The value of ecosystem services and development of ecosystem markets

The state of Maryland, via the governor and state department of natural resources has released its final report on a market based approach to recovering ecosystem services.  MD's connection to the Chesapeake is perhaps obvious and the report seeks to document equitable offsets when forest land is developed, and proposes programs that will encourage private sector involvement. 

 

Here is a link to the article.

Here is a link to the report.

 

I have skimmed sections of the report, enough to develop some questions but no meaningful analysis (as we each should individually do with all written materials).  It seems the article generates more questions than answers. When I have a chance to read the report, or if someone else has, I would be interested in knowing how the private forest land owner factors into the ecosystem market equation, both at the time land is being converted and as the holder of property that currently provides the existing ecosystem services.  This discussion would lend itself well to the different perspectives of people who live and work in private forests, managers, and all others who utilize or depend upon the services provided by private forests. (I just skimmed the forest section of the report) It seems that policies were established in the early 90's to reduce the conversion of forest land.  One policy strategy used by several MD counties, a fee-in-lieu strategy is compared to a strategy that only allows forest land banking.  If I understand the report, the in-lieu option values forest land at $0.40 to $0.90 per sf (sq. ft.?), with a state minimum of $0.30/sf; this, if assumptions are correct, values forest land at $17,434 - $39,204 per acre.  The report section on forests doesn't provide any information on ecosystem services provided by forests, but does conclude that the full value of ecosystem services associated with developed forest land is not being recovered.  The report recognizes deficiencies in information regarding the fee-in-lieu strategy and its uncertain and undocumented benefits.

 

To the extent that there is state and federal level interest in ecosystem services and the contribution of private lands to these services, anyone with interest in private woodlands (basically everyone, but some more than others), should think about how policies may impact private land ownership and management. Private owners will want to be part of these discussions.

 

 

 

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Comment by Peter Smallidge on October 18, 2011 at 12:39pm

I just saw another story that tracks this topic.  A company is creating a market place/network to assess ecosystem services (including property in PA an NY and elsewhere in the bay watershed) and connect the owner with someone wishing to purchase those ecosystem service.  More information here.  (I haven't validated any of the story...buyer & seller beware).

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