil that sustains us and our entire planet.  For example, microbes (with help from other players like bugs, worms, and fungi) build aggregates in the soil, loosening it up so it can store water and serve as a home for beneficial organisms; they also make minerals available to the roots of plants that ultimately feeds the food we eat!  Knowing of these complex dynamics helps explain why tilling, turning over, plowing, drying out, or otherwise disturbing soil, home to billions of microorganisms, deprives plants of their best allies and accelerates the degradation of our agricultural lands and reliance on chemical inputs.

Happily, The Soil Will Save Us offers many examples of where regenerative farming has carefully managed and helped restore the overworked land to rich earth, through use of crop rotation, green manuring, animal grazing, and companion planting aimed at “feeding the soil.”   Scientists, foodies, and farmers harnessing and supporting the critical and beneficial partnerships between plants and microorganisms are the book’s heroes. It’s a book everyone should read since we all have a stake in making sure the earth’s soils are as healthy as they can be.

Accessing the Total Impact of TomKat Ranch – Research and Methodologies

This document explains the methodology applied to assess the total impact of TomKat Ranch’s beef production system.

This document explains the methodology applied to assess the total impact of TomKat Ranch’s beef production system. This section describes the basis of total impact measurement and provides an overview of the project scope.

TomKat-Total-Impact_Methodology_vPLAIN-1

Grazing Plan for 2018

Grazing Plan for 2018

Each year, the Land and Livestock Team sits down with colleagues from Point Blue Conservation Science to determine the next year’s grazing plan. Grazing planning allows us to develop a comprehensive plan on how to achieve our diverse set of goals including healthy cattle, wildlife, soil, water, plants and even visitors and staff. 

Each year, the Land and Livestock Team sits down with colleagues from Point Blue Conservation Science to determine the next year’s grazing plan. Grazing planning allows us to develop a comprehensive plan on how to achieve our diverse set of goals including healthy cattle, wildlife, soil, water, plants and even visitors and staff.  

The plan informs how we increase photosynthesis, build soil, raise cattle, and even educate visitors in ways that benefit habitat and wildlife. For example, our plan documents how we will avoid grazing cattle on the west side of the ranch during grassland bird nesting season to protect the bird’s delicate nests. As it turns out, protecting the nests also helps us achieve our grazing goals since the perennial grasses on the west side do best when grazed heavily in the winter and rested the rest of the year. As the grasses are grazed by cattle as they are moved to different pastures around the ranch, their roots recede to power leaf growth. Different species of grass plants do better with different types of management thus the timing of grazing is of the essence to maximize photosynthesis for all the different species. Managing as we do requires an adaptive approach to the dynamic landscape and weather of the California coast. Our grazing plan allows us to ask “what if?” to be sure we maintain an open and adaptive mindset.

This is our 5th year developing a ranch-wide grazing plan. After a few hours of discussing our goals and concerns for the upcoming year, the Grazing Plan outlines where we want to go and serves as a reminder of the ideas and goals that we strive for. That said, as adaptive managers of a diverse and changing system, we expect to deviate from our plan as weather, animal, or land performance dictates to achieve our goals. The plan documents and illustrates our vision and we enjoy sharing it with visitors and other producers so they can see how we plan for multiple goals each year.