“Since an ecosystem approach will provide healthier landscapes and quantifying these values will provide ways for landowners to access revenues for the benefits they provide, it helps landowners stay on the land and also provides a way for the regulated community to more efficiently invest in mitigation activities.” ~ Project participant
An ecosystem services marketplace allows businesses and individuals whose activities unavoidably change the environment in ways that no longer meet regulatory standards to buy credits that pay other landowners to make environmental improvements that balance those impacts. For example, a manufacturer who impacts fish habitat by raising water temperatures might buy credits that would pay nearby riverfront landowners to plant trees to shade and cool the stream. Landowners can also get money from the marketplace to make environmental improvements not directly tied to specific impacts elsewhere.
On August 4, 2009, the Willamette Partnership Counting on the Environment Working Group agreed on an ecosystem credit accounting system for the Willamette Basin that includes credit calculators for wetlands, salmonid habitat, upland prairie, and water temperature. They also agreed on an integrated package of assurances; a standard process for issuing credits; voluntary testing; and a one-year pilot of the ecosystem credit accounting system. (See also Willamette Partnership Annual Report, page 5.)
Issues and Challenges
The process addressed complex technical and regulatory challenges, and needed to address many types of resources and associated credits while also satisfying the needs of regulatory agencies responsible for enforcing compliance. Previous efforts to create a similar system in Oregon failed to achieve consensus among the diverse interests involved.
The Willamette Partnership—Counting on the Environment ecosystem accounting system is a cutting edge model for functioning ecosystem services markets nationally. The system creates monetary incentives for meaningful conservation and restoration actions in Oregon; increases cooperation across private and business sectors; and links the economy and the environment by creating business opportunities in Oregon that advance environmental health.
Cities of Albany, Eugene and Portland; Cascades West Council of Governments; Clean Water Services; Defenders of Wildlife; Ecotrust; Institute for Natural Resources; Mud Slough Wetland Mitigation Bank; The Nature Conservancy; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Oregon state departments of: Agriculture, Environmental Quality, Fish & Wildlife, Forestry, Land Conservation & Development, State Lands, Transportation, and Water Resources; Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service; Willamette Partnership
Deb Nudelman, Kearns & West