Banking on Change: Rethinking Wetland Mitigation in the State of New York
Wetland Mitigation Banking is one of the great environmental successes of the past forty years. A $3 billion industry, it is credited with restoring and protecting 960,000 acres of wetlands, streams, and associated upland habitat across the United States. The National Research Council and Environmental Law Institute both credit it as the most successful type of compensatory mitigation for wetland and stream impacts, while the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and US Environmental Protection Agency have identified it as the the federally preferred form of compensatory mitigation.
Many states, however, remain “mitigation banking deserts” – and not always with good reason. States that have few wetlands and/or little development may naturally have fewer opportunities to build mitigation banks.
But what about New York? The state has abundant streams and wetlands and one of the highest per-capita state gross domestic products, but there are currently just three mitigation banks within the entire state. In contrast, leading states such as California, Texas, Maine, and Virginia each have more than 50 wetland and stream banks. Ohio and New Jersey, which both fall within Corps regulatory districts that also cover New York, have over three times as many mitigation banks as New York. So what’s keeping mitigation banks out of New York? What can be done to remove these barriers? And is it worth doing?
– Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.
Stacking And Unstacking: The Conservation And The Conversation
Common sense would dictate that properties generating the greatest environmental benefit should also command the highest price in the ecosystem marketplace, and that one way to do that might be to let people stack different ecosystem values on the same patch of land.
Attempts to implement this idea, however, often bog down on technicalities and charges that the user is trying to double-dip rather than earn fair compensation for ecosystem services delivered. This is unfortunate, because we now have enough real-world examples to launch a real-world discussion about stacking and unstacking – as well as about whether the entire system needs to be reformed and rethought.
Wayne White of mitigation banking group Wildlands, Inc, and Jemma Peneloped of W2Consulting recently launched that discussion in an article in the National Wetlands Newsletter. We asked White to recap some of the issues they explored in that piece.
– Read the full article here.
Inter-American Development Bank Announces a Fund for Natural Capital
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced in March that it will be launching a new Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services program offering grants, loan preparations, knowledge products and capacity building in Latin and America and the Caribbean for natural capital-friendly projects and initiatives. $3 million will be available in 2013. “The Program will leverage the region’s competitive advantage in natural capital and generate new sources of employment and growth to meet the increasing development demands in Latin America and the Caribbean,“ said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno in a press release.
– Read a press release here.
Plus Ãƒâ€¡a Change…
Earlier this year, there was optimism that the European Parliament would heed calls for reform and pass a new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that more tightly linked farmers’ subsidies to environmental stewardship. When it came time for a vote last month, that didn’t happen. Proposals that would require farmers to abide by the EU Water Framework Directive and Birds and Habitats Directives came to nothing; that 10% of farmland that environmentalists asked be set aside for wildlife turned into 3% in the actual text.“This is very, very disappointing. Obviously it is not as completely awful as it might have been but this was supposed to be a radical reform of the CAP and we are not seeing that,” Trees Robijns of BirdLife told the BBC.
– Learn more at BBC News Europe.
It’s Later Than You Think
Businesses that implement natural capital management (NCM) now will be much better positioned to weather a coming natural capital crisis, according to the TEEB for Business Coalition in a new report released on March 21. Serious risks to availability of freshwater, renewable energy, climate regulation, fibre and food could all be felt much sooner than you think, according to the study.
“Delaying NCM implementation carries the great risk for companies of losing competitively,” write the authors, “as more astute competitors use NCM to thrive in a resource-constrained world that is already here and will hit business hard in 3-5 years.” The report, based on assessments of 26 leading companies across nine sectors, covers organizational change models, strategic action planning and common barriers to implementation, and operational patterns that pioneering companies are already undertaking.
– Get a copy of the report here.
The State of Natural Capital in the UK
The UK Natural Capital Committee (NCC) has unveiled its first step toward understanding and protecting the nation’s natural capital assets: an inaugural State of Natural Capital report. That’s the good news. The bad news is – well, the report. “The evidence that exists indicates we are failing to conserve our natural capital assets,” write its authors.
“As things stand, we do not directly measure changes in its extent or quality, or account for it in national accounts. Neither do we adequately reflect its value in day to day decisions about what and how much to produce and consume. Most of the time, because it is not being properly valued, natural capital is effectively ascribed a value of ‘zero’ which is far from the truth.” Recommendations include developing a a framework for defining and measuring natural capital, and a national “risk register” for environmental assets – both to be explored further in future NCC products.
– Download a copy of the report here.
Go West, Young Mitigation Banker
As Wyoming sees a boom in energy development, conservation and mitigation banking in the state is also starting to look like a pretty good prospect. The state has already spent $40 million on financing mitigation itself and leveraged another $300 million from other sources, according to Bob Budd, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, speaking at a Forum on Conservation Finance held in Casper, Wyoming in late March.
With several “mega-field” oil and gas projects pending approval and federal listing of the sage grouse as an endangered species looking likely, those in the conservation industry expect demand to keep growing. The Sweetwater River Conservancy, for example, has been carefully inventorying natural resources on the 100,000 acres it holds, to serve as a baseline should future banking opportunities arise. “In other states, the majority of credits sold typically go to the state for highway projects. Wyoming is very different. Not only do you have that market, but you have oil and gas and minerals,” says Michael Fraley, co-founder of the Conservancy.
– Read more here.
The Business Benchmark on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services
A new report from BSR offers a wide-ranging snapshot of current business engagement with ecosystem services around the world. Based on company communications and reporting, Private Sector Uptake of Ecosystem Services Concepts and Frameworks tracks a range of work on ecosystem services – from ‘no net loss’ policies to natural capital accounting to decisions about the supply chain or project siting.
Some findings are positive: thirty-five companies now discuss ecosystem services in their corporate communications, while the oil & gas, mining, chemicals, entertainment and tourism industries all have relatively well-developed business cases for understanding and managing ecosystem services. Still, many companies, lacking tools and guidance, are unsure how to move from concept to action, and important lessons, data, and approaches are not being widely shared or independently analyzed.
– Learn more at GreenBiz.
– Download the report (pdf).
Alberta: Bailing Out Its Boat With a Teacup?
In Alberta, Grizzly Oil Sands ULC has been hit with a fine for $100,000 after a contractor diverted water illegally at three sites and falsified documents. In an unusual twist, about $90,000 of that money will go toward a wetland re-establishment project near Conklin. The use of the fine for wetlands restoration is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak area for environmental protection: two-thirds of the province (corresponding with the heart of oilsands development) are currently not covered by Alberta’s wetlands policy, which applies a ‘no-net-loss’ approach only in settled areas. The logic? Mitigation is either too expensive (for wetlands) or not feasible (for irreplacable peatlands) – and so wetland loss continues virtually unabated.
– Read more at the Edmonton Journal.
– Read earlier coverage on Alberta’s wetlands policy from Ecosystem Marketplace.
The Challenges of Mitigation in a Pristine Ecosystem
Compensatory mitigation under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act is meant to help limit or offset damages by human activities to wetlands, streams, and other waters of the United States. But what happens when those damages take place in an ecologically-intact environment on a very large scale? A paper in the Wetlands Newsletter examines this question in the form of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, where wetlands and aquatic areas cover a third of the mine area and the authors estimate that compensatory mitigation would require 6,000 acres for restoration/enhancement or 9,000 acres for preservation in the first 25-year phase of the mine’s life.
The problem? At present no mitigation banks serve the Bristol Bay region – and that’s because watersheds in the vicinity remain largely pristine. In other words, there is no degraded area to restore or protect that would match the function or size of the Pebble site. There is also no conservation activity nearby currently that would be appropriate for an In-Lieu Fee mitigation approach. That leaves permittee-responsible mitigation – but again, the authors see no feasible and appropriate measures for improving fish passage or offsetting fishery losses. So what does that leave? Bad news for the mine, maybe. “A large-scale mine such as the Pebble Mine would not qualify for permitting under Section 404,” the authors write.
– Keep reading here.
National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference
The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users. 7-10 May 2013. New Orleans, LA, 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.
3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress
IMPAC 3 is a high-quality and professionally coordinated international congress which allows managers and practitioners of marine protected areas to exchange ideas and learn from each other; defines recommendations to orient relevant global, regional and national policy processes; assists in the establishment and ongoing implementation of a global, lasting, ecologically representative and effectively managed network of MPAs, in coherence with the sustainable
development of coastal and maritime activities; strives to inform, involve and influence all stakeholders at different stages. Abstract submissions close on May 10. 21-27 October 2013. Marseille and Corsica, France.
– Learn more here.
Ecosystem Services Officer, Environmental Markets
Fauna & Flora International – London, UK
FFI is seeking an individual with a thorough understanding of and strong practical experience in ecosystem services valuation to support our developing work on ecosystem services valuation and assessment. The successful applicant will have a strong background in economic valuation techniques, practical experience in implementing projects that capitalize on the emerging tools, technology (valuation methodologies, GIS) and markets for ecosystem services (water, carbon and others) in accordance with international best practice, and will have some familiarity with non-monetary valuation approaches. S/he will have an advanced degree or equivalent level qualification in a relevant discipline and substantial experience in a related role.
– Learn more here.
Conservation Business and Finance Specialist
The Nature Conservancy – Mexico
The Conservation Business Specialist works closely with Mexico ´s Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas – CONANP, the German Organization for International Cooperation (GIZ) and with GITEC Consult GmbH, under the auspice of a contract for services that was recently executed with TNC. This five year long project, funded by the German Government, consists in the creation of an ecological corridor to be implemented in the Sierra Madre Oriental. The project focuses on i) creating the governance structure that is needed to create the corridor. and ii) the implementation and modification (or “greening”) of economic instruments for nature conservation. GITEC and TNC will be working in the second component. Hence, the Conservation Business Specialist will be seated at GIZ ´s offices and will work directly with GITEC ´s and GIZ ´s staff.
Summing up, the Conservation Business Specialist will analyze both public and private existing financial and market based instruments, propose alternative ways to make them more efficient under a vision of sustainability for the region. Also, the Conservation Business Specialist will propose new market based instruments to achieve this vision of sustainable development for the corridor.
– Learn more here.
Environmental/Natural Resource/Ecological Economist
The James Hutton Institute – Scotland, UK
We are seeking an Environmental/Natural Resource/Ecological Economist to join a team working on deepening our understanding of natural resource/ecosystem services valuation, both in Scotland and more widely.
Applicants must have a PhD or be nearing completion in a relevant subject, and a good understanding of different monetary and/or non-monetary valuation methods and of the strengths and weaknesses of policy instruments associated with non-market values.
The remit of this post is to investigate non-market values with respect to natural resources and ecosystem services. A specialism in one particular field of non-market valuation is desirable, for example in relation to biodiversity, carbon, water or landscape character and/or related cultural services. Skills on the application of spatial analysis tools (for example, GIS) to valuation would be appreciated.
This is an indefinite appointment. Working within the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group and across several Research Themes, this postdoctoral researcher post will contribute to our ongoing and well-established research effort at the James Hutton Institute on the economics of ecosystem services and natural resource valuation (monetary and non-monetary), both in Scotland and more widely. This work will be built around the 2011-2016 Scottish Government research programme where ecosystem services valuation is recognised as a key issue, but will also connect to a wider range of research at UK, European and global levels.
– Learn more here.