SHANNON VERHAGEN, 29th of April 2021

This article first appeared in the Countryman, and has been reposted here with permission.

Pictured above: Pastroalist David McQuie and RegenCo Rangelands adviser Brett Crook at Bulga Downs.

Planting program exceeds hopes

Carbon farming has been dubbed a “game changer” for WA pastoralists, after one of the State’s earliest projects smashed its five-year goal three years early, generating more than $2 million worth of credits over two years.

It has firmed beliefs the practice — which involves regenerating land to increase vegetation that absorbs carbon dioxide — can give pastoralists an opportunity to diversify and add a second income stream to their properties.

David and Vicki McQuie, who run Bulga Downs and Dandaraga stations south of Sandstone, embarked on a major regeneration project two-and-a-half years ago, following the approval of the practice by the WA Government in 2019.

“I took my time investigating how Human Induced Regeneration (HIR) practices can raise the longterm productive base of my grazed country, whilst at the same time delivering a solid commercial return,” Mr McQuie said.

And in a milestone for the project, they have just received their first carbon credit payment through the Commonwealth Emission Reduction Fund (CERF).

The project — which involved introducing management changes to reduce grazing pressure on their land and promote revegetation — was executed in partnership with natural capital management company RegenCo and will run for decades to come.

It has achieved what it had set out to in five years — generating 100,000 credits — in just two.

“The Bulga Downs project has already seen over 125,000 credits created and sold in its first two years of operation,” RegenCo chief executive Tim Moore said. “At today’s market rates, that’s a revenue stream in excess of $2 million to date. That’s a really positive outcome for Dave as it diversifies his income stream whilst at the same time, enabling additional development of the property with new pastoral infrastructure that will further enhance resilience to dry times.”

RegenCo is the project proponent, which Mr Moore said was “very important” in the context of running and delivering the carbon credits back to the CERF.

RegenCo rangelands co-ordinator Brett Crook — who is working with 10-12 properties in the Goldfields area with carbon projects at varying stages — said the basic principle at Bulga Downs was to reduce grazing pressure on carbon estimation areas.

“This includes shifting or installing more watering points so cattle numbers are reduced or dispersed to lighten the grazing pressure,” he said. “Developing a more concerted fire response plan is important to protect the carbon that is being generated.”

It also included control of feral animals, which also add grazing pressure to pastoral land, he said.

With the prices of Australian carbon credit units — ACCUs — increasing from $12 to $18 in the past two years, Mr Crook said there was global demand pastoralists could tap into.

“Clearly there is worldwide momentum for the ability to offset carbon emissions and Australia’s large mass has the capability, via projects like this one on Bulga Downs, to be part of doing our bit in dealing with climate change.”

“There is the option to sell them into the same government system or in the open market.

“There are companies throughout the world interested in buying them to either offset their emissions or other companies investing in the global momentum around cooling the planet.”