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This Week in MitMail:
Building a Better Market

The last month has been a little – dare we say – controversial for the conservation markets. This month’s MitMail digs into critiques of Australia’s new national Biodiversity Fund, the talk around a tradable quota proposal for whale harvesting, evidence that we’re not doing wetland restoration very well, and some heavyweights asking if we are focusing too much on markets.

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.

22 February 2012 | The last month has been a little – dare we say – controversial for the conservation markets. In this MitMail, we dig into critiques of Australia’s new national Biodiversity Fund, a tradable quota proposal for whale harvesting that’s got people talking, evidence that we’re not doing wetland restoration very well, and a number of heavyweights asking whether we should be focusing so much on markets in the first place.
 
Luckily, biodiversity and wetland market actors have been equally busy finding smarter ways to design projects and market mechanisms to deliver both ecological and economic benefits. We highlight a partnership that aims to turn private landowner antipathy toward endangered species protections into a conservation opportunity, by promoting participation in species banking markets. Landowners get not only financial incentives but assurances from the US Fish & Wildlife Service against future regulatory actions. The idea is currently being piloted – see the US Mitigation News section for more information.
 
For those of you also interested in water quality markets and watershed payment mechanisms, keep an eye out for Forest Trends’ newest venture, Watershed Connect, an online platform connecting practitioners and policy-makers around investing in hydrological ecosystem services. We’ll launch the new site in early March.
 
Finally, we’d like to extend our thanks to our supporting subscribers – listed in the sidebar – who help us keep the lights on and the news coming into your inbox every month free of charge. If you value what you read in our Mitigation Mail new briefs, we encourage you to show your support. A donation of $150 or greater gets you listed as a supporting subscriber for a year. Make a donation here.
 
Happy reading!
—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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

News

Three New Standards Aim to Promote Biodiversity Conservation

 

Biodiversity is notoriously difficult to measure, which makes it difficult to conserve. Three complementary standards aim to change that by providing guidance for practices from offsetting to sustainable land use to managing protected areas and their surroundings.

 

Of these, only one – the Standard on Biodiversity Offsets (SBO) – focuses on offsets. The other two – the Global Conservation Standard and the Biodiversity Area Management Standard – focus on best practices for commercial land use and the management of protected areas. In a sense, these echo the efforts of the Standards for Project Management (SPM) being developed by the Conservation Measures Partnership. All three of the new standards are works in progress, and Ecosystem Marketplace will be covering each in more detail over the coming weeks.

 

Read an overview of the new standards.

Major Corporates Come Clean on Forest Risk

 

Patrick Spink, Environment Executive at British Airways, was surprised to see how susceptible his company is to disruptions in the supplies of soy, palm oil and leather – something he learned after signing up for the Forest Footprint Disclosure project (FFD) three years ago.

 

“Participation in FFD soon highlighted how we use a wide range of forest risk commodities — paper in our printers, beef, soy and palm in our catering and leather for shoes, belts and bags,” writes Spink in the FFD’s Third Annual Review, which was launched last week. The Review includes voluntary input from 87 companies and contains some surprising revelations for companies that depend on forest-related products.

 

Get the full story at Ecosystem Marketplace.
Download the FFD’s Annual Review (pdf).

Collins, Costanza, Others Warn of Myopic Focus on Markets

Ecosystem markets have helped bring the value of nature’s services into our economy, but is it a good idea to put all our eggs in the ‘market’ basket? It’s a recurring question at the the ‘Soapbox’ online forum at Ecosystem Commons, which is fast becoming one of the more provocative – and enlightening – forums in the ecosystem services sector.

 

Heavyweights in the field like University of Oregon pioneer Robert Costanza and former Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets (OEM) boss Sally Collins have made use of the space to ask whether we need to explore new mechanisms; a typical recent discussion asked, “Are Public Ballot Measures a Better Mechanism for Conservation than Markets?” Recently Collins took to the Soapbox to suggest that at her old job at OEM, a focus on markets “came at the expense of fostering a broader understanding of ecosystem service values.”

Contribute to the discussion here.

Writing the Rule That Will Rebuild the Bayou – With Carbon

 

Mangroves and coastal wetlands have long protected the Mississippi Delta from floods, but the degradation of those wetlands leaves the region more vulnerable to events like Hurricane Katrina. Carbon finance can help reverse the degradation – and new rules for developing bayou credits could make that finance possible.

 

The American Carbon Registry’s (ACR) proposed methodology for the Restoration of Degraded Deltaic Wetlands of the Mississippi Delta, written by Tierra Resources and contributors, was released last month for public comment. Assuming it passes technical muster, the methodology could guide the United States’ first approaches to coastal wetlands restoration.

 

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

The CBD Welcomes a New Chief

 

Last week, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) welcomed its new Executive Secretary, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias. Mr Dias, who succeeds Ahmed Djoghlaf, has long been involved with the CBD as a member of the Brazilian delegation to the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Convention. He has also served as the National Secretary for Biodiversity and Forests at the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment. As CBD signatories roll up their collective sleeves to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by 2020, Mr Dias plans to hit the ground running. “If you ask what my three priorities are for the Convention, my answer is implementation, implementation and implementation,” he says.

 

Read a press release.

A Whale of a Controversy Over Quota Proposal

 

A recent article in Nature looks to the market for a solution to threats to whales, in the form of a tradable quota system. Under the proposed program, the current (and oft-flouted) moratorium on whale harvesting would be replaced by quotas distributed by the International Whaling Commission to member nations. Though many conservationists are uncomfortable with sanctioning any take of endangered species, the authors note that whales are already being caught illicitly. Moreover, conservation interests could in theory purchase and retire harvest shares under a quota system.

 

Read more at the PERC blog.
Access the Nature article (subscription required).

Corporate Ecosystem Services Review, Version Two

 

Earlier this month, the World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development announced a re-release of the Corporate Ecosystem Services Review (ESR 2.0) toolkit. The ESR is a process for businesses seeking to develop a strategy for managing ecosystems impacts and assess current performance. More than 300 firms have used the ESR since its initial release in 2008. ESR 2.0 features new and improved decision support tools, as well as supplementary case studies documenting how companies in different sectors have used the ESR.

 

Learn more and download ESR 2.0.

A New Biodiversity Credit Trading Platform Hits the UK

The Environment Bank and Mission Markets have partnered on a new biodiversity credit trading platform for the UK. The Conservation Credits Exchange already has five proposed projects listed. Trades are expected in as little as a few weeks, as soon as local regulatory authorities give offset credits the go-ahead. Credits representing a hectare of habitat restoration are expected to sell for somewhere in the range of £30,000-40,000 ($47,000-63,000).

Read more at CSRWire.

Scientists: Tread Carefully When It Comes to Restoration

 

A recent study published in PLoS Biology holds some worrying news about restored wetlands. According to the study’s authors, who reviewed 621 wetlands sites globally, ecological restoration may never lead to full recovery. “Once you degrade a wetland, it doesn’t recover its normal assemblage of plants or its rich stores of organic soil carbon, which both affect natural cycles of water and nutrients, for many years,” said lead author David Moreno-Mateos of the University of California, Berkeley. The study also quantified effects of size, warmth of climate, and amount of hydrologic exchange on recovery – findings that could be useful in making decisions about how and whether to impact wetlands in the future.

 

Read the paper.

What do Trappist Monks and IT Workers Have in Common?

A Trappist brewery and an IT company are the first firms in the Netherlands to carry out a European Business & Biodiversity Campaign Check on their operations. The Biodiversity Check, modeled on other environmental management systems like ISO14.001, guides a comprehensive assessment of biodiversity impacts and risks for business. Participants reported that the check was useful in identifying indicators and actionable biodiversity issues.

Get the full story.
Learn more about the Biodiversity Check.

Beware of Bio-Perversity!

 

A recent post on the newly-unveiled Australian Biodiversity Fund has a few choice criticisms of the Fund and its planned activities – or lack thereof. The authors, both of Australia National University, note “limited evidence of strategic or coherent thought regarding how best to implement” conservation funding at a national level. They cite the absence of a specific monitoring budget, lack of clarity around priority ecosystems, and an over-focus on plantings at the expense of other conservation projects as particular concerns.

 

Government backing of projects “not well supported by the existing science” will do more damage than simply wasting money, the authors caution. “Well -meaning planting programs can lead to ‘bio-perversity:’ perverse outcomes for the environment from well-intentioned environmental programs.”

 

Read the piece here.

Ecometrica Tool: For All Your Organizational Biodiversity Assessment Needs

A recent discussion paper by Ecometrica introduces a Normative Biodiversity Metric tool that guides an biodiversity performance assessment for any land-owning entity. The tool, which uses pristineness of land as a proxy indicator for biodiversity values, was developed to fill a perceived gap in methodologies for organizational assessment. It is flexible across a number of spatial scales and produces results well suited for biodiversity impact evaluation and reporting. NBM will be used to assess biodiversity values in the ECO Natural Forest Standard for REDD+ carbon sequestration projects.

Read the discussion paper.

US MITIGATION NEWS

 

Candidate Species Credits to Rescue Both Landowners and Wildlife from Legal Limbo

 

There’s a long queue of ‘candidate species’ in the US: species being considered for Endangered Species Act listing but currently unprotected. At the same time, owners of land hosting candidate species have little certainty over their future regulatory obligations. A new brief from the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Advanced Conservation Strategies proposes a ‘Candidate Conservation Marketplace.’ Private landowners or project developers could initiate conservation projects in exchange for not only bankable candidate species habitat credits but also assurances from the US Fish & Wildlife Service against future regulatory action. WRI, ACS, and other partners are piloting the idea in the US southern forests, developing gopher tortoise habitat credits.

 

Read more at WRI.

Risky Business

 

A post at Madsen Environmental summarizes a recent court decision that mitigation bankers may want to note. Hearts Bluff Game Ranch, Inc. v. United States concerned whether a project developer can claim takings if, despite a preliminary OK from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Corps ultimately doesn’t approve a mitigation banking instrument. “We agree with the government that Hearts Bluff does not possess a compensable property interest in obtaining a mitigation banking instrument,” said the court in its decision. “Owning land in and of itself does not give rise to a right to run a mitigation bank, and obtaining a mitigation instrument is therefore not a cognizable property interest.”

 

Read more at Madsen Environmental’s blog.

Private Sector Poised to Corner the Florida Mitigation Market

 

A bill that would steer a $116 million dollar Department of Transportation (DOT) wetland mitigation fund toward private banks in Florida is rapidly making its way through the state legislature. Currently public water management districts are responsible for about two-thirds of state DOT wetland mitigation projects. The bill, CS/HB 599, would channel all DOT funds to the private sector. Not everyone is happy about it: an article in the Tampa Bay Times points to the private wetland banking sector’s spotty track record when it comes to effective mitigation, citing a 2007 state Department of Environmental Protection study that found inadequate mitigation, both in permitting requirements and subsequent implementation.

 

Learn more at the Tampa Bay Times.

Mit-Murmurs From Around the Web

 

It’s been a slow month for finding any hard transaction data, but we do have news of a slew of new wetland and conservation banks opening for business around the country. In California, the Sutter Basin Conservation Bank is marketing 429 acres of marsh and upland habitats for the Giant Garter Snake – an endangered and threatened species. Habitat credits for sand skinks and Florida scrub-jays are on the market in central Florida via the 5,134 acre Hatchineha Ranch Mitigation Bank. Meanwhile an 82-acre bank is proposed on the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington, and credits are now available for sale from the Spellbottom Mitigation Bank in Houston TX.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOB OPENINGS

 

Project Accountant

Forest Trends – Washington, DC

 

 

Forest Trends, an international not-for-profit forest conservation organization based in Washington, D.C. (and Ecosystem Marketplace’s parent organization) is seeking a qualified and motivated project accountant to join our growing team. Forest Trends’ mission is to achieve sustainable natural resource and environmental outcomes by capturing market values for ecosystem services; supporting innovative projects and companies that are developing these new markets; and enhancing the livelihoods of local communities living in and around forests. The Project Accountant will play an integral role in the securing Forest Trends’ continued growth and success.

 

The Project Accountant will serve as a key member of a new project financial team reporting directly to the Director of Finance. Having secured several long term grants and contracts, Forest Trends is growing its project finance team in order to successfully execute and meet all deliverables and obligations with excellence. The Project Accountant will have day-to-day responsibility for monitoring, coordinating and reporting on financial activities for their assigned programmatic initiatives, ensuring financial compliance with the terms of grants and contract awards, consulting and partner agreements, as well as budget control and project cash flows.

 

Learn more here.

Director, Gulf and Southeast Oceans Program

Environmental Defense Fund – Austin, TX


EDF’s Oceans Program works to improve the health of the oceans through innovative and durable solutions to today’s toughest fishery management challenges. EDF’s Gulf and Southeast Oceans Program seeks a Director to be responsible for the development, oversight and implementation of strategies that advance these goals in the Gulf. This is an excellent opportunity for someone who has expertise in fisheries and oceans policy and a demonstrated success managing regional teams and affecting environmental policy change. The Director will report to the Associate Vice President for regional programs.

Learn more here.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellows

 

The International Ecosystem Management Partnership – Beijing, China


The International Ecosystem Management Partnership (IEMP), a joint initiative of the UN Environment Programme and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing is currently hiring 4 Post-doctoral Research Fellows. The vacancies are in the domains of Ecosystem Service Valuation, and Ecosystem Management in Afr

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