Partnerships are the very foundation of what we do at Partnerscapes. Heck, it’s half of our new name! Naturally, we love to see partnerships that result in a win-win situation for both the landowner and the ecosystem. In this blog, we’ll share how Partnerscapes board director, Gary Price, has been able to benefit from a variety of partnerships throughout his 40+ years of ranching as well as share information on a new ecosystem services market that plans to open in 2022 that may provide new opportunities for landowners.

Gary Price, owner of 77 Ranch near Blooming Grove, Texas, knows firsthand how adopting more ecofriendly ranching practices can not only improve the land ecologically, but also provide additional, sometimes unexpected and beneficial economic opportunities.

Over several decades, Gary has meticulously restored old cotton fields with native grasses for his cattle operation, leading to a recovery of the natural ecosystem and resulting in improved water quality, soil health and biodiversity. Beyond improving the environment, why would this be economically advantageous?

  • First, Gary’s cattle benefit from the diet of high-quality native grasses, which results in a healthier cow with less or no use of antibiotics. The cows that don’t ever receive antibiotics can be certified “All Natural” as well as “Source and Age Verified.” Both certifications qualify them for sale in high end outlets that require that third party IMI Global certifications.
  • Second, the resurgence in biodiversity on the landscape – from birds to fish – has opened a new revenue stream for 77 Ranch – ecotourism. People, who are much more interested in learning about the land and where their food comes from, as well as those who want to duck hunt and fish, travel from nearby Dallas/Fort Worth to visit 77 Ranch.
  • Third, the native grasses are better stores of water and better filters of rain runoff, helping to recharge the aquifers and mitigate drought issues both on Gary’s land and neighboring properties and communities.
  • Finally, by focusing on good land stewardship, Gary was able to build strong partnerships with organizations like the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, whose members include large corporations like McDonald’s and General Mills that are looking to reduce their carbon footprint and incentivize farmers and ranchers to improve soil health systems. This relatively new partnership stemmed from working with tried and true partners including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Noble Research Institute (a founder of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium.)

So, what is the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and how is it different than other proposed carbon markets that have come before it? The ESMC is a modern take on a carbon market – designed to sell carbon and water quality credits to companies trying to offset their ecological footprint. Its mission is to advance the ecosystem service markets that incentivize farmers and ranchers to improve the soil health systems that benefit society. ESMC wants to maximize environmental impact by delivering as much of the market value back to farmers and ranchers as possible to accelerate market growth. This completely voluntary nonprofit marketplace lets farmers and ranchers profit from the ecofriendly practices they put in place on their private lands and that is truly a win-win. Healthy water and soil benefits everyone and incentivizing ecofriendly farming and ranching practices is key to improving the nation’s ecosystems – especially since 70% of U.S. land is in private ownership.

This organization has improved upon carbon markets of the past by truly listening to and involving the working landowners. Several of our Partnerscapes directors, including Gary Price, Jim Faulstich, Jay Tanner and Pat O’Toole, have signed up to become part of the ESMC Producer Circle, a group of working landowners who advise the ESMC on best practices and protocols for program delivery and operations. They have a chance to be a part of the pilot program, ensuring the market actually works for farmers and ranchers and doesn’t inequitably reward those who have just recently begun ranching or farming with more ecofriendly practices while ignoring those who have been good land stewards for decades. The ESMC brings farmers and ranchers to the table in partnership with corporations, NGOs, technology companies, universities and more to create a sustainable ecosystem market for all parties.

Partnerships are key to the success of ESMC, something Partnerscapes members believe wholeheartedly. When we work together, we’re able to create a better and more sustainable future for working lands – from increased biodiversity to a more robust food supply chain. Keeping working lands working is critical for both the human community and natural resources. We look forward to seeing ESMC encourage and incentivize additional working landowners to be good land stewards – improving their products, the health of our ecosystem and benefitting economically as a result.