News Articles

This Week in Biodiversity: EU Deletes Biodiversity from Agriculture Policy Reforms

To kick off the new year, we’re bringing you the results of our reader poll as well as news from all around the world of biodiversity.  This month’s Mit Mail brings some good news, some bad news and some stories that are still breaking.

NOTE: This article has been reprinted from Ecosystem Marketplace’s Mitigation Mail newsletter. You can receive this summary of global news and views from the world of biodiversity automatically in your inbox here.

23 January 2012 | The readers have spoken!
 
To kick off the new year, we’re bringing you the results of our reader poll on the biggest success stories in biodiversity and wetland markets from 2011. IPBES was the clear winner, with the Willamette Partnership’s new crediting platform and new Clean Water Act guidance rounding out the top three. Thanks to all who responded. WIthout further ado:

This month’s Mitmail brings some good news (Namibia’s smart efforts to balance conservation and development), some bad news (we’re looking at you, EU agricultural policymakers) and some stories that are still breaking (a critical Supreme Court decision on Clean Water Act enforcement, and Ecuador’s Yasuní­ National Park staying drill free – at least for now). We’ll keep you updated on new developments in the coming months.
 
We’d also like to direct your attention to a few new resources from our sister program the Katoomba Group: a booklet for policymakers to assess legal and institutional readiness for payments for ecosystem services (PES), and an online contract clauses library providing examples of PES contracts. Find them in the ‘Latest News’ section.
 
And don’t forget to check out our job listings – there are lots of great positions posted this month.
 
Read on for the latest news in biodiversity and wetland markets!
 
 —The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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

News

Survey Finds High Expectations for Stacking

 

Paying land managers for all the services generated by an ecosystem – instead of just one, like carbon or water quality – should in theory encourage more ecologically valuable conservation projects. It’s an alluring concept that’s proven elusive in practice, but nearly three-quarters of ecosystem market participants expected that to change, according to a new survey published earlier this week.

 

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently surveyed more than 300 ecosystem market policy-makers, researchers, and credit sellers, and published the results in a new report that has some surprising results.

Read more here.

Can Namibia Balance Mining and Nature?

In the face of a massive mining rush for uranium, the Nambian government has placed a temporary moratorium on new mining licenses until a Strategic Environmental Assessment (the Uranium-SEA) is completed – by all accounts, the first SEA in the world to be conducted for a mineral province.

 

Biodiversity considerations were included in the Uranium-SEA primarily through an expert mapping process that identified preliminary areas of high biodiversity value. However, to validate and refine these areas and to provide a spatial decision-support tool, a Landscape-level Assessment (LLA) is being carried out to better illustrate trade-offs, identify critical biodiversity areas, and examine whether biodiversity offsets are appropriate. It’s a promising model for governments looking to make sound decisions on economic development while protecting ecological values and people’s livelihoods.

Learn more here.

Assessing Legal and Institutional Readiness for PES

The success of payments for ecosystem services (PES) depends in large part on the legal and institutional framework in a particular place. As yet, however, there are few resources for understanding legal and institutional “readiness” for PES. A new booklet from the Katoomba Group, Laying the Foundation: An Analytical Tool for Assessing Legal and Institutional Readiness for PES, attempts to address this gap by outlining a framework for assessing PES legal and institutional readiness in a particular jurisdiction. It identifies threshold conditions for PES, essential aspects to be developed in parallel with PES transactions, and legal and institutional elements that can facilitate greater efficacy and efficiency.

Read the booklet here.

Supreme Court to Rule on EPA Water Policy case

The US Environmental Protection Agency has long responded to violations of the Clean Water Act by issuing administrative compliance orders, which can’t be challenged in court until the EPA initiates enforcement actions. An Idaho couple says that’s not fair, and their challenge has gone all the way to the Supreme Court. Sackett v. EPA will likely have ramifications for wetlands protection across the United States. At issue isn’t whether the Sackett’s property is or is not a wetland, but how the EPA responds to what it percieves as damage to wetlands – and at press time, the unofficial consensus seems to be that EPA’s not going to win this one.

Get the full story at Ecosystem Marketplace.


New PES Contract Clauses Library Launches

As private and public payments for ecosystem services (PES) transactions gain wider acceptance as a tool for addressing ecosystem degradation and loss, guidance around negotiating and drafting PES agreements becomes increasingly important. In general, drafting a contract consists of adapting and modifying an existing contract, rather than beginning from scratch. Few examples exist, however, of payments for ecosystem services (PES) contracts.

With the support of UNDP South Africa, the Katoomba Group’s Legal Initiative has put together an online Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) Contract Clauses Library to help address this gap. This web-based resource provides background information about PES contracting and the structure of a PES agreement, as well as basic information about 20 different types of clauses that are likely to be used in these contracts, and 33 example clauses.

Visit the PES Contract Clauses Library here.

Ensuring Mitigation by Insuring Banks

Mitigation bankers are on the hook financially for projects that fail to deliver the promised environmental benefits, but the systems that cover financial assurance not only tie up cash but fail to generate payments that benefit the environment. A new insurance mechanism may prove both more cost-effective and greener.

 

Bob Spoth, the President of Ecosystem Insurance Associates, has developed an insurance product that could function as financial assurance for mitigation bankers in case a Section 404b Clean Water project fails to deliver the promised mitigation credits. His firm has now been selling this insurance product to mitigation bankers for six months—and trying to gain approval for it as a form of financial assurance in individual districts across the country.

Read more here.

2011: The Year in Biodiversity and Wetlands

The first year of the United Nations Decade of Biodiversity was a busy one for Ecosystem Marketplace—including the launch of the Species Banking.com and an update to the State of Biodiversity. We’ve compiled a cheat sheet of highlights from Ecosystem Marketplace’s coverage of a busy year, from the launch to IPBES to new development in the Great Stacking Debate.

 

Meanwhile, it was a turbulent year for water and wetland markets, with efforts to standardize offsetting procedures across jurisdictions gaining traction even as opponents of markets – and, indeed, of environmental protection of any sort – dug in their heels as massive flooding along the Mississippi River underlined the economic value of healthy wetlands. Start 2012 off right with a quick roundup of the major water and wetland news last year.

Get caught up on 2011 Biodiversity Highlights here.
Get caught up on 2011 Water & Wetlands Highlights here.


Mitigation News

CBD Reads the Certification Fine Print

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently published a draft version of a study reviewing how well various environmental standards perform when it comes to protecting biodiversity. The study’s authors – experts from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre – found that few of the 36 certification schemes and standards examined included the concepts of a mitigation hierarchy, ‘no net loss’, or ‘net positive impacts.’ And while most environmental standards recognize the importance of protecting habitats and species, those terms are defined inconsistently. Other recommendations: standards should do a better job of recognizing and targeting priority conservation areas, and offer guidelines for protecting biodiversity in modified habitats, rather than just ‘natural’ ones.

Learn more at IISD’s Biodiversity-L listserv.
Read the study here (pdf).


Biodiversity Protections Deleted from the EU’s Agricultural
Policy Reforms

At a recent meeting of EU member states’ environmental ministers, all references to biodiversity protection were deleted from the draft EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposal. The WWF and Friends of the Earth are putting the blame on Germany’s shoulders, calling it “a victory for the agriculture lobby.” BirdLife Europe released a statement saying that “The EU Environment Council in Brussels has shown its true colours by favouring the short term interests of farm lobbyists over long-term biodiversity gains.” Initial CAP reform proposals would have required that 30 percent of agricultural support be linked to environmental objectives. The German delegation reportedly felt measures proposed were “too targeted” and “too interventionist.”

Read more at EuroPolitics.
Read BirdLife Europe’s statement.

At $946 million, Co-Benefit Status is Not Too Shabby

Australia’s new Biodiversity Fund – rolled out as part of the government’s Clean Energy Future Plan – kicked off its inaugural funding cycle last month. The fund will offer AUD$946 million over six years to farmers and landholders for biodiversity-friendly carbon projects, like native revegetation projects, landscape protection, and invasive pest and weed control. $30 million is available this year. The government will accept applications through the end of January 2012.

Learn more here.


PES in High-Priority Areas Could Deliver Huge Benefits to the World’s Poorest

New work published in this month’s issue of of BioScience by researchers from Conservation International finds tremendous potential benefits to the poor from increased conservation around the world. According to the article, more than half of global ecosystem service values benefitting the world’s poorest are located in the top 25 percent (by biodiversity value) of conservation areas. That same quarter also delivers in ecosystem benefits three times what it would cost to permanently protect them. Equitable, well-designed PES mechanisms targeting these areas could mean a dollar a day in income to about 300 million of the world’s poorest, the authors conclude.

Read an abstract and download the paper here.

Call for Papers – Special Issue on Ecosystem Services in EIA and SEA

Environmental Impact Assessment Review seeks submissions on incorporating ecosystem services into environmental impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environmental assessment (SEA). Topics of interest include selection of ecosystem services in EIA and SEA studies, issues of scale and tiering, use of biophysical and economic valuation data, stakeholder consulation, and links between biophysical and socio-economic assessments. Send an abstract (roughly 300 words), title, author(s), and affiliation to Dr. Davide Geneletti (davide.geneletti@ing.unitn.it) by Friday 10 February 2012.

 

R&D for PES?

In a new Solutions Journal article, Joshua Farley, Abdon Schmitt F., Juan Alvez, and Norton Ribeiro de Freitas Jr. make the case for stronger links between the agroecology field and payments for ecosystem services (PES). They propose a publicly-funded PES system, in which R&D on ecosystem-friendly agricultural methods and affordable credit for implementation comes from its public beneficiaries at the local, national, and global level.

Read the article here.

Map Multiple Benefits with New UN-REDD Toolbox

UN-REDD has released a new “Multiple Benefits Mapping Toolbox” – a set of ArcGIS 9.3.1 raster analysis tools allowing users map and analyze relationships between an array of ecosystem benefits, including carbon stocks, biodiversity, and a variety of other ecosystem services. The toolkit also identifies and maps land use and other pressures on natural resources.

Read a press release and download the toolkit here.

Australian Trawlers: Replace Us With a Marine Sanctuary

Seafood trawlers operating out of Nelson Bay in New South Wales have sent a letter to environmental groups declaring themselves unsustainable. The letter claims that trawling practices are degrading marine habitats; the five trawler operators are proposing that the government essentially buy them out and establish a marine conservation area in their place. Local mayor Bob Westbury supported the request for compensation – suggested at AUD$300,000 – $400,000 – though he had reservations about the proposed reserve. Environmental groups favor the idea: ”If this proposal is adopted, it will be a win for the oceans and a win for the local community,” said Australian Conservation Foundation’s Chris Smyth.

Read more at the Syndey Morning Herald.


Yasuní­ Lives! (For Now)

When last we checked in with Ecuador’s “crowdfunding” efforts to raise enough money via international donations to protect Yasuní­ National Park from oil exploitation, the odds of reaching a $100 million “down payment” target by December were looking a bit long. But by the end of 2011, Ecuador had raised $116 million – enough to halt drilling for the time being. Oilfields underlying Yasuní­ are estimated to be worth $7.6 billion; for half that amount, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has offered to permanently protect what’s thought to be the single most biodiverse spot on the planet. But a closer look reveals that $40 million came from Correa himself – damages from a libel suit – and a $51m contribution from Silvio Berlusconi in the form of a debt write-off. Other national goverments have thrown in a few hundred thousand dollars each. Yasuní­’s future is still very much up in the air. As Correa recently warned, “If the poor don’t receive direct benefits from conservation, conservation won’t be sustainable.”

Read the latest at the Guardian.
Get background at Time Magazine.


What…Is Your Quest?

Head over to Ecosystem Commons where the Willamette Partnership’s Nicole Maness is currently seeking the Holy Grail: the perfect metric. “How do we balance the need for both precision and practicality? Is commitment to long-term monitoring and adaptive management a sufficient strategy to mitigate against the risks of incomplete or imprecise measurement systems?” Maness asks. In other words, “What’s ‘good enough’ when it comes to metrics?” A number of readers have already posted their own answer to that question – follow the link to bask in their wisdom or add some of your own. (Does anyone perchance know the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?)

Visit the debate at Ecosystem Commons.

US MITIGATION NEWS

 

Ohioans Duke It Out Over Mitigation Banks’ Tax Status

Mitigation bankers and landowners converting farmland into wetlands in Ohio are not pleased with a new interpretation of state tax law. Under the new interpretation, wetlands enrolled in the USDA Wetlands Reserve Program no longer qualify for a farmland property tax break. The issue went to court on January 9th (Wetland Preservation Ltd. v. Roger A. Corlett, CPA, et al.). Defending the change, Roger Corlett, the Ashtabula County auditor, argued that the tax breaks apply only to ‘agricultural use,’ and mitigation bankers don’t fall under that category. “That’s a commercial venture,” he said. But David Trimble, managing member of Wetland Preservation Ltd., argued that state and not-for-profit mitigation banks are getting favorable treatment. “From a public policy perspective, do we want for-profit mitigation banks or do we want county government and non-profit banks?” he told the Geauga County Maple Leaf. The state lost a 2008 case over whether mitigation banks qualified for farmland taxation, so now they’re expanding the argument to say any property not in tilled agriculture doesn’t qualify, Trimble says. “Now they’re going to pick on every farmer in the state.”

Get the story at the Geauga County Maple Leaf.

Oregon State Lands Sign Up For the Environmental Marketplace

Oregon Live has coverage of a recent project piloting enrollment of state lands in ecosystem service credit markets. Oregon’s Department of Forestry partnered with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Tualatin River Watershed Council to test out habitat restoration protocols that can generate ecosystem service credits. The protocols were developed under the Willamette Partnership’s Counting on the Environment program and at Gales Creek targeted salmonid habitat and water temperature. At 4000 linear feet of high-functioning stream and 1.9 million kCal/day of blocked solar energy (in other words, riparian shade), project partners estimate that Gales Creek would generate about $1.4 million in credits at current prices.

Read more here.

Ohio EPA: Anyone Seen a Wetland Around Here?

The latest installment in the Ohio Environmental Law Center’s series on the State of Clean Water Act enforcement in Ohio has turned up a troubling number: 200. That’s how many 401 Certification holders – parties required to carry out compensatory mitigation for impaired watercourses – haven’t filed monitoring reports with the Ohio EPA on their mitigation obligations. No one knows whether that means the paperwork just wasn’t turned in, or if mitigation is even happening at all. “What appears as a minor paperwork issue may be hiding other, more substantive violations of law,” the OELC points out. The Ohio EPA doesn’t have adequate resources to follow up on all of these cases, either, the Center says.

Read more here.

Mitigation Nation

We have wind of approval for Ecologic Resources Group’s Oxford Western Wetland Mitigation Bank in northwest New Jersey, which will restore 74.5 acres of a former sod farm. Down in Bowie County, Texas, the Brooks Creek Mitigation Bank will also be open for business soon, offering about 327 acres of hardwood flatwood habitat and associated upland buffer in the Sulphur River Basin. It’s a First Texas Resource LLC (a subsidiary of Resource Environmental Solutions LLC) project.

 

Also in future mitigation, the Imperial Irrigation District in southern California will be working on their environmental mitigation plans in the coming months in preparation for future water sales from the Salton Sea to coastal cities (aka the Quantification Settlement Agreement – the country’s biggest ag-to-urban water transfer). The District is planning mitigation projects for burrowing owls, state species conservation habitat plans, and managed marshes. Meanwhile in Washington, Whatcom County commissioners continue to tweak their proposed habitat mitigation fund , which developers could pay into in lieu of direct mitigation.

 

JOB OPENINGS

 

Cohort Program Director

Rare Conservation – Guadalajara, Mexico

To conserve imperiled species and ecosystems around the world, Rare inspires people to care about and protect nature. Rare is seeking a Program Director to manage the Pride ARA cohort in Latin America and ensure high quality delivery of the Pride Campaign, including teaching, monitoring visits, and RarePlanet presence. The Program Director will supervise and inspire a team of Pride Program Managers assigned to the ARA cohort. Primary responsibility will be to ensure that the two main components of the ARA Cohort: barrier removal and Pride Campaign implementation are developed effectively, to achieve the conservation results expected of the cohort.

Learn more here.

Ecosystem Service Valuation Researcher

Earth Economics – Seattle, WA

Earth Economics is a visionary organization that aims to transform the way the Earth is valued. We currently provide custom reports, economic analysis, policy analysis and training for a wide range of local, national and international NGOs, businesses, and governments. We are seeking college through post-doctoral researchers to aid our lead staff with the development of our ecosystem service database. This process will require that the assistant be able to research, identify, and derive information from peered-reviewed economic studies from printed and online environmental, ecological and scientific literature (articles, symposia, books, theses, etc.).

Learn more here.

Environmental Markets Analyst

USDA Office of Environmental Markets – Washington DC

The Office of the Chief Economist is seeking a motivated and highly-qualified candidate for an exciting full-time permanent position located in the Office of Environmental Markets (OEM) located in Washington, DC. The primary purposes of this position are to lead activities and initiatives of the ad hoc interdepartmental Chesapeake Bay Environmental Markets Team (EMT) to organize and implement a comprehensive environmental market program in the Chesapeake Bay as described in Executive Order 13508, and to support the analysis of market trends, registries and protocols used in trading for water quality and related markets on a national scale.

Learn more here.


Multiple Openings

Wetlands International – Ede, the Netherlands
Wetlands International is hiring for the following positions: Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer; Communications Officer/Web Editor; Finance Officer; and Technical Officer – Water and Climate. All vacancies are at the Wetlands International headquarters in Ede, the Netherlands.

Learn more here.

Program Officer, Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG)

World Wildlife Fund – Washington, DC

BCG comprises African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, the Jane Goodall Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund. ABCG’s mission is to tackle complex and changing conservation challenges by catalyzing and strengthening collaboration, and bringing the best resources from across a continuum of conservation organizations to effectively and efficiently work toward biodiversity conservation in Africa. The position works closely with ABCG Member Organizations, USAID’s Biodiversity Analysis and Technical Support (BATS) program, and other partners in the U.S. and Africa. This is a part time position. WWF offers a generous benefits package.

Learn more here.


Wetland Biodiversity Conservation and Strategic Planning Specialist

UNDP China – Home-based with extensive travel in China

UNDP China requires the service of an experienced International Specialist for Wetland Biodiversity Conservation and Strategic Planning to lead the formulation of the national level project working closely with the lead national consultant, appointed Chinese experts, the State Forestry Administration (Government Executing Agency) and UNDP (GEF Implementing Agency).

Learn more here.


Executive Director Audubon California/Vice President Pacific Flyway

Audobon – San Francisco Bay Area, CA

Audubon seeks an Executive Director of Audubon California who will serve concurrently as Vice President of the Pacific Flyway within the national organization. The ideal candidate is a visionary leader, accomplished fundraiser, and exceptional manager, who is dedicated to conserving and restoring natural ecosystems for the benefit of people and biodiversity. He/she will build on Audubon’s rich history and enhance its contributions to conservation in California and throughout the Pacific Flyway (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington)—one of Audubon’s four newly established Flyway programs. The Executive Director/Vice President will be responsible for fundraising, strategic planning, and managing programs and initiatives related to the Pacific Flyway and Audubon California.

Learn more here.


Mississippi River Policy Manager

Biodiversity Project and the Mississippi River Network – Chicago IL or remote with extensive travel to Chicago, Washington, DC, and the ten main-stem Mississippi River states

Biodiversity Project and the Mississippi River Network: Headwaters to Gulf (MRN) are seeking applicants for a 1-year contract (with the opportunity to renew for a second year) to work on the coalition’s policy agenda.

The Policy Manager will provide key analysis and proactive policy development in issues relating to the restoration and conservation of the Mississippi River, analyze proposed legislative or administrative changes to Federal policy and law related to the River, educate members of MRN, the public, and the media on such policies and proposals, and cultivate support for those policies and proposals among policymakers and other stakeholder organizations.

Learn more here.


UPCOMING EVENTS

 

19th Annual Endangered Species Act

The 19th Annual Endangered Species Act conference is a two-day seminar in which ESA practitioners, agency officials and scientists provide the latest and most important information you’ll need for ESA compliance. This conference will help attorneys, businesses and government staff to understand the complexities of the law. It will also provide practical insights and an opportunity to network with experts and colleagues. 26-27 January 2012. Seattle, WA.

Learn more here.

TEEB Capacity-building Workshop for North Africa and the Middle East

This workshop seeks to: provide decision-makers in the region with economic arguments for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; promote synergies and enhanced cooperation among relevant policy areas and sectors by mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services; and support the revision and review or update of national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs) in light of the new Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

21-23 February 2012. Beirut (Beyrouth), Lebanon.

Additional resources

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