October 23, 2009
“The largest portion of forests in the US is owned by families, not the Forest Service or the big companies. In a time of climate change, development pressure, pests, and fire concerns, these woodlands need sustainable management and that means private landowners need healthy markets. Beyond timber, developing new markets can help provide income to private landowners for the ecosystem services—clean water, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, etc.—that their forests or natural areas provide for the public.” American Forest Foundation, Conservation Incentives website
The WRP was one of five partners to receive a USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant to support a $1 million effort to conserve ecosystem services provided by forests in two critical watersheds in the Northern Forest region: the Upper Connecticut River watershed in Vermont and New Hampshire, and the Crooked River watershed in Maine. The WRP will partner with the American Forest Foundation (Washington, DC) and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation (Hanover, NH) to coordinate work in the Upper Connecticut River watershed project area.
Clean reliable water is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the country as climate change and development pressures affect water quantity, quality, timing, and distribution. The watershed values of forests have historically been undervalued with limited appreciation, monetarily or otherwise, especially from downstream users. There is, however, a growing awareness of the need to protect working forests as the costs of degraded ecosystems becomes more apparent. Municipalities and water suppliers increasingly recognize source protection as a potential component of a multi-tier approach to providing safe drinking water.
Innovative watershed services markets can provide effective incentives for sustainable forest management and have emerged as alternative financing mechanisms to ensure water quality and the protection of other important watershed services. When added to traditional forest revenues, these incentives can offer private forest landowners the means to stay on the land, managing their forests sustainably.
During the next three years, the project partners will engage communities with education and outreach activities to demonstrate a new market-based framework in which they will “broker” the sale of ecosystem services by private landowners to buyers such as private citizens, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and others. By combining ecosystem science with innovative payment techniques to private landowners, project partners hope to create a replicable model for preserving essential ecosystem services provided by our forested watersheds.
Contact us for more information about the Northern Forest Watershed Services Project.