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September 14, 2009
The Ecosystem Marketplace's Mitigation Mail Conservation and Wetland News You Can Bank On
Most of the news this month centers on rare species, from US lawsuits to list species, to US and UK conflicts between wind energy and endangered species, to news species discovered in a remote volcanic crater in Papua New Guinea -- including the world's largest rat .
Conservation and Biodiversity Banking: A Guide to Setting Up and Running Biodiversity Credit Trading Systems is now available in paperback! Lighter in weight and lighter on your wallet. Get your copy today .
Read on for the best of this month's biodiversity market stories.
The government of Ecuador has offered to avoid drilling for oil in the biodiversity-rich Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) concession of its Yasuni National Park in exchange for a carbon payment equal to just half the income the country would earn if it fired up the drills. Practitioners say it's an intriguing idea ñ but one that misses the mark.
John Reid: Teaching Ecologists the Economics of Nature
Conservationists can protect nature by demonstrating the value of ecosystem services and showing which development projects deliver the most benefits at the lowest environmental cost. John Reid's Conservation Strategy Fund is equipping environmentalists around the world with the requisite economics know-how and showing them how to communicate findings to decision-makers.
Markit Appointed Registry for Multiple Environmental Market Initiative in Mid-Atlantic United States (9/11/09)
Markit Environmental Registry, a global provider of registries for the carbon and ecosystems markets, has been appointed as the official registry for the Bay Bank's multiple environmental marketplace and conservation programs in the Chesapeake Bay region (including Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia).
The Bay Bank is being developed through a unique partnership between the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, Sustainable Solutions LLC, state and federal agencies, and a variety of environmental leaders across the US. The Bay Bank is designed to improve the overall quality of the regionís ecosystem health and function by linking farmers and woodland owners to ecosystem service markets and conservation programs. The objective of the program is to help facilitate the adoption of land management practices that enhance water quality, mitigate climate change, and preserve biodiversity in this region.
Washington State Adopts Mitigation Banking Rule (9/9/09, 9/11/09)
Water & Wastewater News -- USA
Capital Press -- USA
The state of Washington adopted its own wetland mitigation rule on September 3rd. The state's rule is consistent with and builds upon national Mitigation Banking regulations that went into effect last summer.
The rule includes provisions to "ensure mitigation bank sites comply with and support local shoreline regulations, salmon recovery efforts, surface water recovery, and watershed management plans". The rule is also sensitive to Washington's agricultural community, which has often been at odds with mitigation bankers , by including considerations for locating banks to ensure there is no adverse affect on nearby farmland.
Agriculture preservation groups Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland and the state Farm Bureau, however, believe the rule doesn't go far enough to discourage conversion of prime farmland to wetland mitigation banks. Farm Bureau director of local affairs Dan Wood was quoted in local media as saying, "It would be far better to mitigate impacts to wetland by using impact fees to pay farmers for the environmental benefits they already provide, such as water filtration, floodwater dispersal and wildlife habitat."
Florida Lining up State and Federal Endangered Species Lists (9/9/09)
Orlando Sentinel -- FL, USA
Florida is mulling over a revision to their state endangered species list to line up with the federal endangered species list. The state's program, run by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, would take all the species over on the federal list but absent from the state list and add them to the state list, which increasing the state list by 16. Then any species remaining only on the state list would be reclassified as 'threatened', as opposed to the state's current three categories of endangered, threatened, and species of special concern.
Threatened Status of Gopher Tortoise May Extend to Critters in Eastern Reach of Habitat (9/9/09)
Naples News -- FL, USA
The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced recently that it would take a year to review whether to list the eastern population of gopher tortoise as a threatened species. The western population of gopher tortoise is already listed as threatened. Extending the 'threatened' designation for the eastern population would extend the protection to the estimated 1.6 million tortoises living in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and southern South Carolina. In Florida, where the gopher tortoise has had state protection since 2007, a construction company recently spent $70,000 to relocate more than 50 tortoises just north of Orlando.
Slammed and Spammed - the US Fish and Wildlife Service Struggles with Species Listing, Backlog (9/1/09, 9/8/09)
Washington Times -- USA
Greenwire -- USA
Two recent news items show the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the agency responsible for protecting rare plants and animals under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA), getting slammed (sued to make the agency decide whether a species deserves protection) and spammed (with requests for listing species). First, let's look at slammed, in the Greenwire article.
A recent Greenwire story highlights the difficulty of dealing with 250 candidate species. The 'candidate' designation was always intended to be a temporary designation -- a waiting room of sorts, where species linger while the agency gathers information to determine whether or not to officially list the species as endangered and grant it the ensuing legal protections. But species have been languishing in candidate limbo for years or decades, even though the agency is supposed to make up its mind in a year or so. The Center for Biological Diversity has sued, saying that the government is violating the ESA by failing to make a prompt decision. In response, the FWS is going to focus on ecosystem-based listings that would address multiple species and save money. The average listing decision costs $85,000, and the cost of designating critical habitat is $515,000.
While the FWS is working on its backlog of candidate species, additional petitions have arrived, requesting to list even more species. The Washington Times highlights the non-profit WildEarth Gaurdians' requests for listing of 681 species. The requests came all in one month. An example of a normal amount of requests for listings? 27 species over the last 10 years. The FWS is flummoxed, but WildEarth Gaurdians argues that these requests are necessary to protect the species. The non-profit group sees the requests as a counterbalance to improper or mass removal of species from listing or candidate rolls. Last year, a scandal broke on a top FWS official who was "found to have violated agency policies on tampering with scientific data and improperly removing species and habitats from the endangered species list." WildEarth Gaurdians also cited the 1996 removal of 2,000 species from candidate species rolls under the Clinton administration.
Just two regional offices are handling the requests. The Denver FWS office has given the OK for further review of 29 of the 206 species that came their way. The remaining 475-species petition is still under review by the Southwest regional office of the FWS.
BBOP and UNEP-FI to Review Financial Sector's Conditions of Credit Related to Biodiversity (9/8/09)
Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP) Newsletter
Hat tip to BBOP September Newsletter
Many development and commercial banks have adopted performance standards or requirements which oblige clients to seek to avoid and minimise harm caused to biodiversity by development projects, and finally to compensate for residual impacts. The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and BBOP are collaborating to complete a systematic analysis of current practice in the financial sector with respect to the mitigation hierarchy and biodiversity offsets. The study will investigate performance requirements and offset loan conditions used by banks, particularly the Equator banks. Initial results are to be presented at the UNEP ñ FI meeting in Cape Town from 22 to 23 October.
Valuable Coral Reefs at Risk from Climate Change (9/4/09)
Cordis -- EU
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Climate Issues update released early this month highlights the economic consequence of climate change on coral reefs. "The ecosystem services from coral reefs, ranging from coastal defence to fish nurseries, are worth up to USD 170 billion [EUR 119 billion] annually," explained TEEB project leader Pavan Sukhdev. "An estimated half a billion people depend on them for livelihoods and more than a quarter of all marine fish species are dependent on coral reefs."
Offsets Blowing in the Wind in Britain (8/23/09, 8/27/09)
Times Online -- UK
New Energy Focus
Wind energy companies wishing to set up shop in Britain face stiff opposition during the planning approval process conducted at the local council level. The Times Online reports one possible compromise being proffered by the Ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: conservation banks. While the Times article reports cautious optimism to conservation banking, an article on a renewable industry news website is less optimistic. Renewable Energy Association's (REA) Gaynor Hartnell, chief policy officer with REA, sees wind energy as having a small habitat footprint, but a visual impact which could not be offset. Ms. Hartnell was quoted as saying: "The main impact of a wind farm is visual. Windmills are not invisible. People either like the look of them or they do not."
Low-Flying Rare Poultry Threatened by Wind Turbines (8/25/09, 8/26/09, 8/27/09)
Blog: Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital
Somehow I never imagined chickens soaring, much less soaring right into a lethal windmill so... what is the basis of concerns over lesser prairie chickens, greater sage-grouse, and wind energy? According to a bevy (ha!) of news stories late last month, the problem is the perfect perch that wind turbines provide for predators. Prairie chickens have learned to refrain from their mating dance around predator perches, and thus the impact of wind energy to the species. The lesser prairie chicken is a high priority for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but that could put a damper on wind energy development from the Texas panhandle north to Wyoming. One energy executive from Patrick Woodson said "We need to plan for a worst-case scenario, which would be listing."
The greater sage-grouse, which similarly abhors mating around turbines, has just gotten 'core habitat areas' designated in Wyoming and is also a candidate species for protection under the ESA. Conservation banking, anyone?
Can Biodiversity Offsets and Conservation Banking Help the British Countryside? (8/20/09)
Future Countryside.com - UK
Hat tip to BBOP September Newsletter
In this article, BBOP Director Kerry ten Kate asks whether it is possible to conserve the British countryside, biodiversity and ecosystem services even as the small island is faced with growth in house-building, renewable energy projects and other major infrastructure development. Drawing on the conclusions of the report to Defra to which she contributed, she suggests that biodiversity offsets offer one potential mechanism to balance the impacts of development activities with the conservation of biodiversity, simultaneously generating the means to pay farmers, landowners, Wildlife Trusts and others to deliver the biodiversity outcomes the country needs. She argues that existing policy, the detailed knowledge of the UK's biodiversity and familiarity with agri-environment schemes give the UK a head start. Properly conceived, biodiversity offsets could save time and money by introducing clarity to the British planning process; strengthen the protected area system and help it adapt to climate change; move beyond the present loss of biodiversity in the wider countryside through the cumulative impact of 'death by 1000 cuts'; and give individuals an economic incentive to conserve the biodiversity on their land.
The IUCN has released a 'toolkit' (a 174-page document) on determining the full value of wetlands using an integrated assessment methodology. IUCN envisions the resource being used to determine a value to use in decision-making when considering development of wetlands. The toolkit "provides a set of methods that can be used to investigate the links between biodiversity, economics and livelihoods in wetlands, and to identify and address potential conflicts of interest between conservation and development objectives."
For over 300 US endangered species, military lands are islands of protection as development of habitat marches on. The Cleantechnica blog highlighted nine threatened or endangered species protected by the US military: bald eagle, marbled murrelet, Mojave desert tortoise, California least tern, West Indian manatee, red-cockaded woodpecker, California red-legged frog, gray wolf, and the regal fritillary butterfly.
In a related article by the Associated Press, US Army base Camp Bullis, near San Antonio Texas, is enlisting the endangered golden-cheek warbler in a battle against the sprawl threatening to inhibit Army operations. The AP paints the backdrop of the situation: "Development has literally backed up against Bullis... Along some edges of Bullis, only a barbed-wire fence divides the training ground and backyard swimming pools. In the 1990s, the area was so remote that only a waist-high ranch fence kept trespassers from wandering onto a post that fires 10 million rounds of live ammunition a year." Last month, the San Antonio City Council passed an ordinance holding developers to greater scrutiny to prove that proposed development is not displacing the endangered birds into the Army base.
Brazilian Families in Para Receive Payments for Amazon Preservation in Largest Forest-Conservation Initiative in the World (8/19/09)
Brazil's Amazon Fund will begin dispersing payments to 350 families for rainforest preservation, with monthly checks started around $16 and increasing to $350 in the tenth and final year. The total funds available for this project in the state of Para are US $17 million, but this is just the start of the larger overall effort of the Amazon Fund. The Amazon Fund, started with a $1 billion commitment (from now through 2015) from Norway, allows Brazil to directly deploy international aid to their national goal of reducing deforestation by 70% by 2017.
Go Forth and Start a Biodiversity Business: IUCN's New Toolkit (7/09)
IUCN recently uploaded a 3-fer toolkit on biodiversity business: a 'lite' report with nicely laid-out case studies, a powerpoint, and an in-depth report of their analysis of biodiversity business. Read a review of the toolkit on our blog EKO-ECO.com .
Resource Environmental Solutions Gets Corporate Profile in Louisiana Media (8/30/09)
The Advocate and WBRZ News - LA, USA
Local media run the numbers on Resource Environmental Solutions, LLC: the firm has 12 banks on 12,000 acres in Texas and Louisiana, and over the last 3 or so years has "attracted $25 million from institutional investors, mainly pension funds, and generated close to $125 million in mitigation credits." The firm is branching out with an investment vehicle, Resource Conservation Fund LLC, which hopes to bring in $200 million in investments for wetland mitigation on 100,000 acres in Texas and the greater Southeast US.
Clark County is expanding its 2,900-acre Wetlands Park by an additional 112 acres. The project, located 15 minutes southeast of Las Vegas, was paid for by government agencies and developers who impacted wetlands. Developers were required to purchase an acre in the park (at $141,000/acre) for every acre of wetland damage. The Park was originally started with funds from Bureau of Land Management land sales.