Sunday, December 21, 2008

ATP model is part of conservation finance conference in Chile…

The Armenia Tree Project Backyard Nursery Program was used as a model for a winning paper by Harvard University graduate student Catherine Gordon. Ms. Gordon expanded on ATP’s micro-enterprise concept by including a Payment for Ecosystem Services component that will market the various services provided by the newly planted forests.

Ms. Gordon was selected to join 17 students with winning papers from a number of universities ranging from Oxford to the Universidad Austral de Chile for the Conservation Capital in the Americas conference in January, where international experts in the protection of land and biodiversity will consider exemplary cases in conservation finance innovation.

The Chile conference is being coordinated by James N. Levitt, director of the Program on Conservation Innovation at the Harvard Forest, and some of the topics to be covered include Limited Development and Sustainable Land Use, Financing for Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Sustainable Enterprises, Conservation Investment Banking, and Ecosystem Service and Forest Carbon Markets.

Partners for the conference include Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard's Kennedy School, Environmental Leadership and Training Institute of the Smithsonian Institution and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and Nature Conservancy.

The following is a summary of the paper written by Catherine Gordon, which was selected from among 40 other entries from North America by a panel of conservation finance experts from New Forests, Trust for Public Land, Harvard Forest, and elsewhere:

"The ATP program was used in this conservation finance model as an innovative way to enhance payment for ecosystem services (PES) projects. The backyard nurseries are used to supply of forestry seedlings for PES projects. Given the minimal set-up requirements, a backyard nursery is easily transferable within a region or other countries and allows for scalability so that the seedlings can be used with any sized PES project. Having a low-cost local infrastructure and supply will allow for the investment in small-scale projects that would normally be prohibitive due to set-up costs.

"Since maintaining genetic diversity and protecting endangered tree species is vital for forest management and preserving ecosystems, the backyard nursery allows for the propagation of specific seedling varieties to be used in targeted biodiversity PES projects. The seedlings are grown in local environments so that specific species of important ecological value can be targeted based on the needs of specific forests in any region of the world.

"Furthermore, though some PES projects have a pro-poor component, the inclusion of a backyard nursery model in payment for ecosystem services provides the opportunity for a quantifiable compensation program for local rural poor that is not solely reliant on one single PES project. Engaging local rural poor provides an opportunity to augment their income, educates them about conservation, and makes them stakeholders in the conservation of their local forests and ecosystems."

(Photo at Walden Pond State Reservation by Vicki Sohigian)