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This Week In Biodiversity:
Firsts For US Wetland Banking; UK Ponders A National Offsets Program

The UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a green paper on nationwide biodiversity offsets, although the paper has met with criticism from environmental groups arguing offsets should only be used as a last resort after other options have been exhausted. In the US, a land swap in Minnesota between the government and an environmental investment firm could create the country’s largest wetland mitigation bank.

The UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a green paper on nationwide biodiversity offsets, although the paper has met with criticism from environmental groups arguing offsets should only be used as a last resort after other options have been exhausted. In the US, a land swap in Minnesota between the government and an environmental investment firm could create the country’s largest wetland mitigation bank.

This article was originally published in the MitMail newsletter. Click here to read the original.

12 September 2013 | Greetings! In the US mitigation world, we have a few big headlines this month. A land swap between Ecosystem Investment Partners and Minnesota state and county government would create the country’s largest wetland mitigation bank in St. Louis County. Pennsylvania just got its first commercial bank, while Connecticut finally has an in-lieu fee program. And Restoration Systems is getting into the conservation banking game, with a new partnership with Common Ground Capital recently announced.

Last week, the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released a green paper on using biodiversity offsets nationwide, asking for public comment. The proposal is based on two years of pilots and extensive review of offset program design, including an Ecosystem Markets Task Force recommendation noting that offsets could restore and protect 300,000 hectares in the UK over the next two decades.  

Still, the green paper’s been met with a wave of bad press. Environmental groups say that offsets could equate to a “license to trash,” and that Defra’s creating a “market ripe for abuse.” But at the less hyperbolic end of the spectrum, many of the greens’ concerns – that offsetting should be a last resort after options to avoid or minimize impacts are exhausted, and that offsets should take place as close to the original impact as possible – are widely-accepted principles of effective offsets, and discussed in Defra’s green paper. (The mitigation hierarchy itself is actually already embedded in the National Planning Policy.)

 
Defra says it’ll only move forward with offsetting if the mechanism can be shown to deliver net gains for biodiversity, streamline planning, and not put economic burdens on business. The consultation period will end on November 7th.

 

Happy reading,

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at mitmail@ecosystemmarketplace.com.



EM Exclusives

In The Colorado Delta, A Little Water Goes A Long Way

For years, scientists assumed the Colorado River delta – where a young Aldo Leopold once paddled his canoe through “a hundred green lagoons” abounding with life – was a dead ecosystem. For years, virtually no water was left for environmental health after seven US states and Mexico took their share. The Colorado, over-allocated by sixteen percent, hasn’t reached the sea in fifteen years. Nine-tenths of the original wetlands are gone. Much of the delta has become desert.


But a coalition of non-governmental organizations spanning the US-Mexico border think they can bring the delta back. “This as an ecosystem with high resiliency, and we have learned that with a little bit of water we can achieve significant restoration,” says Osvel Hinojosa, Pronatura Noroeste’s Water and Wetlands program director. Using water rights markets, recaptured wastewater, and a groundbreaking new federal deal, the Colorado River Delta Water Trust is breathing new life into an ecosystem widely assumed to be gone forever.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

UK Government Seeking Comments on Biodiversity Offsets Plan

The UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), recently released a document for public comment on how they expect to implement biodiversity offsets. This consultation paper stems from priority recommendations made in the Ecosystems Market Task Force report, Realising Nature’s Value, which was published in March 2013. Through the proposed program, net biodiversity gains are expected by providing an opportunity for farmers and landowners who create or restore wildlife habitats to sell conservation credits to developers who need to offset their environmental impacts. The current proposal builds on lessons learned from other countries and six pilot projects currently underway in England.

 

The program is being presented to the public as a means for achieving environmental goals and economic development in rural areas. So far, the proposed program has received support from industry and environmental groups although some claim that biodiversity offsets are a license to destroy wildlife. The consultation will last for nine weeks and conclude in early November.

Get the full story here.


Offsets for the Great Barrier Reef: A Double-Edged Starfish?

A $40 million conservation trust fund directed towards the Great Barrier Reef is being proposed by the Australian government to manage the negative effects of Crown of Thorns starfish and runoff from agriculture. The money for the proposed trust fund would come partly from biodiversity offsets payments, resulting from the environmental approval process for projects that adversely affect the reef under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the associated Biodiversity Offsets Policy. Projects already approved under the Act will require some AUD $185 million in offsets – so this could mean a big source of finance for the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Therein lies the worry for some: that this arrangement will result in approval decisions for development projects based on cash flow needs, and it will result in government disinvestment in conservation initiatives. There’s also some concern over lack of clarity around methods used to calculate offset requirements.

Learn more about the issue at The Conversation.


In the UK, A Biodiversity-Friendly Solar Project

A five-megawatt solar project in England, Tavells Lane Farm, has demonstrated that solar panels and biodiversity can mix well. While this farm used to be a brownfield used as a quarry-cum-landfill site, today solar panels and chamomile flowers have covered the grounds. Research by independent ecologists commissioned by Lightsource Renewable Energy, the developer of the site and the UK’s largest solar energy firm, has confirmed that leaving areas of land passive and fallow for solar farms boosts local biodiversity. Lightsource believes that the moving and turning of the ground during the installation phase, followed by five months of inactivity has created the perfect habitat for the flowers without any planting or seeding. According to this developer, solar farms can be excellent habitat in the sense that once the panels are installed, the property is for the most part. It’s a bright spot of news in an often-contentious relationship between renewable energy and wildlife protection. The full study will be released this autumn.

Read more at the Green Building Press.


Location, Location, Location

The town of Gramalote in Colombia has become one of the first examples in the world where natural ecosystems have played a central role in the town’s relocation planning process. This is a town that has been destroyed by heavy rains and mudslides three times in the last two centuries. After the 2010 mudslide, 6,000 of Gramalote’s inhabitants had to be relocated to nearby villages. Today, the new Gramalote is being designed on a site that was chosen based on the most robust models available for understanding ecosystem services in tropical and mountainous conditions, including FIESTA/WaterWorld, Costing Nature, and Tremarctos. Actual construction is expected to begin in 2014 and inhabitants will move in 2015.

Keep reading.


Textile Industry Not Happy About India’s Biodiversity Tax

The Indian central government through the Biological Diversity Act (2002) and Rule (2004) has imposed a tax on industries where they have to pay 2% amount of their annual income to the state biodiversity board. Funds will then be invested in environmental conservation activities lead by civic entities. However, industry groups and state governments are resisting the central government tax. The textile industry for example, said that the Act did not apply to them because they use ginned cotton instead of raw cotton. In the State of Madhya Pradesh, the industry minister, Kailash Vijayvargiya has asked industries not to comply until the State cabinet sings its approval. At stake is the potential for collecting Rs 5,000 per year from businesses.

Get the story from the Times of India.


Restoration Systems and Common Ground Capital Announce Partnership

Wetland and stream banking firm Restoration Systems LLC announced this month that it will partner with Edmond, Oklahoma-based Common Ground Capital LLC (CGC). The partnership sets the ground for Restoration LLC, which manages more than 50 banks around the US, to expand its activities in the conservation banking world. CGC has already begun developing Prairie Chicken conservation banks across 86,000 acres of habitat in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

 

“I’m excited about having an experienced partner in Restoration Systems to complement our valued relationships with our landowners. We are building a responsible business that implements large-scale conservation projects while delivering meaningful net benefits to the habitat and the wildlife we seek to protect, preserve or restore in the future,” said Wayne Walker, Principal of Common Ground Capital, in a press statement.We are having great success restoring prairie ecosystems in Texas and think our land management skills and financing will contribute to CGC’s efforts across Southern Plain states and beyond.” added George Howard, Restoration Systems’ Co-Founder and CEO.

Read a press release at the WSJ’s MarketWatch.


NatCap Index To Be Launched in 2014

The 2014 edition of the State of Green Business report is going to tackle a new topic: natural capital. GreenBiz and Trucost say the report will include a new Natural Capital Leaders Index. Trucost has developed a methodology allowing comparison for both direct and supply chain impacts across sectors, broken out into carbon, water, and waste impacts. The index will capture companies that have “effectively have decoupled the growth from environment impact,” says Richard Mattison, Trucost’s CEO. “In other words, while they’re growing their revenues, their environmental impact and their dependency on natural capital — and therefore their risks of that natural capital not being available, or being degraded — are minimized. So, really what we’re doing is we’re highlighting resource-efficient businesses.”

Read more at GreenBiz.


‘Mountains to Markets’ Project Aims at Biodiversity-Friendly Products in Pakistan

A new GEF/UNDP project in Pakistan, ‘Mountains and Markets’ will build both demand and capacity for biodiversity-friendly products in the country. IUCN Pakistan and the Pakistan government’s Climate Change Division inked the deal last week during the GEF Global Environmental Facility Steering Committee meeting. The project will support voluntary certification of biodiversity-friendly non-timber forest products (NTFP). Biodiversity threats in the region are exacerbated by limited opportunities for sustainable livelihoods; the projects aims to establish 50 biodiversity community enterprises and invest in collaborative forest management approaches, access to technical and financial services, and other capacity building.

Read a press release.
Learn more about the project.


Primer for Coastal Managers on the Blue Carbon

Two new tools from Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) are designed to help coastal managers assess their own “blue carbon” opportunities. A briefing document, Coastal Blue Carbon as an Incentive for Coastal Conservation, Restoration and Management: A Template for Understanding Options, explains the science, management, and market mechanisms behind blue carbon. Wetlands’ carbon sequestration capabilities can make forest carbon look like pretty small beer; but land managers may as yet be unaware of ways to capture blue carbon values. RAE is leading a technical working group developing wetland carbon protocols under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). A video on evaluating blue carbon opportunities is also available.

Download the brief (pdf).
Watch the video.


Mitigation Roundup

Some news and notes from the wetland mitigation world this month:

 

  • Pennsylvania welcomed its first-ever commercial mitigation bank recently, with the approval of Resource Environmental Solutions LLC’s Upper Susquehanna River Mitigation Bank Phase 1. The Bank covers the Upper Susquehanna River sub-basin.
  • A land swap between St. Louis County/the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Investment Partners would create the largest wetland bank in the US in St. Louis County, MN. EIP would acquire and restore 22,000 acres of drained swamplands in exchange for upland forest property – precise acreage and location TBD. The Conservation Fund is acting as a broker. The deal’s expected to be approved by the county this week.
  • There’s a new in-lieu fee program in Connecticut, with the National Audobon Society acting as a partner to the Army Corps of Engineers. Previously, only permittee-responsible mitigation has been possible in the state.

 


EVENTS

 


Third Meeting of the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity

The third meeting of the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity, organized jointly with the Canadian Business and Biodiversity Council (CBBC), will provide a platform to strengthen the engagement of business and the private sector, as well as the mainstreaming of biodiversity into sustainable development (Decision XI/22), aligning with the ongoing consultations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). The meeting’s objectives include: provide businesses and other stakeholders with concrete information and case studies related to CBD COP decisions and sector-specific issues, thereby encouraging and facilitating mainstreaming of biodiversity in their general activities; provide businesses and other stakeholders with a forum for feedback and recommendations for future CBD COPs; and strengthen the Global Partnership by bringing together national and regional initiatives. 2-3 October 2013. Montreal, Canada.

Learn more here.


10th World Wilderness Congress

WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WWC), is the most recent in what has become the longest-running, international, public conservation project. It is a two-three year process of collaboration between many groups, governments, experts in all fields, community representatives, businesses, scientists, artists and more. Clearly, wild nature is under threat all over the world, and human society needs to change if we are to solve the issues in front of us. There are also good stories to tell, ones that tell us who we are, and where we need to go. We can do it! What makes the WWC…and WILD10…different and effective? First, it is not just a “conference,” rather it is a process of collaboration aimed towards practical results for wild nature and people; using a positive, inclusive approach to problem solving; emphasizing intergenerational solutions; recognizing that culture is equally as important as good policy, effective resource management, and state-of-the-art science; and involving a great diversity of people and professions who understand the importance of wild nature to a healthy and prosperous human society — from tribal communities to heads of state, Nobel Laureates to local activists, scientists and artists, and more. When the 10th WWC actually convenes, part of it may look like a conference, but if the process works then it is much more, and the practical results and outcomes will be matched by a sense of inspiration, hope, and action. 4-10 October 2013. Salamanca, Spain.

Learn more here.


Biosymposium 2013: Biodiversity Resilience

The annual Biodiversity Institute Symposium this year will tackle the subject of Biodiversity Resilience. Factors leading to the loss of resilience in social-ecological systems are the focus of many excellent on-going research programmes and symposia. However, this two-day symposium aims to highlight the other side of the resilience research agenda – namely factors that promote and lead to resilience of biodiversity. The symposium will showcase ongoing research that examines the biotic and abiotic processes and mechanisms responsible for biodiversity resilience (ranging from genomics to landscape-scale), through to policies and management that ensure resilience of biodiversity now and in the future. 2-3 October 2013. Oxford, UK.

Learn more here.


Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development

The Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development will bring together business leaders, NGOs and policy-makers from around Southeast Asia to discuss commitments and policy recommendations to increase sustainability across seven sectors – agriculture & forestry, palm oil, consumer goods, mining, financial services, building & urban infrastructure and energy.The forum will discuss the transformational journey to the green economy and offer practical ways to accelerate business solutions and policy frameworks for a more sustainable world. 18-19 November 2013. Singapore.

Learn more here.


World Forum on Natural Capital

The inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital will be the first major global conference devoted exclusively to turning the debate on natural capital accounting into action. It will build on the enormous private sector interest shown at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012 and the many developments that have taken place since. The World Forum on Natural Capital will bring together world-class speakers, cutting edge case studies and senior decision makers from different sectors, in order to turn the debate into practical action. Lively plenaries and interactive breakout sessions in four conference streams will explore the risks and opportunities for business, allow access to the very latest developments and provide an opportunity to help shape the debate through dialogue between policymakers, business leaders and prominent experts in the field. 21-22 November 2013. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Learn more here.


2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on training and education sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users. Submit proposals for panels and presentations online by October 1st! 6-9 May 2014. Denver, Colorado.

Learn more here.


Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration

CEER is a Collaborative Effort of the leaders of the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). It will bring together ecological and ecosystem restoration scientists and practitioners to address challenges and share information about restoration projects, programs, and research from across North America. Across the continent, centuries of unsustainable activities have damaged the aquatic, marine, and terrestrial environments that underpin our economies and societies and give rise to a diversity of wildlife and plants. This conference supports SER and NCER efforts to reverse environmental degradation by renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats for the benefit of humans and nature. CEER is an interdisciplinary conference and brings together scientists, engineers, policy makers, restoration planners, partners, NGO’s and stakeholders from across the country actively involved in ecological and ecosystem restoration. Dedicated session proposals are due August 30th! 28 July – 1 August 2014. New Orleans, LA.

Learn more here.


JOBS

 


Director of Conservation

The Nature Conservancy – Alaska, USA

The Director of Conservation oversees all aspects of conservation planning, applied science, land protection and stewardship and community and partner relations for the Alaska Program of The Nature Conservancy. Provides scientific leadership and support for TNC’s conservation planning work and establishes overall conservation priorities within the context of the strategic plan for Alaska. Supplies strategy, technical and program support to Conservancy field operations. S/he serves as the principle contact to government agencies, other conservation organizations, and the academic community. Serves as a core member of the Alaska Leadership Team. The Director of Conservation also assists the State Director in representing Alaska issues in regional and global programs of The Nature Conservancy.

Learn more here.


Senior Program Officer for Climate Change Adaptation

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Washington DC, USA

World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organization, seeks a Senior Program Officer for Climate Change Adaptation. Under the supervision of the Managing Director, plans, manages, communicates and implements activities to promote climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, including providing technical support to WWF US programs and WWF field offices to conduct vulnerability assessments and guidance on mainstreaming climate change and disaster risk considerations into conservation strategies.

Learn more here.


Conservation Programs Assistant

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at mitmail@ecosystemmarketplace.com.


EM Exclusives

In The Colorado Delta, A Little Water Goes A Long Way

For years, scientists assumed the Colorado River delta – where a young Aldo Leopold once paddled his canoe through “a hundred green lagoons” abounding with life – was a dead ecosystem. For years, virtually no water was left for environmental health after seven US states and Mexico took their share. The Colorado, over-allocated by sixteen percent, hasn’t reached the sea in fifteen years. Nine-tenths of the original wetlands are gone. Much of the delta has become desert.


But a coalition of non-governmental organizations spanning the US-Mexico border think they can bring the delta back. “This as an ecosystem with high resiliency, and we have learned that with a little bit of water we can achieve significant restoration,” says Osvel Hinojosa, Pronatura Noroeste’s Water and Wetlands program director. Using water rights markets, recaptured wastewater, and a groundbreaking new federal deal, the Colorado River Delta Water Trust is breathing new life into an ecosystem widely assumed to be gone forever.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

UK Government Seeking Comments on Biodiversity Offsets Plan

The UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), recently released a document for public comment on how they expect to implement biodiversity offsets. This consultation paper stems from priority recommendations made in the Ecosystems Market Task Force report, Realising Nature’s Value, which was published in March 2013. Through the proposed program, net biodiversity gains are expected by providing an opportunity for farmers and landowners who create or restore wildlife habitats to sell conservation credits to developers who need to offset their environmental impacts. The current proposal builds on lessons learned from other countries and six pilot projects currently underway in England.

 

The program is being presented to the public as a means for achieving environmental goals and economic development in rural areas. So far, the proposed program has received support from industry and environmental groups although some claim that biodiversity offsets are a license to destroy wildlife. The consultation will last for nine weeks and conclude in early November.

Get the full story here.


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