Watershed Ecosystem Services in the Northern Forest
Ecosystem services are services provided by healthy, functioning ecosystems that benefit humans and human societies, such as the provision of clean air and water, flood control, wildlife habit, and recreational opportunities. Of the multitude of services forests provide, watershed services are widely recognized as the most critical due to the pressures of climate change and development that affect water quantity and quality. Now more than ever, new strategies to protect water resources and services are needed.
With funding from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and other funders, HBRF and its partners embarked on a three-year demonstration project to establish a marketplace to conserve vital watershed services in the Upper Connecticut River Watershed of New Hampshire and Vermont (a parallel project is being conducted in the Crooked River watershed in Maine).
The Watershed Ecosystem Services project is intended to accomplish three primary objectives:
- Develop an innovative, self-sustaining, and replicable, market-based model that facilitates transactions between ecosystem service buyers and sellers to protect and enhance watershed services.
- Create a partnership including landowners, foresters, conservation groups, policy makers, and other members of the public focused on the conservation and management of privately owned forests using new market-based tools.
- Make tangible contributions toward the conservation of private forests by increasing the use of scientifically based land-management practices in order to protect and manage for watershed and other ecosystem services.
In year one, we conducted research on potential “buyers” and “sellers” of ecosystem services, identified three regions within the watershed to focus our efforts, conducted informational webinars, and supported the first-ever “landscape auction” in the nation. Next steps will include launching a web-based marketplace that will match investors with private landowners who agree to undertake conservation measures to protect water-related services. Partners for this project include the American Forest Foundation, World Resources Institute, White River Partnership, Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust, Orange County Headwaters Project, and Dartmouth College.
Thanks to our funders: USDA/NRCS Conservation Innovations Grants Program, Davis Conservation Foundation, and Dartmouth College.