USDA CEAP

In 2003 the USDA began the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) to quantify the environmental benefits from conservation practices on private lands. Andy Manale, a Senior Analyst at USEPA, has been working on the team and has spoken well of CEAPs work.

They have been working on a number of pilots that carefully quantify environmental effects from specific conservation practices. For more:

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/nri/ceap/index.html

Ecosystem Services: A 21st Century Policy Challenge

Attached is an issue of Choices Magazine which is a publication of the American Agricultural Economics Association. It is an interesting look at the farm as managed ecosystem. There is an article by the faculty at the University of Rhode Island concerning our USDA Conservation Innovation Grant…the Bobolink Project.

Here’s the link:

http://www.choicesmagazine.org/magazine/pdf/block_9.pdf

New Study on the Value of Coastal Wetlands

From a recent Greenwire Press Release:
U.S. coastal wetlands provide more than $23 billion in annual storm protection services to cities and regions most vulnerable to hurricane and tropical storm surges, according to a study released today.The University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics prepared the study, which finds that “coastal wetlands provide ‘horizontal levees’ that are maintained by nature and are far more cost-effective than constructed levees.”

Moreover, the researchers said, “If the frequency and intensity of hurricanes increases in the future, as some are predicting as a result of climate change, the value of coastal wetlands for protection of these storms will also increase.”

The findings, while part of a broader body of research on the value of coastal wetlands, are relevant for policymakers because they provide a rare glimpse at the financial impacts associated with wetland losses in storm-prone areas.

The study found wide variability in wetlands’ protective value between coastal areas on the Atlantic Ocean versus the Gulf of Mexico, depending upon the number of wetland acres present and the value of infrastructure behind such wetlands.

Louisiana, for example, had the most wetland acres but less threatened infrastructure than either Florida or Texas, thus driving down the protective value of the state’s wetlands. New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, meanwhile, had fewer wetlands but very high infrastructure values, given real estate values along the Eastern Seaboard.

But Louisiana’s higher frequency of destructive storms makes the economic impact of its wetlands losses particularly acute. For example, as a result of the disappearance of coastal wetlands in Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina, additional wetlands vanished during the hurricane, and the resulting lost protection of infrastructure, crops, housing, revenues, employment and stable markets was valued at $1.1 billion.

The researchers drew their findings from regression modeling done for 34 major U.S. hurricanes dating back to 1980, including 2005’s record-breaking year for both the number of storms making landfall in the United States and their devastating economic impacts. The models estimate that 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of coastal wetland loss corresponded to an average $33,000 increase in storm damage from specific storms.

The research was published in AMBIO, a journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences focused on environmental topics.

Update on Pennsylvania Nutrient Trading

I met Pat O’Connell, President of Evergreen Conservation Finance, at the Katoomba Meetings. Yesterday we had a broad discussion on ecosystem service finance, conservation finance, and utility finance. He brought up the following recent news on Pennsylvania’s nutrient trading program:

“Robert J. Fisher, President of R. J. Fisher & Associates and Chairman
of the Pennsylvania Builders Association’s Chesapeake Bay Tributary
Strategy Task Force, expressed disappointment that proposals to enhance
certain aspects of the state’s trading program did not move forward at
budget time. “Nutrient trading holds significant promise for holding costs
down and accommodating future economic growth,” Fisher said. “But due to a
number of flaws with the current structure and implementation of the
trading program, it has not been viewed as a viable option either by
potential credit users or generators. We had hoped that our recommendations
for the program could have moved forward before the summer recess, as
opportunities are lost with each month that the trading program needs are
left unresolved.

“Fisher did note the Senate will schedule a hearing on nutrient credit
trading legislation introduced by Sen. Vance (R-Cumberland). He also
reported that SB 1341 was amended last week to include the purchase or
trading of nutrient credits as an allowable use of those funds.”

Creating a Stormwater Utility

We were having a discussion yesterday with Margherita Pryor of our regional EPA office and she brought up this presentation on creating a stormwater utility. It was interesting for several reasons….gives a reasonable method to ‘slice’ the problem of urban stormwater management using impervious surface areas, shows an adequate willingness to pay in several hundred communities, creates an approach to determining feasibility.

Margherita also drew a parallel to our bobolink project – where we’re developing a community market for wildlife habitat preservation. She referred to it as a ‘bobolink utility’. The definition of a utility is ‘a company providing something useful to the public’. Traditionally, we’ve used that structure for electric power, gas, water, telephone. Interestingly, the ‘useful to the public’ implies a social responsibility that separates the service from other commercial services. Obviously, new ecological and environmental knowledge (and a number of environmental problems) is quickly making us realize that the ethical implications are there in all goods and services. 

(Note: The file takes a minute to download.) 

Stormwater Utility Presentation

The Science and Economics of Sustainability

John Holdren, Director of the Woods Hole Research Center, made this presentation at the Katoomba Meetings earlier this month. ” The Science and Economics of Sustainability: Managing the Competing Uses of Land, Water, and Forests Under a Changing Climate” offers an abundance of sobering information on the state of the global environment and makes suggestions on where and how to act.

John Holdren Presentation  

The Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries

From Linwood Pendleton’s Foreword:

We encourage you to use this book as a primer, a reference, and a launching point for your own efforts to understand the potential economic benefits of coastal restoration where you live and work. The book is the seed of a living project to provide restoration professionals with the economic information and guidance needed to design, monitor, and implement coastal and restoration projects. Updates to chapters, new chapters, and links to the types of data found in this book are available online at www.estuaries.org and www.coastalvalues.org.

Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Forest Offsets

The Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences has created recommendations for forest offsets for RGGI.

They are very interesting! Think “scale’ as a major factor. From their Introduction:

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a cap-and-trade system designed to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from electricity generation in 10 northeastern states starting in 2009. Power plants seeking to meet their RGGI obligations have the option to offset a portion of their emissions (up to 3.3%) through projects that reduce emissions or sequester carbon in other sectors (such as the forestry sector).The Maine Forest Service and its partners, Environment Northeast (ENE), Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, have been asked by the RGGI Staff Working Group to propose recommendations for possibly expanding forest carbon offset project types in RGGI. This document represents a brief summary of our recommendations at this time. As we have worked to develop these recommendations, it became apparent to us that projects under a cap-and-trade program cannot address all that is needed to capitalize on the full potential forests have to reduce atmospheric GHGs; therefore, we recommend a two-pronged strategy which goes beyond these recommendations for expanding the range of carbon offset projects which are eligible. The second prong is to support programs which help keep forests as forests and maintain current management because these efforts too benefit carbon storage even though they cannot meet RGGIs requirements for offsets.