Embattled southern rangelands pastoralists have been thrown a lifeline after a landmark decision by the McGowan Government to enable carbon farming
For the first time in WA, pastoralists will be able to earn carbon credits from sequestering carbon on pastoral lands, under a system called Human Induced Regeneration carbon farming.
"This is a game changer," Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.
"This will allow us to see the pastoral rangelands finally have a solid pathway to recovery, and help deal with some of the issues of climate change." Already, 43 WA carbon farming projects have contracted more than five million tonnes of carbon abatement via the Commonwealth Emissions Reduction Fund, which will provide $70 million over 25 years to pastoralists who manage stock in a way that regenerates the land.
A further 15 million tonnes will be sold to major greenhouse gas emitters, who need to purchase carbon offsets.
On average, each pastoralist business in the project will earn about $150,000 a year over 25 years, enabling many to again become viable after a drier climate and an encroachment of feral animals which have decimated livestock operations.
Pew Charitable Trusts WA manager Tim Nicol said current registered projects covered about nine million hectares.
He said the new carbon farming industry would be especially valuable for leaseholders in the Murchison, Gascoyne and Goldfields, where there was big areas of degraded land.
Select Carbon chief executive Dean Revell said carbon farming operations complemented pastoralists' livestock businesses, rather than replacing them.
Debbie Dowden, from Challa Station near Mt Magnet, said the money from their carbon farming project would enable her business to employ a staff member, fence off the sensitive carbon areas and perform regeneration work on the soil.