California Law Aims to Buck a Downward Trend in Conservation Banking
California has long been an epicenter of conservation banking and an incubator for the model nationwide. Yet seemingly fewer banks have been proposed and established in recent years. This month, California Agriculture Magazine featured a study by professors from the University of California-Davis. The authors noted this declining trend, and wondered how existing banks fitted into the State’s wider large-scale conservation planning framework.
The study, built on interviews with bankers and regulatory agencies, found evidence of rampant confusion and delays around developing banking proposals on the one side, and unclear rules for making decisions about things like site selections, credit allocation or ecology on site on the other. Delays in getting banks approved have stretched up to seven years.
Last week, the state took a step towards rectifying that, with the passage of Senate Bill 1148. The new legislation provides clear procedures for evaluating and approving proposed Conservation Banks. But it stops short of actual conservation banking Standards – which some feel would better ensure conservation outcomes and allow the prioritization of areas and site to meaningfully assist in site selection.
– Keep reading at the Eko-Eco blog.
Carbon Project Saves Indonesian Biodiversity Reserve
Two years ago, Indonesia’s Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve was on the rocks after the country’s Ministry of Forestry turned more than half of its 80,000 hectares over to palm oil interests – an act that prevented it from becoming the first carbon project to generate credits under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for saving endangered rainforest and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). By the end of last year, however, the project had been saved – reportedly after intervention by powerful forest friends like Singapore-based businessman Rusmin Widjaja, Central Kalimantan Governor A. Teras Narang, and several green-minded wives of high-ranking officials. Now, the 30-year Rimba Raya project has generated just under 2.2 million Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) in the year ending July 2010, which will be sold to fund ongoing protection of endangered orangutan habitat in the 64,000-hectare reserve.
– Learn more at Ecosystem Marketplace.
EPA Retrospective Veto of a Corps Permit – Bad News or No Biggie?
Last month the DC Circuit Court upheld the US EPA’s jurisdictional authority to retrospectively veto a US Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”) 404 permit to fill waters covered by the Clean Water Act. In simpler terms – the Corps gave their approval for a mining company to discharge into streams around their proposed mining operations and issued the required 404 permit. But the EPA ended up concluding that, actually, the adverse effects were just too great and their permit should be revoked.
Without diving into the details, many mitigation banking would see this development to potentially bring even more uncertainty to an already complex and risk-heavy business. And could it be the first in a potential wave of other permits potentially revoked? Will they be vetoing more future permits now, too? If the EPA can indeed revoke a permit after it has been issued, that takes away some of the certainty – and benefit – of the 404 Permit.
But leaders in the mitigation banking industry – while not underestimating the potential importance of this decision – aren’t panicking, and indeed the decision can be seen as proof of the regulatory oversight that gives the system its strengths.
– Read the opinion piece at Eko-Eco.
New White House Water Guidance Includes Ecosystem Services Approach
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) just wrapped up the commenting period on the proposed new guidelines for evaluating federal water resources investments. The Principles and Requirements for Federal Investments in Water Resources are meant to instruct federal water and land related investments in projects ensuring that the agencies’ actions contribute to economic development while preserving the environment. The updated version includes an ecosystem services approach to the evaluation process. Previous guidelines focused almost exclusively on economic factors. The report argues that measuring water resources investments purely on economic gains no longer reflects national needs and the integrated ecosystem services approach will lead to more socially beneficial investments.
– Keep reading here.
Natural Capital Declaration Lays Out Ambitious Roadmap to 2020
Last week, the Natural Capital Declaration (NCD) announced the release of the Natural Capital Declaration Roadmap whereby signatory financial institutions will move on to implementing commitments laid out in the NCD. NCD seeks to enhance the understanding of financially-material natural capital risks for different asset classes, while actively promoting the development of financial products that incorporate natural capital considerations. Since the launch, the NCD has been endorsed by 41 CEOs of financial institutions.
The roadmap sets out four ambitious commitments, all ultimately aiming at a global standard for business for natural capital accounting and reporting by 2020:
- 1. Understanding the impacts and dependencies of financial institutions on natural capital (directly and through customers) which can translate into material risks or opportunities;
- 2. Embedding natural capital considerations in financial products and services;
- 3. Achieving a global consensus for the integration of natural capital in private sector accounting and decision-making; and
- 4. Achieving a global consensus on integrated reporting and disclosure.
– Read a press release.
– Download the roadmap.
New Colombian Law Drives PES Payments to Landowners
New payment for ecosystem services (PES) regulations established by Colombia’s Ministry of Environment on May 17th authorize payments to individuals who own land in key areas for watershed protection, based on the opportunity cost of seizing to grow crops or using the land for grazing. The money for these payments will come from municipal and departmental entities, which have to spend at least 1% of their income in acquisition of land for water conservation purposes or PES. In order to avoid irregular spending and corruption, environmental agencies must identify eligible PES areas before stewardship agreements are put in place. However, private landowners are still not entirely satisfied with the new regulation because there is ambiguity on the potential for future expropriation by municipal and departmental agencies.
– Read the regulation here (in Spanish).
UK PES Action Plan: Rubber Hits the Road
The UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) announced in May an action plan to support payments for ecosystem services (PES) mechanisms, building on earlier work identifying the nation’s natural capital wealth and risks. Now Defra’s identified key steps for the next few years, like capacity building and continuing funding for pilots and research, disseminating best practices, and specific opportunities for impact. The latter, which are discussed in detail, include green infrastructure approaches to wastewater treatment or flood risk management, more incentive-based agri-environmental payments and leverage private finance, and a peatland carbon code. Another item that caught our eye: the UK Law Commission in March launched a consultation on “conservation covenants” which would essentially function like easements in the United States, and enable greater certainty around long-term protection.
– Learn more and access the report.
$3.1 Million for Species Protection on Private Lands in Australia
An AUD $3.3 million (USD $3.1 million) dollar conservation fund for conserving biodiversity on private lands will be launched in Australia in an area of Tasmania. The Fund will compensate farmers’ long term efforts to save the spotted-tail quoll, among other threatened species. Landowners who take up stewardship agreements are paid an annual fee for putting an agreed portion of their land under conservation management for a minimum period of 10 years. The fund has a AUD $10 million capital target by 2020, and could extend to the Australian mainland. At the moment, there are 3000 hectares signed up, but the goal is to preserve in the long term up to 64,000 hectares.
– Read more here.
An Extra Helping of ES in Your ESIA
The World Resources Institute (WRI) is working with environmental & social impact assessment ( ESIA) practitioners these days on a methodology, the Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment, which helps practitioners apply the concept of ecosystem services to the ESIA process. Later this year, an overview of the method will be published on WRI’s website. Traditional ESIAs assess environmental and social impacts separately or with limited interdisciplinary analysis. However, an ecosystem service approach to ESIAs would allow environmental and social practitioners to have a common focus and language and demonstrate that environmental and social impacts are inextricably linked.
– Read an update from WRI.
Country Study? There’s a TEEB Manual for That
The latest offering from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative, Guidance Manual for TEEB Country Studies, was released in late May by by UNEP and its partners at the Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity. The manual walks users through conducting a TEEB country study: taking an inventory of policy, conducting ecosystem services valuations, and then acting on findings and communicating them effectively. It’s peppered with examples and best practices, and provides extensive references for further reading and guidance. The TEEB initiative will formally endorse “TEEB Country Studies” meeting certain criteria outlined in the guide. The authors also note that they’re eager to hear feedback from those who’ve used the manual, to inform future editions.
– Learn more and download the manual here.
Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees, But Mangroves a Different Story?
A mangrove restoration project north of Mombasa, Kenya is enjoying the fruits of its labor, according to an article from the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The Dabaso Creek Conservation Group’s efforts to replant mangroves faced a rocky start,including skepticism in the community and problems with the plantings initially chosen. But ten years on, it’s generating about about $3,600 a year in eco-tourism revenues and fisheries production, and benefits to local livelihoods including new income opportunities. Meanwhile, a Plan Vivo-certified project in a nearby mangrove forest will generate about $15,000 each year for the community via the sale of carbon credits through the REDD mechanism.
– Read more here.
OECD Thinks Big on Biodiversity Finance
If business as usual continues, another 10% loss in biodiversity is expected from 2010-2050 – so what do we do? The OECD’s new offering, a review of financing mechanisms for biodiversity conservation, sounds out some options. Chapters on environmental fiscal reform, payments for ecosystem services, biodiversity offsets, markets for green products, and integrating biodiversity concerns into climate change funding or international development finance consider each financing tool in turn, in terms of potential for ‘scaling up’, design and implementation issues. Ultimately, the question of “most scalable” is left to readers; the report notes that information on finance mobilization performance remains too spotty, and that local context and capacity matter most for any financing tool.
– Read “Scaling-up Finance Mechanisms for Biodiversity” here.
The Mitigation Roundup
A few bits and pieces from the mitigation and conservation banking world, found around the web:
- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved the purchase of 3,000 acres of lesser prairie-chicken habitat in the Texas panhandle, thanks to a $400,000 donation from oil and gas company Concho, federal funds, and support from The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy.
- Ecosystem Investment Partners in late March acquired 1,095 acres in Florida’s Upper Coastal watershed for the development of “Old Florida” cypress stands, pine savanna prairie, and emergent marsh mix mitigation credits.
- Meanwhile, two new bank proposals in Monroe and Marathon Counties, WI are in the public comment period.
- We also have a rare (quasi-) credit price sighting in Ohio, where the Great Miami Mitigation Bank reports that through the sale of nine acres of wetland credits it’s generated $560,000 for its developer, a regional public parks system, since January 2012.
- And finally, we’re intrigued by news that Rice University, Ecosystem Investment Partners, and the National Parks Conservation Association are working on a new market platform for ecosystem services credits on the Texas coast. We’ll keep our ears out for more information.
Water Initiative Program Assistant
Forest Trends – Washington DC, USA
The Water Initiative is seeking a well-organized, task-oriented individual to support a systematic review, re-organization, and implementation of our global outreach strategy, with the goal of leveraging work in our portfolio, our analytical toolbox, and the efforts of our partners and allies, to scale up in the impact of IWS around the world. To do this, the Initiative must be successful in harnessing limited resources to engage a range of actors, including IWS practitioners, water utility operators, local government officials, water regulators, environmental authorities, civil and environmental engineers, development banks, hydrologists, large water users in the private sector, Integrated Water Resource Management experts, and the stakeholders of these groups.
– Learn more here.
Ecosystem Services Student Intern
Colorado State Land Board – Denver CO, USA
The Colorado State Land Board has an immediate opening for an Ecosystem Services Student Intern this summer. The Intern will work between 30-40 hours per week. Starting and ending dates are flexible. This position pays $20/hour.
The Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners is a five person citizen group representing education, agriculture, local government and natural resources, plus one citizen-at-large commissioner. Appointed by the Governor and approved by the Colorado Senate, board members serve four year terms. The State Board is responsible for managing more than 3 million acres of land and 4 million acres of mineral rights that the federal government gave to Colorado to generate revenue for public education and some of the state’s institutions. The Board’s activities generate significant revenue annually primarily through agricultural leases for grazing and crop lands, mineral development and interest earned on invested funds. In recent years, the board has expanded its efforts to increase revenue through commercial development activities and leasing lands for recreational activities
The Intern will work on water, biodiversity and carbon market research. The intern will be involved in water market demand investigation for wetland and stream mitigation credits throughout Colorado using the HUC-8 watershed boundaries, collecting field data on Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat and identify potential for mitigation opportunities on state trust lands, and identify potential for carbon sequestration on state trust lands through four low-generation sources. There is the opportunity for fieldwork if the intern is interested.
– Learn more here.
The Nature Conservancy – New York NY, USA
The Conservation Coordinator will coordinate implementation of the Healthy Trees, Healthy NYC program and will assist with the implementation of the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities program in other pilot cities. The position will provide support and project management to advance the Forest Health Programs communication and outreach goals. Duties will include conducting outreach, coordinating volunteers, collecting, assembling, and analyzing various types of data and information, and assisting in the production of reports, documents, outreach materials, presentations, and other program work products.
– Learn more here.
International Congress for Conservation Biology 2013
The biennial International Congress for Conservation Biology is recognized as the most important global meeting for conservation professionals and students. The congress features a dynamic scientific program with more than 100 cutting edge symposia, workshops, posters, and focus groups; countless networking opportunities, fantastic field trips, and world-renowned speakers. The 26th ICCB takes place in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Chesapeake Bay is the world’s most productive estuary and the region is rich in cultural and historical heritage and conservation challenges and success stories. If you have questions about ICCB, including the Calls for Proposals, email John Cigliano, chair of the Local Organizing Committee. 21-25 July 2013. Baltimore MD, USA.
– Learn more here.
2nd International Conference on Biodiversity and Sustainable Energy Development
The 2nd International Conference on Biodiversity & Sustainable Energy Development provides a platform for scientists, engineers, directors of companies and students in the field of Biodiversity to meet and share their knowledge. 12-14 August 2013. Raleigh NC, USA.
– Learn more here.
5th National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER)
Join us at NCER ’13 for four days of presentations in multiple program tracks, workshops, plenary sessions, poster sessions, field trips and coffee-house discussions dedicated to current topics in ecosystem restoration. We’ll explore the roles of policy, planning, science and management in establishing goals and performance expectations for achieving successful and sustainable ecosystem restoration. 29 July – 2 August, 2013. Greater Chicago, IL, USA.
– Learn more here.
6th Annual International ESP Conference 2013
Organised by the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) and convened by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and CGIAR Research Program: Forests, Trees and Agroforestry in collaboration with the Sub Global Assessment Program coordinated by UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the UNCCD-Global Mechanism, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE), A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES), and other ESP partners. 26-30 August 2013. Bali, Indonesia.