Colorado State Researchers, Governor’s Energy Office Address Statewide Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Note to Editors: The first stakeholders meeting is May 9 in Sterling, Colo. To view the COMET-VR assessment tool, visit

Colorado State University scientists are working with the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office to develop a greenhouse gas emissions mitigation program for the state’s agricultural industry.

In May 2007, Colorado Gov. Ritter signed a bill that allows for a county-level appraisal of carbon stocks and carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas mitigation potential to be conducted by Colorado State’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and Department of Soil and Crop Sciences.

"The Governor’s Energy Office has provided $175,000 in Clean Energy Funds to engage agriculture as a partner in meeting Gov. Ritter’s Climate Action Plan goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020," said Seth Portner, GEO’s deputy director.

In the United States and internationally, carbon sequestration in soils is an option to help mitigate increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Soil carbon sequestration is recognized as an attractive low-cost activity that can be quickly implemented.

Implementing conservation practices in land use and agriculture not only can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it can also increase soil fertility and agricultural sustainability and help to reduce erosion, improve water quality and increase resource use efficiently, said Keith Paustian, who is the project leader from the university and a CSU professor of soil and crop sciences.  

CSU scientists will develop a baseline compilation of land use and management practices relevant to greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration throughout the state. A calculating tool will be developed for farmers to use in evaluating alternative cropping practices and assessing greenhouse gas mitigation benefits on their land.

The Colorado Legislature enacted HB-1203 signed by Gov. Ritter in order to develop the scientific underpinning on agricultural soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas mitigation; inform policy and decision-makers in Colorado; and to provide the infrastructure for Colorado farmers to participate in mitigation programs.

"We want to get people involved at the grassroots level in the design of the state-level assessment and receive feedback about the online decision tool that we are developing. Ultimately we want to work collectively with the agricultural industry to come up with a mitigation system that will realistically work for them and the State," said Paustian, also a senior research scientist at the university’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory.

Researchers will meet with stakeholders – particularly farmers, ranchers, land management agencies, industry associations and environmental organizations – in a series of meetings across the state this year to gather information on land use and management practices. Additionally, scientists will work closely with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union throughout the process.  

Eventually Paustian and his fellow researchers will develop an online farm-level decision support tool to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions and emission reduction and carbon sequestration for alternative management practices in Colorado. Their research group, together with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, has previously developed a model – COMET-VR – that is being used at the Federal level for to record voluntary reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Current climate change policy in the United States is based on voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions but it is expected that mandatory regulation will be enacted; dramatically increasing the economic value of emission offsets including soil sequestration.

Stakeholder meetings have been scheduled across the state with the first in Sterling on May 9 at the Hays Student Ballroom on Northeastern Junior College’s campus. The other meetings are in Montrose on May 30 and Delta on June 13. Dates have yet to be scheduled in the fall.

For more information about the stakeholders meeting contact Tom Lauridson at (303) 204-5389 or