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This Week In Biodiversity: Sorting Out Federal Policy On Mitigation

The Department of Interior seeks a department-wide strategy to mitigation while the conservation banking industry argues over a controversial plan that includes a special 4(d) rule for lesser prairie chicken conservation.  Also, Ecosystem Marketplace released a briefing offering guidance to the private sector on nature-based investments. 

The Department of Interior seeks a department-wide strategy to mitigation while the conservation banking industry argues over a controversial plan that includes a special 4(d) rule for lesser prairie chicken conservation. Also, Ecosystem Marketplace released a briefing offering guidance to the private sector on nature-based investments.

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

20 January 2014 | We ring in 2014 with some unfinished business from last year, including ironing out a department-wide mitigation strategy for the US Department of Interior. The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to play a central role in crafting this strategy, at the same time that the Service is also revising its 1981 Mitigation Policy and developing a new Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy. These efforts, which include new guidance on conservation banking, will likely support the Department’s mitigation strategy.

We’re also keeping tabs on the new inclusion of a five-state plan for protecting the lesser prairie chicken that the US Fish and Wildlife Service wants to include in a special 4(d) rule proposal.
 

The plan establishes a strategy to conserve prairie chicken habitat, employing a set of incentives-based landowner programs, along with mitigation and efforts to reduce threats. 75% of mitigation will be short term – five to ten years – while the remaining 25% will take the form of long-term conservation. That structure is a sharp departure from typical habitat mitigation, which has typically made permanent protection a core requirement. Under the plan, permanently-protected strongholds will maintain a prairie chicken population, while “moving habitat” will create satellite populations that disappear and reappear over time.


Several parts of the plan have met with opposition from practitioners inside the mitigation banking community. Common Ground Capital (CGC), a conservation banking company with a primary focus of creating landscape-level banks for prairie chickens, has argued that the relatively new concept of ‘moving’ short term conservation won’t deliver on needed results. CGC said the approach would reduce compliance costs to industry at the expense of the grouse, calling temporary mitigation (or “term” mitigation) untested and lacking in a regulatory framework. And because of the bird’s dire situation, bankers feel the prairie chicken isn’t the right species to try it out on. You can get our full coverage of the debate here.
 

Outside the US, there’s even more action. We have news items on a new £20 million (US $32.9 million) fund to generate conservation credits on private lands in the UK, the approval of habitat banking in Spain, and a biodiversity levy in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Ecosystem Marketplace is also pleased to announce that we’ve just released a new briefing developed specially for the private sector, on investments in nature-based solutions to the global water crisis. We invite you to take a look here.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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



EM Exclusives

Conservation Banking Becomes A Reality In Spain

A meeting of the Spanish Congress late last year was short but meaningful. The legislature approved a new Environmental Assessment Act and for the first time, conservation banking was included. Under Spain’s Act, the banking credits are called environmental titles. The Spanish Environment Ministry will oversee the industry approving banks and determining where these ‘titles’ will be used. The credits will then be traded in a free market with a single registry. While the Act won’t achieve total incorporation of conservation banking into Spain’s environmental policy, it provides guidance on how to develop or become involved in a conservation banking scheme. It also initiates development of new environmental rules where conservation banking can play a larger role.

Learn more.


Department of Interior Seeks A More Inclusive and Effective Mitigation Policy

The Department of Interior is attempting to establish a department-wide mitigation strategy that will protect natural resources as the US prepares for an expected rise in development projects on public lands. The new strategy aims to streamline the mitigation process with better coordination between different sectors involved. The effects of climate change will be a priority of the new approach. A focus will be on mitigation efforts that improve the resilience of our nation’s resources in the face of climate change. Other focuses of the new strategy include integration of mitigation in the planning and design phases and ensuring the durability of those measures. Transparency and consistency throughout the process are other core elements.

Keep reading.


FWS Revises Rule On Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation To Include WAFWA Plan

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is altering a special rule proposal issued in May on conserving dwindling lesser prairie chicken populations. FWS now would like to incorporate a plan that enables energy developers to practice voluntary conservation. A consortium of energy companies and NGOs in collaboration with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) created the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan (RWP) to proactively conserve chicken habitat-mitigating species loss – so a listing won’t be necessary. In return for voluntary conservation, the energy companies receive assurance that even if the chicken is listed, they won’t face additional regulations.


But the plan is facing opposition from some in the conservation banking sector, who argue that it that relies on untested methods – including heavy reliance on short-term mitigation – and will not deliver needed results.

Ecosystem Marketplace has coverage.


Wetlands Carbon Credits Could Swim Into California Market

Carbon finance could soon play a critical role in the restoration of California’s wetlands, with a coalition of stakeholders developing a methodology that would allow wetlands restoration projects in the state to generate credits for both the voluntary carbon market and California’s cap-and-trade program, if the state Air Resources Board (ARB) deems them eligible.

 

While state and federal initiatives have raised more than $100 million for wetland restoration over the past decade, funding remains insufficient to meet restoration goals of up to 100,000 acres of marsh, according to stakeholders who see potential for carbon market revenues to fill the funding gap for wetland projects in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Suisun Marsh, and California coastal areas.

Get the full story here.


2013: The Year In Biodiversity And Wetlands

A new year is upon us, but the top stories of 2013 in biodiversity and wetlands may well be the biggest headlines of 2014, as many of them remain unresolved. Ecosystem Marketplace takes a look back at the key news items we covered last year.

Brush up on the big events in 2013.


Mitigation News

IPBES Outlines Work Program

Delegates to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) agreed on an ambitious five year work program at the Platform’s second session last month in Antalya, Turkey. The “Antalya Consenus” included the decision to produce a series of assessments in the coming years: on the relationship between pollination and food production, on land degradation and links to biodiversity and ecosystem services, and on invasive species. Delegates also agreed on rules and procedures for IBPES, a framework for collaborating with UN bodies, and to establish a task force on indigenous knowledge systems. Anne Larigauderie, formerly of DIVERSITAS and the International Council for Science (ICSU), was appointed Head of the IPBES Secretariat in Bonn, Germany.

IISD has daily coverage and a summary report.


$33M to Add Biodiversity to the Ag Supply Chain in the UK

A £20 million (US $32.9 million) pot to support landowners’ creating conservation credits in the UK is looking for takers. Funds will be channeled through a partnership between AB Agri, a food supply chain organization, and offset brokers the Environment Bank. “Through the new partnership, we are aiming to create or restore 1,000 hectares of valuable wildlife habitats delivered through £20 million of new offset funding,” said AB Agri’s David Langlands. Tom Tew, Chief Executive of the Environment Bank, added, “This is an unprecedented chance to create a robust network of wildlife habitats on hundreds of farms across the UK.”

Keep reading.


Madhya Pradesh Meets Resistance on Biodiversity Benefit-Sharing Levy

The state of Madhya Pradesh in India will become the first to make use of provisions in the 2002 State Biodiversity Act that allow it to institute a benefit-sharing levy on companies using bio-resources. Firms can be levied for between 2-5 percent of turnover according to the Act. However, legal battles over what constitutes a bio-resource have already begun, with the National Green Tribunal being asked to rule on whether coal falls into this category. Proceeds from the levy would fund biodiversity management committees. Soya processors, sugar mills, distilleries, herbal medicine manufacturers, enzyme and organism users are also expected to be subject to the tax.

Read more at the Business Standard.


Chesapeake Appalachia Ordered to Spend $6.5M on Wetland and Stream Cleanup

A subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy was hit with big penalties for damages to wetlands and streams from its natural gas extraction activities. Chesapeake Appalachia will spend an estimated $6.5 million on restoration at 27 sites to compensate for unauthorized discharges of fill into local waterbodies in West Virginia, and pay a $3.2 million civil fine for Clean Water Act violations. The company will likely make use of credits from wetland mitigation banks in addition to carrying out its own mitigation actions. In December 2012, the company pleaded guilty to unauthorized discharges in another case in the area, paying a $600,000 restoration penalty.

The State Journal has the story.


Plan Vivo Rolls Out a New PES Standard

December saw Plan Vivo release an updated version of their standard for community payments for ecosystem services. The standard certifies a broad swathe of land management and livelihood projects with ecosystem and biodiversity benefits. Certified project credits can be marketed in carbon (as “Plan Vivo certificates”), watershed, or biodiversity-driven ecosystem markets.

Learn more about the standard here.


NYC Seeking Partners for a New Wetland Bank Serving the City

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) last month announced a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) for partners in developing a 68-acre site for a wetland mitigation bank on the west shore of Staten Island. The bank will support development of waterfront areas elsewhere in the city. It would also be one of the first mitigation banks in New York state. NYCEDC and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation seek a partner to assist in financing, constructing, and operating the bank. Expressions of interest are due by February 14th.

Read a press release.
Download the RFEI.


Mitigation Roundup

A few news bites on wetland and conservation banking from around the USA:

  • Michigan’s St. Clair County recently broke ground on a 27-acre site for a wetland bank, after waiting ten years to get a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
  • York City Council in South Carolina will pay $156,000 for credits to mitigate for impacts, estimated at 240 feet of stream and one acre of wetland, related to a road project. Taylor’s Creek Mitigation Bank will provide the credits.
  • Mitigation Solutions USA’s Muddy Boggy Conservation Bank in Oklahoma, supplying American Burying Beetle credits, was recently approved.
  • And a park district in Ohio is seeking permission to create the state’s first conservation bank, developing northern long-eared bat credits.

 


Thameslink Aims for Net Gain in Biodiversity Compensation in South London

A new biodiversity compensation project in the UK initiated by Network Rail’s Thameslink Programme is aiming for “net gain” from impacts. Thameslink Programme is supporting native vegetation plantings in south London, as part of a larger effort to restore the Great North Wood which historically stood in the area. The project will demonstrate new metrics for biodiversity compensation recently developed by the government. “Thameslink is the first Network Rail project to set a ‘net gain’ target for biodiversity and, by doing so, we hope to set a precedent not just for rail projects but for all construction projects,” said Amelia Woodley, Environment Manager for Thameslink. “To achieve a net gain we are committed to following the mitigation hierarchy of avoidance, mitigation and then compensation as last resort.” Biodiversity offsets have been recently hammered in the press in the UK over fears of their leading to loss of habitat.

Learn more about the Thameslink project.


Here Comes Big Data

A new partnership between Conservation International and Hewlett Packard is designed to collate and crunch a vast network of ecological data on tropical forests. The HP Earth Insights program will link multiple datasets and support a new ‘Wildlife Picture Index’ of tropical forest biodiversity. “Previously, most indices of biodiversity were based on data from scientific literature, which has a long lag time from collection to publication,” writes Peter Seligmann, CEO of Conservation International, in a piece up at HuffPo. “This meant that policymakers were making decisions based on information that was often five years old. Big data and information technology will help us change that.”

Read Seligmann’s post here.


NatCap Recap

The Guardian has a summary of a recent live chat on natural capital valuation. Conversation ran from the potential downsides of valuation, to defining natural capital and getting businesses on board. Participants from universities, the IUCN, and companies like SABMiller and PwC all weighed in.

Get the recap or read the full transcript.


EVENTS

 


Conservation Banking Roundtable

The U.S. Water Alliance’s Business Advisory Council will host a conservation banking roundtable, Mitigating Impacts to Water Resources and Species Habitat: Evolving Standards and New Trends, on March 24, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to discuss recent developments and explore new opportunities to mitigate impacts to improve the overall health of water resources and species habitat after permittees have avoided and minimized project impacts. The roundtable will be a full day event and convene local and national leaders from utilities, academics, regulators, nonprofits, and extractive industries, such as mining, oil and gas, and others, with a strong draw from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. 24 March 2014. Pittsburgh, PA. Attendance is by invitation only, but if interested in participating please contact Hope Hurley at hhurley@uswateralliance.org.

Learn more here.


2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

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. 6-9 May 2014. Denver, Colorado.

Learn more here.


To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond

This gathering will be the first global conference on approaches to avoid, minimise, restore, and offset biodiversity loss. It will bring together experts and professionals from business, governments, financial institutions, NGOs, civil society and research, and intergovernmental institutions with an interst in demonstrating no net loss and preferably a net gain of biodiversity. Sponsored by BBOP, Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Society of London and Forest Trends. London, UK. 13-14 June 2014.

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. 28 July – 1 August 2014. New Orleans, LA.

Learn more here.


JOBS

 


Kinship Conservation Fellow

Kinship Conservation Fellows – Bellingham WA, USA

Kinship Conservation Fellows is a ground-breaking environmental leadership program that emphasizes market-based solutions to environmental problems. Kinship’s dynamic global network of 174 Fellows in 46 countries and 6 continents is collaborative, entrepreneurial, and dedicated to effective conservation. Applications for the 2014 Program will be open until January 27, 2014.

Learn more here.


Project Manager, Agriculture and Biodiversity

African Wildlife Foundation – Mbeya, Tanzania

AWF is currently seeking a talented individual who will be responsible for managing AWF’s project in the Mbeya region of Southern Tanzania integrating Sustainable Agricultural Development with Biodiversity Conservation. Reporting to AWF’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), the Project Manager will manage all aspects and implement parts of AWF’s three-year program in Southern Tanzania, including overseeing the work portfolio, and ensuring the successful and timely completion of the project.

Learn more here.


Post-Doctoral Fellow

CIFOR – Bogor, Indonesia

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is a nonprofit, global facility dedicated to advancing human well-being, environmental conservation and equity by conducting research to help shape effective policy, improve the management of tropical forests and address the needs and perspectives of people who depend on forests for their livelihoods. CIFOR is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. Our headquarters are in Bogor, Indonesia, with offices in Asia, Africa and South America. CIFOR is looking for Post-Doctoral Fellow: Impact of Sustainable Intensification on Landscapes and Livelihoods.

Learn more here.


Environment Program Officer

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Exclusives

Conservation Banking Becomes A Reality In Spain

A meeting of the Spanish Congress late last year was short but meaningful. The legislature approved a new Environmental Assessment Act and for the first time, conservation banking was included. Under Spain’s Act, the banking credits are called environmental titles. The Spanish Environment Ministry will oversee the industry approving banks and determining where these ‘titles’ will be used. The credits will then be traded in a free market with a single registry. While the Act won’t achieve total incorporation of conservation banking into Spain’s environmental policy, it provides guidance on how to develop or become involved in a conservation banking scheme. It also initiates development of new environmental rules where conservation banking can play a larger role.

Learn more.


Department of Interior Seeks A More Inclusive and Effective Mitigation Policy

The Department of Interior is attempting to establish a department-wide mitigation strategy that will protect natural resources as the US prepares for an expected rise in development projects on public lands. The new strategy aims to streamline the mitigation process with better coordination between different sectors involved. The effects of climate change will be a priority of the new approach. A focus will be on mitigation efforts that improve the resilience of our nation’s resources in the face of climate change. Other focuses of the new strategy include integration of mitigation in the planning and design phases and ensuring the durability of those measures. Transparency and consistency throughout the process are other core elements.

Keep reading.


FWS Revises Rule On Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation To Include WAFWA Plan

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is altering a special rule proposal issued in May on conserving dwindling lesser prairie chicken populations. FWS now would like to incorporate a plan that enables energy developers to practice voluntary conservation. A consortium of energy companies and NGOs in collaboration with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) created the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan (RWP) to proactively conserve chicken habitat-mitigating species loss – so a listing won’t be necessary. In return for voluntary conservation, the energy companies receive assurance that even if the chicken is listed, they won’t face additional regulations.


But the plan is facing opposition from some in the conservation banking sector, who argue that it that relies on untested methods – including heavy reliance on short-term mitigation – and will not deliver needed results.

Ecosystem Marketplace has coverage.


Wetlands Carbon Credits Could Swim Into California Market

Carbon finance could soon play a critical role in the restoration of California’s wetlands, with a coalition of stakeholders developing a methodology that would allow wetlands restoration projects in the state to generate credits for both the voluntary carbon market and California’s cap-and-trade program, if the state Air Resources Board (ARB) deems them eligible.

 

While state and federal initiatives have raised more than $100 million for wetland restoration over the past decade, funding remains insufficient to meet restoration goals of up to 100,000 acres of marsh, according to stakeholders who see potential for carbon market revenues to fill the funding gap for wetland projects in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Suisun Marsh, and California coastal areas.

Get the full story here.


2013: The Year In Biodiversity And Wetlands

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