May Ranch Avoided Grassland Conversion

Avoided Grasslands Conversion Soil
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Ducks Unlimited Grassland Carbon Program: May Ranch near Lamar, Colorado has transformed itself into a sustainable, nationally-recognized conservation champion, home to endangered species. The Mays have partnered with wildlife and conservation organizations that share their land ethic. Their collaborations have improved water quality and quantity by restoring streams, wetlands, and eight playas. Managed grazing on grasslands, installation of wildlife-friendly fencing, native tree plantings, and expanded watering locations have produced a model of how livestock and wildlife can thrive together.
The wetlands on May Ranch provide an oasis for migratory birds. Beef from their grass-fed cattle is marketed with a “Raised on Bird-Friendly Land” label as part of the Audubon Society’s Conservation Ranching Program. 40 years of selective breeding of registered Limousin cattle has produced cattle with traits complimentary to grasslands and a semi-arid climate. Audubon Society guidelines track the ranch’s environmental sustainability and health, as well as the welfare and feeding of the cattle. It's just one way the Mays use third-party verification to measure and manage conservation success.
The property is monitored for rangeland health as part of an innovative carbon credit program that assigns a fair market value for sequestering carbon in the soil of grazing lands. May Ranch has hosted surveys of bird and botanical species, including the Denver Botanical Gardens’ floristics team, which identified more than 90 plant species never documented in Prowers County. A conservation easement held by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust ensures that May Ranch will never lose its wildlife habitat and conservation values. Off the ranch, Dallas May serves on a variety of community, water, and conservation committees and boards, including the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.
Prairie grasslands are the most threatened and endangered ecosystem type in North America. In addition to the wildlife and biodiversity values they provide, they are important carbon sinks. Once cultivated for crop production, soil carbon stocks are emitted for up to 30–50 years. The historic biological diversity can take thousands of years to restore.
Since 2016, the rate of grassland conversion across the U.S. and Canada has been nearly 2 million acres per year. In 2023 alone, 1.6 million acres of grassland — an area larger than the state of Delaware — was plowed under.
Ducks Unlimited's grassland carbon projects are located in the highest conversion risk regions of the country. This project — part of a strategic partnership between Ducks Unlimited and North Bridge Carbon — works with landowners, many whom are ranching families, to proactively protect the landscapes through partnerships, innovative finance, and managed grazing.
The benefits of conserving wetlands for wildlife and recreation have long been established, but emerging research is determining that wetlands are a powerful climate mitigation tool. A newly released study led by Ducks Unlimited demonstrates that wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region have the potential to cool the surrounding atmosphere by 1–3 degrees on summer days and reduce the number of hot days during heat waves.
Project Details:Southeastern, Colorado USAFirst-ever grassland project validated by Climate Action ReserveProject registered 2016; CAR126113,333 eligible grassland acresVery productive soils and senior water rights conducive to croppingGenerational ranching familyMultiple offers in hand to convert grasslandsLeopold Conservation Award winner for sustainable grazing & environmental stewardshipProperty home to three threatened & endangered speciesGrasslands protected in perpetuity in partnership in partnership with land trustMost waterfowl are grassland nesting birdsWaterfowl need large swaths of grasslands to allude predatorsWaterfowl can nest in grass up to a mile away from the nearest wetlandGrasslands also are critical buffers to wetlands for improved water qualityThe May Ranch is a fourth generation family-owned working cattle ranch in southeastern CO. Low stocking rates and active rotation are used to maintain and enhance native grasslands. This ensures stable carbon reserves in the soil. Just five years ago, that neighboring parcel was 2,400 acres of native prairie. It was all plowed up in one week for conventional dryland farming and will never be the same.
In 2021, the May Ranch was awarded the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award for their sustainable grazing practices and environmental stewardship. North Bridge is a veteran-owned carbon business that works with landowners, non-profits, ranchers, farmers, and corporations to implement best practices in reducing and removing carbon. It's actively channeling private capital into climate solutions and investing in high-quality carbon offsets.
Ducks Unlimited is leading the way through conservation to save threatened grasslands and related habitats, while simultaneously preserving critical below-ground carbon reserves.
Credits issued by the May Ranch Avoided Grasslands Conversion (CAR1261) have been assigned a BB rating by BeZero Carbon, with verification conducted by Ruby Canyon Environmental, Inc. (RCE).