Study on Payments for Watershed Services Released

EcoAgriculture Partners has released a new study entitled, “Innovations in Market-Based Watershed Conservation in the United States: Payments for Watershed Services for Agricultural and Forest Landowners.”  This study is the culmination of a broad survey of innovative payments for watershed services activities in the U.S. designed to examine the current state of payments for watershed service activities and their future potential to improve the way that conservation and rural land stewardship take place in this country. The study describes a highly diverse set of 32 such projects from around the country, including public drinking water protection efforts, watershed-friendly certification labels, and “landscape auctions” that secure cost-effective watershed protection services through projects proposed by landowners.

The study focused on payments for watershed services projects in which municipal, private, and philanthropic organizations purchased ecosystem services from private farm and forest landowners. While the scale of such activities remains small relative to established conservation mechanisms, such as conservation easements and Farm Bill programs, the diversity of cases suggests that these new project models could have wide applicability and significant potential for scaling up. Expanding the use of payments for watershed services as an effective watershed conservation approach will require identifying and securing appropriate buyers, developing cost-effective land management and monitoring practices, and engaging landowners and local organizations in project design and implementation.

This study was supported by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc., and the USDA Office of Environmental Markets. The full study is available for download HERE. Further details on each of the 32 projects are available at the Conservation Registry, an online repository of conservation projects in the United States.