What Makes Ecosystem Markets Work?
Are Ecosystem Markets working? Or better yet how well are they working? Such was the focus of a two-day conference June 17-19 in Portland, OR, sponsored by the Northwest Environmental Business Council and the American Forest Foundation. More than 200 practitioners, policy and market makers, buyers and sellers shared program-level experience on how ecosystem markets are working and what more needs to be done to promote their use as a premier conservation tool.
Presentations included findings on:
• Ecosystem Markets -- Progress and Lessons Along the Path
• The Business Opportunity
• Market Design -- Policies and Regulation-Based Markets
• Market Tools & Mechanisms
• Voluntary Market Opportunities-Leading the Way
• Cases on Watershed Services, Species & Habitat Offsets, and Carbon Credits
• What's Next -- Filling the Gaps
The session on Market Tools and Mechanisms highlighted the need for and importance of the market underpinnings or architecture such as monitoring, measurement, and registries. The session on Voluntary Markets featured two new tools, the BEF water restoration certification program (see Kate Hamilton's posting on June 23) and ProjectDX which is designed to create a market for stormwater already in practice in Portland. According to Tom Puttman of ProjectDX, The City of Portland is catalyzing voluntary stormwater retrofit actions with market mechanisms; the City acting as the buyer and property owners as the sellers. The project and city leaders are educating the citizens on managing stormwater and their own "stormwater footprint" (add that to carbon, water, and nitrogen footprinting) and connecting buyers and sellers through a stormwater marketplace. ProjectDX is developing similar projects in Seattle, Sonoma County, San Francisco and Washington, DC.
The two-day conference was topped off with a day of field visits to underscore actions taken (both public and private) to utilize ecosystem markets. A subset of the conference participants, myself included, visited three locations in the greater Portland region including: a forest owned by the City of Forest Grove and managed as part of its municipal water supply; a private tree farm owned by Anne & Richard Hanschu, second generation owners, where we heard how private owners are incorporating ecosystem markets into their overall management plan; and an urban riparian restoration project, part of a 10-year temperature reduction water quality trading program managed by Clean Water Services, a wastewater and stormwater public utility based in the Portland area and dedicated to protecting the water resources of Oregon's Tualatin River watershed.
Check out the conference website where most of the speaker presentations are posted. Well worth the effort.