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This Week In Biodiversity: A Race To The Bottom?


The annual National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference happened this month with the incoming National Mitigation Banking Association (NMBA) president citing low standards and a lack of equivalency in mitigation products as the fundamental challenges facing the industry today. Meanwhile, outside of the US, researchers explore integrating biodiversity into REDD+ in Indonesia.

This article was originally posted in the Mit Mail newsletter. Click here to read the original.


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18 May 2015 | This month hundreds came to Orlando for the National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference. The conference is always an opportunity to reflect on the state of the industry: the past year's successes, key regulatory developments, and new opportunities. 


Outgoing NMBA President Wayne White
chatted with Ecosystem Marketplace about his tenure, citing work with Department of Interior agencies on implementing Interior's new, more ambitious mitigation strategy as a significant achievement this year by the NMBA. Another success was a new approach to supporting NMBA members in local efforts to push for full enforcement of the 2008 Final Compensatory Wetland Mitigation Rule.

 

Incoming NMBA president Mike Sprague says he'll focus on opportunities for new growth and continued outreach: "There is a different tone this year and one that is much more cooperative than in the past," he tells EM. He'll also push for continued high standards for mitigation. "Banking sells a high quality product. So the risk to our industry is what I call the race to the bottom." It's the risk that the cheapest, lowest quality mitigation solution becomes the preferred mitigation alternative. Unfortunately, you can see that risk in some of the programs and offsets today in the US: a lack of standards or poor quality standards combined with a lack of equivalency for mitigation methods."


High standards are also the subject of a new framework of ecological restoration principles that aim to set a global standard. We've also got stories on how to integrate biodiversity into REDD+ in Indonesia and biodiversity tipping points in the Amazon. And in the United States, recent decisions - on declining to list a greater sage grouse sub-population and on judicial review of Clean Water Act jurisdiction assertions by the Corps - may signal which way the wind will blow as these issues play out at a bigger scale in the coming months.

 

Read on,

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


 

EM Exclusives

New NMBA President Discusses Challenges, Possibilities For Mitigation Banking

Michael Sprague was officially named the new President of the National Mitigation Banking Association this month at the annual National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference. During a conversation with Ecosystem Marketplace, Sprague noted his key objectives for the coming year, which include a ramp up of activities that influence policy, as well as problems that continue to plague banking.

Read it here.


Outgoing NMBA President Reflects on Old and New Goals for Banking in 2015

Wayne White, outgoing President of the National Mitigation Banking Association recently gave Ecosystem Marketplace a brief rundown on highlights of the past year and what to expect from this year's National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking conference, which should again see a focus on Interior's landscape-level mitigation strategy. White named implementation of this plan as the most significant point of 2014. He also chatted with EM on progress pushing the Corps on enforcement of the 2008 Rule with a new local approach, and why the voluntary-versus-regulated conservation debate isn't going away anytime soon.

Learn more at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Is Private Investment And Coastal Management A Good Or Bad Match?

Nicolas Pascal, of the BlueFinance project, a data collection initiative aimed at developing finance mechanisms for marine conservation management, says market mechanisms have potential to fill a big part of a funding gap that exists in marine conservation. But its practical experience in coastal environments is limited: more know-how is needed to spur private investment.

Keep reading.


Equivalency, Streamlining and Stacking: Hot Topics Of This Year's Mitigation Banking Conference

The 18th National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference saw a refreshing mix of attendees and sessions along with healthy debate regarding key issues in today's banking industry. Lauren Hutchison, a PhD student in the wetland mitigation field at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christie provides highlights and a brief summary of the annual event, where hot topics included equivalent standards, credit stacking, streamlining the permitting process, and NRDAR (the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program).

Read it at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

Are Sage Grouse a Security Issue?

The Armed Services Committee within the US House of Representatives has likened greater sage-grouse conservation to an "extreme environmental agenda," saying the birds' protection measures on federal lands are costing the Department of Defense millions. Late last month, the Committee issued the National Defense Authorization Act, which would prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act and restrict federal conservation plans. Environmental groups point out that the Defense Department has never requested such a provision despite the impacts claimed.

Lexology has analysis from Nossaman LLP.


Amazon Rainforest Teeters On Point of No Return

There is a species loss threshold in the Amazon rainforest where, once crossed, biodiversity loss will rapidly accelerate along with attendant damages. According to a recent study, the Brazilian Amazon is either dangerously close to passing this threshold or has already done so in some areas. The study maps the impact that deforestation has on entire regions of the Amazon, finding that habitat fragmentation is a key reason for the rapid species decline that happens with widespread forest loss. When forest cover descends to 43%, biodiversity loss quickens to between two and eight major species for every 10% of forest that is further lost. Report authors recommend landscape level management that encompasses private land to stem this loss, as opposed to the farm-by-farm approach to protecting biodiversity that is currently being used.

Read more at Mongabay.


NMBA Brings on its First Executive Director

The National Mitigation Banking Association have chosen an individual well-versed in national conservation policy and familiar to Washington D.C.'s inner circles to serve as the organization's first Executive Director. "Barton James brings a wealth of experience to our membership through his work on and off Capitol Hill, within the Federal government, and at leading conservation organizations,” said then NMBA President Wayne White. The Executive Director is intended to fulfill needed day-to-day operations while acting as the NMBA's official spokesperson and overseeing membership-related activities.

Read a press release here.


What the Mono Basin Sage-Grouse Listing Decision tells us about ESA Listings

Much to the dismay of some conservation organizations, the US Interior Secretary announced late last month the Fish and Wildlife Service will not recommend an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing status for the Mono Basin sage-grouse, a unique bi-state population living along the Nevada-California border. The decision to withdraw the listing comes largely because of a furious push to conserve the bird by federal agencies, scientists, landowners and conservation organizations.


Environmental groups like WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity blasted the decision arguing that serious threats to the bi-state sage-grouse (which have an estimated population of 1800-7400 birds) remain unaddressed, leaving the species vulnerable to the threat of extinction.


On a broader level, the decision not to list the Mono Basin sage-grouse may foreshadow Interior's decision on the much more consequential listing of the related greater sage-grouse, a bird numbering in the hundreds of thousands and ranging over eleven states heavily invested in oil and gas drilling, mining and renewable energy.

E&E has the story.


Après le Déluge, The Money?

A federal court is still determining just how much oil company BP should be charged for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that killed 11 people and spilled 5 million barrels into the Gulf in 2010. Communities in the five states that saw their seafood and tourism industries decimated by the spill continue to be affected as they wait on the fine money to fund restoration projects like sea grass protection, dune restoration and stormwater improvements. When the money does eventually flow to the states, it will largely be because of the bipartisan RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economies) Act, passed by Congress. Whereas the Treasury usually receives fine money, the Act requires 80% of it - estimated to be as much as $13B - to go to the impacted states.

Read more at USA Today.


Judicial Review Case Portends a Pushback on Clean Water Act Jurisdiction Assertions

Last month the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit handed down a decision that Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction assertions are subject to judicial review. The case has potential ramifications for a forthcoming final rule clarifying "waters of the US" that fall under CWA jurisdiction. The rule could mean a bigger, clearer playing field for the mitigation industry, but has proven controversial in other quarters.

 

In Hawkes v. US Army Corps of Engr’s, the court sided with the Hawkes Company's contention that lacking an opportunity for judicial review, appellants are forced to "incur substantial compliance costs (the permitting process), forego what they assert is lawful use of their property, or risk substantial enforcement penalties” without other adequate alternative remedies.

Get analysis from Hunton Williams via Lexology.


A Blue Carbon Market Grows for Louisiana's Deltaic Wetlands

Between storm protection, fisheries, tourism, wildlife habitat and the oil industry, the ecosystem services of Louisiana's coastal wetlands are too great to be ignored. And since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, the region has been a hub of innovation seeking ways to protect quickly-eroding but critically valuable deltaic wetlands. One local wetland restoration company, Tierra Resources, is harnessing the blue carbon market to finance conservation work. The region's main electricity provider, Entergy, has come out as a big supporter, funding Tierra Resources' initial activity and now participating in a project. “We are married to our service area," said Entergy's Corporate Social Responsibility Director. "And with the loss of the wetlands, it has taken away one of the barriers that protects us and our customers from storm casualty loss.”

Forbes has the story.


Mitigation Roundup

 

 


Getting the Ball Rolling on Global Standards for Ecological Restoration

Ecological restoration is often ambiguously defined. Now, an assorted group of professionals from the fields of ecology, economics, law, geography, philosophy and political science have developed a framework outlining four principles to follow to deliver best results when implementing restoration projects. The principles are; ecological integrity, long-term sustainability, accounting for past and future variables, and engaging society. Comparing it to the New York Declaration on Forests, authors feel the framework could serve as a binding and robust international structure that - because of the diverse background of its creators - is applicable across a multitude of contexts.

Learn more here.


A Key Component of Biodiversity Conservation? Biodiversity

New research urges REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project developers to take into account carbon-rich regions of Indonesia's vast forestland are not necessarily biodiversity-rich. The study addresses the claim that REDD, as a rule, offers big benefits for biodiversity. But to capture those benefits, researchers say, biodiversity-specific management will need to be integrated into project planning and design. This is already happening in REDD projects in other parts of the world like Tanzania and Brazil where there is a focus on high-biodiversity areas. Researchers recommend incorporating Indonesia's lowland forests that have high biodiversity value into REDD+ projects despite their containing below-average carbon content.

Learn more at Mongabay.


JOB LISTINGS

 


Conservation Manager

WWF - Antananarivo, Madagascar

Based in Madagascar, the Conservation Manager heads the Conservation Division and provides leadership, strategic direction and technical support for the development, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of WWF’s conservation strategy and programme in the Madagascar & West Indian Ocean Region, in compliance with WWF’s priorities, policies and standards and under the guidance of the Country Director. The Conservation Manager provides advice to the Country Director on pertinent conservation issues in the region.

Learn more here.


Fundraising and Partnership Manager

WWF - Antananarivo, Madagascar

The Fundraising and Partnership Manager is responsible for i) overall fundraising management activities of the organization, including the development and implementation of a 3 - 5 year fundraising strategy to financially support and strategically advance MWIOPO’s Madagascar and WIO’s environmental conservation activities; ii) development and maintenance of effective partnerships that are relevant to the WWF Madagascar conservation strategy. This senior position reports directly to the Country Director, is a member of the senior management team.

Learn more here.


EVENTS

 


2015 Conservation Finance Boot Camp

The Conservation Finance Network at Island Press is pleased to announce the 2015 Conservation Finance Boot Camp training course being held at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in partnership with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. Now in its ninth year, this intensive week-long course aims to help professionals utilize innovative and effective financing strategies for land resource conservation, restoration, and stewardship. The course will offer in-depth information on trends and opportunities in public funding, private investment capital, bridge financing and loans, gifts and grants, income from the land, and monetized ecosystem services. There will be a strong emphasis on practical, hands-on tools and lessons from relevant case studies. Attendees will have an opportunity to consult with conservation finance experts on projects or problems from their work. The course will also serve to convene a peer network of committed conservation professionals working on similar issues across the nation. Past attendees have included U.S. and international conservationists, foundation leaders, land trust board members, executive directors, private investors, business executives, and academics. Opportunities for networking will be built in throughout the week in order to foster long-term professional relationships and support networks among attendees and presenters. 1-5 June 2015. New Haven CT, USA.

Learn more here.


SOCAP 15

We are a network of heart-centered investors, entrepreneurs, and social impact leaders who believe in an inclusive and socially responsible economy to address the world’s toughest challenges. Since 2008, SOCAP has created a platform where social impact leaders can connect and present their ideas to a global audience. Our annual flagship event in San Francisco is the largest conference for impact investors and social entrepreneurs and has drawn more than 10,000 people. 6-9 October 2015. San Francisco CA, USA.

Learn more here.


8th ESP World Conference

The Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) is a worldwide network, founded in 2008, to enhance the science and practical application of ecosystem services. To facilitate the needed dialogue between scientists, policy makers and practitioners ESP organises an annual international conference in different parts of the world. The central theme is ‘Ecosystem Services for Nature, People and Prosperity’. The conference will pay special attention to the public and private sector dialogue on how the ecosystem services concept can be used to support conservation, improve livelihoods and engage the business community. 9-13 November 2015. Stellenbosch, South Africa.

 
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