Climate Change Mitigation
Climate change threatens agricultural production, forest resources and rural economies. Climate Change Mitigation activities reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.We can reverse climate change by drawing greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere and into vegetation and soils. The Gold Ridge RCD supports the creation of climate resilient agricultural landscapes through local partnerships and engagement with the agricultural community, and offers a variety of programs, services, resources and tools to help farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and partners pursue voluntary conservation efforts to deliver climate solutions across our district’s working lands. It is critically important that federal and state investments in climate-smart agriculture help ensure that all farmers and ranchers—regardless of race, gender, income, farm size or location—have access to market opportunities and support in transitioning to climate-smart production systems. The goal of our climate work is to foster innovation and the growth of regionally and locally appropriate climate mitigation strategies that result in lasting change, community economic development, and greater consumer awareness and access to climate-smart agricultural products.
Many of our Climate Change Mitigation Programs are directly linked and intertwined with our Agriculture Programs. Carbon Farm Planning and agricultural conservation practices are climate-beneficial practices that target climate change mitigation on agricultural lands. For more information on our various agricultural programs involving natural resource management or climate-beneficial practices, check out our Agriculture Programs page here.
We call climate change mitigation activities “climate solutions” because they work to reverse or undo the climate crisis. Adaptation activities help human and natural communities adjust to an already changed climate. Many of our programs relate or contribute to climate adaptation by preparing for longer, more intense drought periods, limited water resources, a warmer climate, lost wildlife habitat, more frequent wildfires, etc. Explore our other programs to learn more about our work in climate adaptation.
Frequently served: Farmers, ranchers, rural landowners
Carbon Farming (Climate-Smart Farming)
Carbon Farm Planning can be integrated within a conservation or LandSmart management plan, or can be developed as a Carbon Farm Plan (CFP) in itself. Carbon Farm Planning identifies practices that would allow agricultural operations to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon farming involves an array of strategies that promote long-term carbon sequestration by capturing carbon in the soil and plant material. Many carbon farming practices also improve a farm’s resilience to climate change. Carbon farming practices promote soil health and productivity, improve soil water holding capacity, crop and forage production, and wildlife habitat.
Carbon farming has many benefits for farmers and producers. Carbon farming increases nutrient availability and retention due to increased soil organic matter, increases crop and forage yields, and increases water holding capacity and water infiltration in soils. Carbon farming also enhances microbial activity in soils, improves crop quality, reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, and creates more resilient soils and more sustainable agricultural systems.
Agricultural and working lands possess a crucial opportunity for climate change mitigation through soil-based carbon sequestration. Soil-based carbon sequestration is a way to remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it somewhere it can’t easily escape: in soils, which store carbon in the form of broken-down plant matter. It is estimated that over 25 million metric tons of CO2 can be sequestered annually on natural and working lands in California by 2045. For reference, 1 million metric tons is equivalent to removing over 215,000 cars from the road each year.
Plants take in atmospheric carbon and convert it into sugar so they can grow, through the process of photosynthesis. Plants transport some carbon, in sugar form, to their roots to trade fungi (through the mycorrhizal network) for minerals or to store for a later time when needed. When the carbon gets to the soil, it interacts with the soil ecosystem and a variety of things can happen. Depending on how the plant and soil is managed (or not), the carbon can remain in the soil for long-periods of time in a stable state—that is, become sequestered within the soil. The phrase ‘carbon farming’ means implementing farming practices that capture and hold carbon in vegetation and soils and/or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon farming includes simple to technologically-advanced practices – like not tilling the soil, planting a cover crop, prescribed grazing, etc.
Carbon Farming and Conservation Practices:
While these are not all of the conservation practices that could be included within Carbon farming, these are a few of the most common practices. To see a full list of conservation practices and to get more information, check out USDA-NRCS’s Conservation Practice Standards.
- Hedgerow Planting
- Soil Amendments (compost or biochar application)
- Prescribed Grazing
- Range Planting
- Wildlife Habitat Planting
- Residue and Tillage Management, No Till
- See the LandSmart Carbon Farm Plan Templates
- Carbon Farm Plan: Laguna Edge Farm
- Carbon Farm Plan: Hervey Vineyard
- Napa RCD-Carbon Farm Plan #5
- Green Valley Farm + Mill Healthy Soils Project | Fact Sheet (rcdprojects.org)
- Carbon Farm Plan: Ocean Breeze Dairy | Fact Sheet (rcdprojects.org)
- Ebabias Creek Riparian Restoration StoryMap
- Compost tea effects on greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon sequestration in a Sonoma County pome fruit orchard. | Fact Sheet (rcdprojects.org)
Ways to Participate:
Carbon Farm Plans: We have funding through the CDFA Conservation Agriculture Planning Grant program for the development of plans that will help farmers and ranchers identify actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, further environmental stewardship on farms and ranches and ensure agricultural food security into the future. We have funding for Carbon Farm Plans, Grazing Management, Pollinator Habitat, and Soil Health Management. Fill out an application here.
LandSmart Plans Conservation Farm Plan)
LandSmart Plans are conservation plans that can be developed for vineyards, rangelands, forests, and confined animal facilities to protect and conserve property-specific natural resource needs. In our changing climate, unpredictable weather and climate phenomena such as drought, wildfire, floods, frost, extreme heat, etc. threaten the sustainability of the natural resources on working lands. For more information on the LandSmart Plans, check out our Agriculture Programs page here.
North Coast Soil Hub
The North Coast Soil Hub is a regional network collaboration of RCDs dedicated to advancing the adoption of climate-friendly agriculture in California’s North Coast region. Soil Health and soil-based carbon sequestration is one of the most viable and efficient forms of atmospheric carbon dioxide reduction. For more information on the North Coast Soil Hub, check out our Agriculture Programs page here.
Sonoma County Climate Goals
The County of Sonoma, the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA), the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Working Group members, local jurisdictions, agencies, special districts, community-based organizations, and nonprofits provided input to the development of the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy. The Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy builds on the Climate Action 2020 and Beyond (CA 2020) plan published in 2016. The new strategy sets a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030, a more ambitious goal than the CA 2020 goal of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District is supporting the county in their climate strategy through protecting and increasing carbon storage in soil and plants. To protect our current carbon stocks, the Gold Ridge RCD works with our partners to support the implementation of forest management practices by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. To increase our carbon stocks, the Gold Ridge RCD supports carbon sequestration through compost application, no tillage support, and other soil health management assistance for agricultural producers.
County objectives include:
- Increase carbon sequestration by growing large, mature trees and moving surplus biomass to the soil carbon pool through mulching in place, prescribed fire, conservation burns, and off site uses, including compost and mulch production.
- Work with the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District on strategic land protection and stewardship actions that increase carbon sequestration and minimize conversion to land uses that have a lower capacity to sequester carbon.
- Work with Permit Sonoma to implement existing and develop new land use policies (e.g., Sonoma County General Plan, Williamson Act, etc.) that result in measurable carbon sequestration.
- Implement countywide fire-safe landscape practices, tree care and protection, and compost/mulch applications.
- Partner with outdoor recreation and environmental education partners to offer tours of sequestration projects to members of frontline communities.
- Support local agricultural producers to plan, implement, and scale carbon sequestration.
- Increase our urban forest cover starting with communities impacted by recent fires and in frontline communities.
- Implement regenerative land management practices at the municipal scale, including practices that draw down carbon, reduce GHG emissions, and improve watershed and human health.
- Develop engagement strategies that specifically target members of frontline communities to increase urban forest cover, implement regenerative land management practices, and improve human health.
For more information, you can read the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy here.
Wildlife Habitat Enhancement
Wildlife habitat is threatened, fragmented, and lost through human development, natural resource exploitation, and climate change. Changing climate and weather phenomena create unstable conditions that threaten and endanger key wildlife populations. For example, federally endangered coho salmon are at a high risk of habitat loss due to drought and water diversions from local watersheds. While our wildlife work is focused on pollinators and salmonids because they face a greater risk of habitat loss and population decline, our programs are meant to restore habitat function to benefit all wildlife. For more information, check out our Wildlife Programs page here.
Water Storage and Security
Our Rainwater Catchment and Water Security programs support in fostering community water conservation, security, and awareness to promote household-level water storage through rainwater catchment. Extreme weather caused by climate change threatens water security through drought, flooding (which increases the risk of water pollution), and groundwater basin depletion. For more information on rainwater storage and security, check out our Water Programs page here.