Why ecosystem service markets?
Ecosystem service markets can help fund the restoration and conservation of riparian forest buffers. Forests provide a full suite of goods and services that are vital to human health and livelihood. We call these ecosystem services. Many of these goods and services are traditionally viewed as free benefits to society, or “public goods.” This includes wildlife habitat and diversity, watershed services, carbon storage, and scenic landscapes, for example. Ecosystem service markets recognize riparian forest buffers as natural assets with economic and social value.
By implementing conservation actions, landowners can generate credits and sell them to organizations who voluntarily purchase the credits or entities like waste water treatment plants that need credits to maintain compliance with government-provided permits. A good first step in determining whether a property is eligible for market is to visit LandServer.
What are the existing ecosystem service markets in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?
Water Quality Trading
Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are currently operating water quality trading programs. Producers are eligible to generate nutrient credits after meeting established “baselines” for performance.
Stormwater Reduction Regulations
Under the recently adopted Chesapeake Bay TMDL, local governments are required to reduce stormwater runoff and associated pollutants as well as offset the potential pollutants associated with new growth and development. Developers and local governments face significant challenges meeting the new criteria. They will need to rely on offset approaches to address potential impacts. Producers can generate these offsets through a variety of practices including tree planting and implementation of riparian forest buffers.
MS4s or Municipal Separate Storm Systems
Discharges from MS4s are regulated by the states under the Clean Water Act as point sources. MS4 designated cities require a permit that requires certain actions and practices that may involve tree planting.
Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act
Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act is one of the oldest market-based conservation mechanisms in the Chesapeake region. In short, the Act requires developers to replace trees cut because of development through afforestation or reforestation. Forest banking is a conservation tool. It allows an owner to create and protect forest and then sell “mitigation credits” to developers seeking to comply with the Act.
Maryland’s Critical Area Protection Act
Established in 1984, the Critical Area Protection Act regulates land use within 1,000 feet of tidal waters and wetlands. The Act regulates forest cover like the Forest Conservation Act, but also mandates retention and mitigation for forest interior dwelling habitat, riparian forest buffers and stormwater. If developers are unable to meet the Act’s requirements on site, private mitigation banks can be used to provide offsets.
Virginia Nutrient Trading
Ecosystem Markets for Virginia’s Forest Lands
Ecosystem Markets for Maryland’s Forest Lands