This Week In Biodiversity: A Pre-Listed Species Credit Policy Stirs Debate

The debate over voluntary conservation practices arises again as the FWS proposes a draft policy that allows landowners to earn credits for voluntarily conserving at-risk wildlife. On a separate note, a study attempts to build a protocol for natural capital accounting in Canada and a white paper looks at using performance-based approaches in the recently passed US Farm Bill.

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


22 August 2014 | This month, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a new draft policy on building a crediting system that would protect threatened wildlife that hasn’t yet been listed as endangered. The policy, which is part of the Service’s Candidate Conservation program, seeks to incentivize landowners into early conservation.

“The adage
‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is appropriate here,” says the FWS’ Chief of Public Affairs, Gavin Shire. “This policy is one more tool that can be used in conjunction with the others to help prevent species decline.” Under the proposal, any landowning entity individuals, companies, government agencies, etc. can earn credits by practicing conservation that benefits an unlisted species.

But while early conservation isn’t disputed as a sure way to preserve a species, is some skepticism out there regarding voluntary measures. We cover the debate here. A public comment period on the draft policy is open until September 20, 2014.

In other news this month, environmentalists are not happy about evidence that a mining company successfully haggled down its mitigation costs by one-fourth, and Canada takes a crack at accounting for its natural capital values.

We also have two pieces on results-based finance: one looking back at the evolution of efforts to link payment to performance, and a blog post that considers how to refocus Farm Bill conservation subsidies on outcomes.

Happy reading,

The Ecosystem Marketplace Team


If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at [email protected].

EM Exclusives

Should landowners earn biodiversity offsets for conserving a species’ habitat before it becomes endangered?

A new draft policy issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service grants credits to all types of landowners for practicing conservation for wildlife not yet listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The credits generated can be redeemed or traded only after the species becomes listed, which is already leading certain parties to question the effectiveness of the conservation being practiced.

Get coverage from Ecosystem Marketplace.


Results-based finance: breakthrough or backslide?

Everyone loves “results-based finance at least in the abstract because everyone likes to get what they paid for. Quantifying those results and packaging them for buyers, however, has proven elusive once you get beyond payments for ecosystem services. Here, Ecosystem Marketplace takes a look back on the evolution of results-based finance.

Read more.


Wrestling with orangutans: the genesis of the Rimba-Raya REDD Project

In 2007, businessman Todd Lemons had a hunch that anthropologist Birute Galdikas could help him rewrite the rules of conservation finance and save the Seruyan Forest. He followed that hunch to Borneo, where the two embarked on a five-year ordeal that would take them from the swamps of Kalimantan to the pinnacles of Indonesian society.

Read the latest in our series on palm oil versus the peatland forest.


Crossroads in climate negotiations when adaptation and mitigation meet in Bonn and Lima

While the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change hasn’t yet considered identifying linkages between adaptation and mitigation, several Parties agreed over its importance at last month’s climate conference in Bonn. The topic is likely to come up again during upcoming sessions in Bonn and at COP20 in Lima.

Learn more.

Mitigation News

Expansion of saltwater mitigation bank leaves opponents with bitter taste

The controversial salt marsh mitigation bank in the Savannah River Basin in South Carolina may double in size. The bank would be 840 acres in all, with 350 of those acres converted from freshwater wetlands to salt marshes. The area is adjacent to a wildlife refuge and initially caused a stir because freshwater wetlands, which act as vital habitat for birds and other wildlife, are becoming increasingly rare whereas salt marshes aren’t. Conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the bank’s construction but the case was dismissed because salt was already found within the area.

Meanwhile, S.C.’s Department of Natural Resources is claiming the Army Corp of Engineers’ alterations to a pipe allowed saltwater to infiltrate freshwater areas within the Savannah River Basin. The Corp’s Savannah District argues this isn’t true, and that it was authorized to carry out urgent work that protected property from being flooded.

Get the full story on the bank expansion.
Read about the debate between the SC DNR and the Corps.


Critics allege Australian mining co. ‘bargained down’ its offset requirements

Australian government officials are on the defensive after documents surfaced revealing that a mining company was able to bargain down its biodiversity compensation obligations. Initially, the Labor government required that GVK Hancock secure AUD$800,000 (USD$744,000) in biodiversity offsets to mitigate for impacts from a proposed coal terminal. But after GVK Hancock came back with a counter-offer of $375,000, the two settled on $600,000. “The offsets package is meant to be a measure of last resort if it’s not possible to avoid damage. The quantum of that should be determined by the environmental impact, you shouldn’t be able to haggle the amount down,” Greenpeace campaigner Adam Walter tells the Guardian. A Department of the Environment spokeswoman says that the opportunity to comment on offset requirements is standard procedure.

“Consistent with…legal requirements, Hancock was provided with the opportunity to comment on the proposed decision, conditions, and financial contribution before a final decision,” she said.

Read more from the Guardian.


World wakes up to wetland values

After discovering that wetlands act as buffers against flooding and hurricanes as well as act as huge carbon sinks, there is a newfound urgency to repair and maintain the world’s wetlands. Communities around the globe are looking for restoration techniques and ways to stem the ongoing loss. And several communities are delivering on innovative projects. In the Delaware Bay, for instance, a local non-profit is building a “living shoreline” with oyster shells and marine limestone which will protect the Bay’s marshes from erosion.

Read more at Yale 360.


Natcap accounting arrives in Canada, courtesy of Ducks Unlimited

Accounting for natural capital just got easier in Canada. The conservation organization Ducks Unlimited Canada published a report last month that measures the monetary and well-being value of the nation’s natural lands. The study is the first of its kind in Canada that establishes protocols for valuing natural assets like wetlands. The study also shows NGOs, governments and companies how to incorporate natural capital into their balance sheets.

Read more here.


Mit banking roundup

It’s been a busy month in the mitigation and conservation banking world. Here’s our roundup of news blasts:

In Minnesota, the St. Louis County Board approved the Sax-Zim land exchange, removing another hurdle for Ecosystem Investment Partner’s 21,000+ acre venture – which will be the largest private wetland mitigation bank in the United States.

Mitigation Solutions USA released a second round of American Burying Beetle credits from its Muddy Boggy Conservation Bank in Oklahoma, and plans to add another 579 acres to the bank.

American Timberlands Company of Pawleys Island got approval for its 1,304-acre Carter Stilley Wetland and Stream Mitigation Bank serving South Carolina’s Horry and Georgetown Counties.

Westervelt Ecological Services’ 160-acre Colusa Basin Mitigation Bank in California issued its first set of Giant Garter snake credits.

The Doonan Creek Environmental Reserve received an AUD$970,000 (USD$902,000) offset payment from a federally funded highway project that will provide 9.3ha of new koala habitat.

Sheboygan County, WI is buying the 322-acre Amsterdam Dunes property to develop its own wetland mitigation bank.


BLM’s Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plan receives failing grade in Wyoming

Conservation for the declining Western bird, the Greater Sage-Grouse, can now be graded. A scorecard developed by six conservation organizations is rating greater sage-grouse conservation efforts across 60 million acres of public land based on specific scientific recommendations. Organizations involved in its creation include WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity. So far, the scorecard has failed the Bureau of Land Management’s field office in Lander, Wyoming, saying its sage-grouse conservation plan didn’t meet 24 management recommendations.

Learn more about the scorecard.


Efforts made to keep Gunnison Sage-Grouse off the Endangered Species list

Closely related to another candidate for Endangered Species listing, the Greater Sage-Grouse, the Gunnison Sage-Grouse is also rare and up for a possible listing this November. In the meantime, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is updating various conservation plans into one range-wide plan. The range-wide plan is intended to iron out inconsistencies in protecting the bird’s existing habitat and hopefully avoid a listing status.

The Durango Herald has the story.


Louisiana farmers lend their fields to migrating water birds

Louisiana farmers are proving themselves good neighbors. The Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative that was put into place after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has become popular among the locals. The initiative is meant to keep birds from settling in oiled areas by creating additional acres of water bird habitat by keeping water on cultivated fields longer. Research supports the program finding migrating birds did use the additional habitat on the agricultural lands. And because of its popularity, its creator the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has allocated $300,000 to continue the program.

Learn more.


New South Wales ecosystem services, biodiversity regulations in question

A review of Australia’s New South Wales’ environmental legislation is finally happening. A review panel will be addressing inadequacies in several of the state’s laws including the Native Vegetation Act 2003, Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Nature Conservation and Trust Act 2001. Among several areas of interest, the panel will be looking at ecosystem services and biodiversity protection requirements the landowners must finance themselves.

Learn more.


A new Farm Bill focus on conservation outcomes raises new challenges

The 2014 Farm Bill gives the US Department of Agriculture authority to integrate (on a limited, experimental basis) performance-based metrics for wildlife and habitat outcomes, which would reward landowners for outcomes rather than implementing practices. That could mean better return on public investment. But a shift toward an outcomes-based approach also requires careful choice of indicators, and risks placing too much responsibility on the landowner. A new blog post up at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation website considers how to actually “get what we pay for.”

Read the post here.


Live chat on natcap accounting searches for solutions to encourage investors

How can private sector investment in natural capital be scaled up? The Guardian newspaper asked that question during a live chat with several experts in the fields of ecosystem services and finance. The responses covered a lot of ground on the subject, but experts focused on the significance of recognizing natural capital as a valuable concept to invest in and the necessary tools and mechanisms needed to scale up investments.

Read the chat transcript at the Guardian.


Finding the value in restoration for coastal communities

While there is strong evidence that natural infrastructure protects coastal communities from extreme weather, evaluating the economic benefits of ecological restoration projects at the local level remains difficult. But new studies that identify the hefty financial increase in storm damage costs from wetlands loss (one acre of wetland lost results in a $13,360 jump in flood damages), as well as specific data on investments in restoration, might help change that.

Read more at The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science blog.


16th Annual BIOECON Conference: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability

The BIOECON Partners are pleased to announce the Sixteenth Annual International BIOECON conference on the theme of “Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability”. The conference will be held once again on the premises of Kings College Cambridge, England. The conference will be of interest to both researchers and policy makers working on issues broadly in the area of biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable development and natural capital, in both developed and developing countries. 21-23 September 2014. Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Learn more here.


Biodiversity and Food Security From Trade-offs to Synergies

This conference is the third in a series, organized by the French CNRS Institut Ecologie et Environnement (InEE) and the German Leibniz Association (WGL). The conference is based on invited keynotes and contributed posters for any of the topics relevant to the conference theme. Keynote speakers are now confirmed, including Professor José Sarukhí¡n, UNAM, México, and Professor Jacqueline McGlade, UNEP, Nairobi. Biodiversity at all levels, including the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems, is lost at alarming rates. Critical factors for these trends are habitat destruction, global warming and the uncontrolled spread of alien species. Pollution, nitrogen deposition and shifts in precipitation further affect biodiversity. Food security faces significant challenges due to population growth, poverty, globalization, climate change and other factors. Supplying healthy food to all citizens is crucial for global development – to reach it, not only food production but also equitable access to food for all people must be improved substantially. Biodiversity loss and global food security are hence two major challenges of our time. Linking biodiversity and food security issues from a research perspective, and seeking synergies between them is likely to generate multiple benefits for social, ecological and economic development. 29-31 October 2014. Aix-en-Provence, France.

Learn more here.


ACES 2014 Conference: Linking Science, Practice, and Decision Making

ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services represents a dynamic and growing assembly of professionals, researchers, and policy makers involved with ecosystem services. The ACES 2014 Conference brings together this community in partnership with Ecosystem Markets and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP), providing an open forum to share experiences, methods, and tools, for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. The focus of the conference is to link science, practice, and sustainable decision making by bringing together the ecosystem services community from around the United States and the globe. ACES 2014 will bring together leaders in government, NGOs, academia, Native American communities, and the private sector to advance the use of ecosystem services science and practice in conservation, restoration, resource management, and development decisions. We hope you will make plans to join more than 500 ecosystem service stakeholders in this collaborative discussion to advance use of an ecosystem services framework for natural resource management and policy. 8-11 December 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.


Ecosystem Services Specialist

The Willamette Partnership – Portland OR, USA

The Willamette Partnership works to increase the pace, expand the scope, and improve the effectiveness of conservation. We believe that measuring, tracking, and communicating the results of conservation investments can spark an exciting leap in conservation outcomes. Our success depends on working with partners with roots in place and community, and on our ability to connect good ideas, good people, and good solutions.

The Partnership is seeking to expand our team of policy and technical specialists that conduct research, analysis, and writing to support the ongoing work of the Willamette Partnership. Our specialists collaborate with project managers in developing the policy, science, and tools necessary to build and operate ecosystem markets and conservation incentive programs for water and biodiversity.

This position is expected to contribute to new and ongoing projects that may include:

  • Developing a set of national best practices for water quality trading;
  • Designing policy and technical tools for quantifying, tracking, and communicating changes in water quality and habitat; and
  • Operation of existing environmental markets.

Learn more here.


Sustainable Fisheries Initiative Program Assistant

Wild Salmon Center – Portland OR, USA

The Program Assistant is a nonexempt full-time regular position, eligible for organizational benefits. S/he is responsible for providing Russian-language program support for WSC’s Sustainable Fisheries Initiative (SFI). This program is using innovative market-based approaches to support salmon conservation and sustainable fisheries in the Russian Far East and across the Pacific Rim.

The ideal candidate will be independent and resourceful and will have real world experience working or living in Russia. Understanding the challenges and opportunities of working in the Russian Federation is a key to success in this position. The candidate should also have the ability to multitask, and have strong project management and Russian language skills. A background in international fisheries issues such as experience working as a fisheries observer or within the seafood industry and market incentives such as third party certification will be considered a valuable plus.

Learn more here.

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