News Articles

img_1278

This Week In Biodiversity: US Interior Chief Orders Large-Scale Mitigation Strategy For Public Lands

Louisiana is suing the Army Corp of Engineers for damages to wetlands caused by levees despite environmental lawyers saying the state had insisted on the measures. On another matter, the US Department of Interior is attempting to adopt a landscape-level approach to mitigation while an Oklahoma conservation banking company aims to save the struggling lesser prairie chicken. 

Louisiana is suing the Army Corp of Engineers for damages to wetlands caused by levees despite environmental lawyers saying the state had insisted on the measures. On another matter, the US Department of Interior is attempting to adopt a landscape-level approach to mitigation while an Oklahoma conservation banking company aims to save the struggling lesser prairie chicken.

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

9 December 2013 | Greetings! This final monthly news brief of 2013 sees the year going out with a bang. We’ve got good news: US Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell has ordered development of a strategy for landscape-scale mitigation on public lands, a promising shift from the migraine-inducing piecemeal approach currently in place. Conservation trust funds saw an average return of 8.9% last year, up from 2.9% in 2011. And a massive new conservation bank portfolio aims to save the lesser prairie chicken in the US where other efforts have failed.  

 

The not-so-great news? The state of Louisiana’s announced it will sue the Army Corps of Engineers for damages caused by levee collapses in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a move that has some environmental lawyers scratching their heads, given that the state allegedly “practically bludgeoned the Corps” into building the flood control measures in the first place.

Meanwhile, a panel of MPs in the UK say that the national biodiversity offset program proposed this fall say the program is “little more than a 20-minute box-ticking exercise,” and are calling for added rigor and evaluation.


2013 has been quite a wild ride for biodiversity and wetland conservation finance – keep an eye on your inboxes for our special year-end edition of MitMail, summarizing the key developments this past year and offering our predictions for 2014.
 

Finally, for those with their thumbs in many eco-market pies, please join our sister site Valorando Naturaleza’s fourth webinar of the year on December 12th, where carbon experts will gather to discuss the most relevant and important results for Latin America from the UN Climate Change Framework Convention in Warsaw that took place at the end of November. To learn more and save your space, click here.


Cheers,

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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



EM Exclusives

Can Conservation Banking Save The Prairie Chicken?

Wayne Walker wasn’t exactly surprised when he read the report, but the numbers still hit him hard.

 

Entitled Range-Wide Population Size of the Lesser Prairie Chicken: 2012 and 2013 and written by environmental consultancy Western EcoSystems Technology, the report showed there were less than 18,000 of these small grouses this year – down from more than 34,000 last year and from numbers in the millions just a half-century ago. The birds are disappearing because their habitat is shrinking and fragmenting, which is a severe threat for a species that needs thousands of acres to thrive. Those that remain are confined to a rangeland that is between 7 and 9 million acres – about 15% of their original habitat.

 

Their numbers are plunging despite voluntary efforts to keep the bird off the endangered species list, and Walker believes it’s time to seek new solutions and is launching a massive conservation banking effort – one that will more than triple prairie chicken rangeland as it also consolidates habitat into a few sites of more than 10,000 acres each.

Get the full story at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Why is Amazon Deforestation Climbing?

The 28 percent increase in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon over last year recently reported is bad news, but it is not surprising. It is bad news because the decline in deforestation since 2005 has given us the single largest contribution to climate change mitigation on the planet, far surpassing the reductions in emissions achieved by any Annex 1 country under the Kyoto Protocol. Brazil’s achievement is particularly noteworthy because it did not come at the expense of agricultural production; beef and soybean production continued to grow. The increase in deforestation is not surprising because there are still no positive incentives flowing to the farmers and livestock growers whose collective land-use decision-making determines how much forest falls each year. There is time to correct this.

Keep reading here.


Forest, Ag Projects Can Combine Adaptation And Mitigation: CIFOR Study

Tree planting in Uganda. Mangrove restorations along the coast of Indonesia and Vietnam. REDD in the Congo Basin and Indonesia. Proponents of projects like these have long argued that they can address both adaptation and mitigation. Now they have the data to back it up, thanks to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

CIFOR decided to examine the growing interest in how adaptation and mitigation issues can be addressed in combination and look for win-win options, while also investigating concerns about the feasibility of this approach and the possible drawbacks, Bruno Locatelli, a scientist with CIRAD (Agricultural Research and Development)-CIFOR and lead author of this study, said at a side event at the COP19 UN climate negotiations in Warsaw last month.

Get the full story from Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

Jewell Orders Landscape-Scale Mitigation Strategy for Public Lands

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in November issued her first Secretarial Order, directing the Department of the Interior to develop a comprehensive compensatory mitigation framework for large infrastructure projects on public lands. Order 3330 encourages landscape-scale approaches to mitigation (as opposed to the more ad-hoc efforts of the past), more efficient permitting processes, and better transparency around mitigation. The Department’s Energy and Climate Change Task Force is tasked with making all this happen, including reviewing current mitigation frameworks and developing a strategy for harnessing mitigation banking and in-lieu fees for landscape-level conservation efforts. The Task Force is required to deliver recommendations and a timeline for implementation within 90 days of the Order.

Learn more at Lexology.
Read Order No. 3330.


MPs on UK Offset Proposal: Too Simplistic

A cross-party panel of MPs examining a proposed national biodiversity offsetting program in the United Kingdom has found the current plan “overly simplistic,” according to a study published by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in November. “The assessment process currently proposed by the government appears to be little more than a 20-minute box-ticking exercise that is simply not adequate to assess a site’s year-round biodiversity,” said EAC chairwoman Joan Walley MP. The EAC recommended strengthening offset assessment metrics, particularly including more contextual information on habitat significance, ecological connectivity, and site-specific ecosystem services. The panel also called for holding back nation-wide rollout until the country’s six pilot projects are fully implemented and evaluated by independent experts. Still, “biodiversity offsetting could improve the way our planning system accounts for the damage developments do to wildlife, if it is done well,” said Walley.

Get coverage from the BBC.
Read the EAC’s report here.


Louisiana To Sue the Corps for Hurricane Damage Costs

Can the plot get any thicker? This summer the Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East, a public entity responsible for governing the levee districts of Orleans, sued 97 oil and gas companies for damages caused by degraded coastal lands. Governor Bobby Jindal responding by sacking the levee commissioners who voted for the lawsuit, cutting all funding to the levee authority, and appointing a new member to the board who’s pushing to suspend the lawsuit.


It looks like the hostility toward the levee board suit derives from a rather surprising motive: the head of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority announced this week that the state is suing the Army Corps of Engineers instead, for $3 billion, to pay for damages caused by levee collapses along the the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. The levee board’s suit is apparently getting in the way of these plans.

 

The state has been lobbying to get the federal government to pay for these efforts for years. “I want to be clear that some allege this is a big watershed lawsuit against the corps,” said Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves. “But that’s not what this is. We tried for four years to prevent getting to this point.” Still, the suit has some environmental attorneys skeptical, given that the state “practically bludgeoned the corps” into building the flood control measures in the first place, according to Tulane environmental law professor Oliver Houck.

Get the full story here.


Conservation Trust Funds Had a Good Year in 2012

The Conservation Finance Alliance released last month its sixth edition of the Conservation Trust Investment Survey summarizing the performance of Conservation Trust Funds (CTFs) around the world in 2012. CTFs, which generally are administered as endowments or sinking funds, use investment income to fund conservation, long-term management, and sustainable livelihoods efforts. The 36 funds responding to the Conservation Trust Investment Survey (CTIS) represent 35 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean.


Overall, news was good: funds saw an average return of 8.9% on their investments in 2012, up from 2.9% in 2011. But survey responses showed over-dependence on bonds, time deposits, and money-market funds, and continued wariness of the stock market. A reallocation of assets is in order, suggests Gregory Alexander of Acacia Partners in a foreword. By investing so heavily in bonds and cash the average conservation trust is vulnerable to rising inflation and interest rates which have the potential to permanently impair the viability of an endowment. By underweighting equities so dramatically, they also are forgoing the opportunity to substantially grow the assets over time.”

Access the report here.


Linking Biodiversity Compensation with REDD+ Finance: Can It Work?

Private sector finance for biodiversity conservation comes through two main channels these days: through compensatory actions taken under no-net-loss frameworks, and via the REDD+ carbon mechanism. Yet there has been little collaboration or talk of alignment between these efforts. A new paper from Code REDD and International Union for the Conservation of Nature Netherlands offers a framework for project-level integration of REDD+ and biodiversity compensation financing streams, and considerations for resolving probably the biggest obstacle to coordination: demonstrating additionality. The paper suggests a ‘joint additionality assessment’ and calls for field-testing of integrated financing approaches.

Read the executive summary (pdf).
Read the full report (pdf).


Translating US Farm Data Into Conservation Intelligence

A decade ago, the the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency began developing new water quality standards in the Minnesota River Basin. Local farmer Tim Gieseke asked the agency how he could contribute to meeting those goals. “The reply ‘Do more BMPs’ [Best Management Practices].” When Gieseke asked, “How many BMPs and when can I stop?,” there was no real answer. Now, Gieseke is president of Ag Resource Strategies and promoting a ‘Farm Portfolio’ model that focuses on management and outcomes and delivers hard data, which can be scaled for major watersheds or to inform corporate supply management. “In the last decade our nation’s conservation focus has shifted from on-farm needs to off-farm impacts. This seemingly simple shift has added a lot of complications for farmers, agricultural professionals and the traditional conservation delivery system,” explained Gieseke in a recent webinar.

Read a press release on the Farm Portfolio.


Stacking Federal Conservation Payments with Environmental Markets

An issue paper from the World Resources Institute with support from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Environmental Markets considers how existing USDA conservation programs could interact with environmental markets. For example, should credits generated through public agri-environmental programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program be sold in local/regional water quality trading markets, or is that a violation of the additionality principle? To date, that question’s been resolved at the state level, but the paper’s authors argue that greater clarity is needed: “Without coordination between environmental markets and federal payments, environmental benefits may be overpriced or double-counted and result in an outcome that is neither environmentally nor socially optimal.” A few solutions are suggested: shifting to payments for benefits rather than practices, proportional payments, cost-share repayments, or bidding down federal cost-share funding.

Read the paper (pdf).


100k Hectares Enrolled in Stewardship Program in South Africa

In South Africa, the Chief Executive Officer of Kwa-Zulu Natal province, Bandile Mkhize, announced that 100,000 hectares have just been enrolled in the Biodiversity Stewardship program, which engages private and communal landowners in 30-year stewardship agreements in biodiversity-rich areas. Landowners receive technical assistance for conservation and support in developing sustainable livelihoods. The program aims to ultimate create a network of linked protected areas. Discussions are underway on enrolling another 300,000 hectares of land.

Learn more here.


Certified Forest Ecosystem Services: Treading New Ground

At the Global Landscapes Forum last month, a session led by The Gold Standard Foundation, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Fairtrade International explored the challenges of certifying ecosystem services in forested and agricultural landscapes – such as understanding landscape impacts, ensuring genuine local benefits, and finding interested buyers. The Gold Standard and FSC initiated a partnership in 2012 to develop certification for forest projects that account for a host of ecosystem services, including water and biodiversity. FSC is also working with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) to assess demand for forest ecosystem services certifications, and evaluate how certification actually affects management outcomes on the ground at pilot sites in four countries. “We know there are several potential markets, either public or private. We’re working on refining which markets are the best bets,” FSC’s Alison von Ketteler told Eco-Business.

Keep reading.


Mitigation Roundup

And finally, a few small items of interest for the mitigation bankers among us:

 


JOBS

 


Chief of Party, Forestry and Biodiversity

Tetra Tech – Monrovia, Liberia

Tetra Tech ARD, a leading international development consulting firm based in Burlington, Vermont and Washington, D.C., is currently accepting expressions of interest from qualified senior level candidates for Chief of Party on a multi-year USAID-funded forest management and biodiversity program in Liberia. The program’s overall goal is to advance the policy and practice of forest resource management and biodiversity conservation while supporting the development of livelihood alternatives with forest-dependent communities.

Learn more here.


Senior Manager for Climate and Biodiversity Finance Policy

Conservation International – Virginia, USA

The Sr. Manager for Climate and Biodiversity Finance Policy will work as part of the International Policy team and will be responsible for leading cross-institutional dialogue to develop and implement CI strategy to achieve climate and biodiversity financing policy outcomes. S/he will track all relevant financing negotiations, new and emerging financial mechanisms and funds to inform strategy, and convey relevant information back to CI staff engaged in these issues. The Sr. Manager will also be charged with developing partnerships and coalitions with like-minded organizations to develop and promote joint policy positions, provide policy advice to decision makers and support and collaborate with CI Field Programs to engage their governments on financing issues through the production of high-level policy briefs, presentations, tools and engagement in relevant on-the-ground initiatives. In addition, the Sr. Manager will lead the Biodiversity Policy team, which is responsible for developing CI’s institutional strategy, priorities and positions on the CBD, IPBES and related international fora. S/he will support regional and national programs in engaging their governments to influence these forums and achieve policy objectives.

Learn more here.


Natural Resources Specialist

USDA Forest Service – Washington, USA

The incumbent is the recognized expert, program authority and principal advisor to Forest Service Leadership for Ecosystem Services and Markets. Responsibility includes formulating national policies, objectives, and standards; developing long- and short-range plans to achieve these goals and objectives; ensuring program and technical directives are consistent with governing laws, regulations, and policy; and monitoring field implementation to ensure compliance and consistency. The work includes reviewing controversial or highly significant policy issues and recommending responsive agency positions to Forest Service leadership; and working with Forest Service and USDA leadership to ensure environmental compliance and sound management of natural resources affected by existing and/or potential future environmental conditions.

Learn more here.


EVENTS

 


Webinar: Lending for Ecological, Social, and Economic Resilience

Please join us for the next webinar in the 2013-2014 season of “Nature’s Returns: Investing in Ecosystem Services”, coordinated by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment and the Conservation Finance Network, a program Island Press. Our third featured speaker, Brad Hunter MF ’02, Business Lender at Craft 3 will continue the Ecosystem Services and Community Development mini-series by discussing how his firm strengthens economic, ecological, and familiy resilience in the Pacific Northwest through investments in local businesses and non-profits. Virtual. 12 December 2013.

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. 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

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Exclusives

Can Conservation Banking Save The Prairie Chicken?

Wayne Walker wasn’t exactly surprised when he read the report, but the numbers still hit him hard.

 

Entitled Range-Wide Population Size of the Lesser Prairie Chicken: 2012 and 2013 and written by environmental consultancy Western EcoSystems Technology, the report showed there were less than 18,000 of these small grouses this year – down from more than 34,000 last year and from numbers in the millions just a half-century ago. The birds are disappearing because their habitat is shrinking and fragmenting, which is a severe threat for a species that needs thousands of acres to thrive. Those that remain are confined to a rangeland that is between 7 and 9 million acres – about 15% of their original habitat.

 

Their numbers are plunging despite voluntary efforts to keep the bird off the endangered species list, and Walker believes it’s time to seek new solutions and is launching a massive conservation banking effort – one that will more than triple prairie chicken rangeland as it also consolidates habitat into a few sites of more than 10,000 acres each.

Get the full story at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Why is Amazon Deforestation Climbing?

The 28 percent increase in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon over last year recently reported is bad news, but it is not surprising. It is bad news because the decline in deforestation since 2005 has given us the single largest contribution to climate change mitigation on the planet, far surpassing the reductions in emissions achieved by any Annex 1 country under the Kyoto Protocol. Brazil’s achievement is particularly noteworthy because it did not come at the expense of agricultural production; beef and soybean production continued to grow. The increase in deforestation is not surprising because there are still no positive incentives flowing to the farmers and livestock growers whose collective land-use decision-making determines how much forest falls each year. There is time to correct this.

Keep reading here.


Forest, Ag Projects Can Combine Adaptation And Mitigation: CIFOR Study

Tree planting in Uganda. Mangrove restorations along the coast of Indonesia and Vietnam. REDD in the Congo Basin and Indonesia. Proponents of projects like these have long argued that they can address both adaptation and mitigation. Now they have the data to back it up, thanks to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

CIFOR decided to examine the growing interest in how adaptation and mitigation issues can be addressed in combination and look for win-win options, while also investigating concerns about the feasibility of this approach and the possible drawbacks, Bruno Locatelli, a scientist with CIRAD (Agricultural Research and Development)-CIFOR and lead author of this study, said at a side event at the COP19 UN climate negotiations in Warsaw last month.

Get the full story from Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

Additional resources

Please see our Reprint Guidelines for details on republishing our articles.