On April 13, 2015, the U.S. Water Prize was awarded to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for its innovative effort to develop and establish a multi-state water quality trading program in the Ohio River Basin. Through this program, utilities are paying farmers to implement conservation practices that reduce nutrient runoff into local waterways.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), part of USDA, has been a Federal leader in supporting the development of Environmental Markets, including the groundbreaking Ohio River Basin trading program. To help our stakeholders and the public understand our interest and role in environmental markets, I’m excited to announce that today we are launching a series of new web pages dedicated to NRCS’s work in supporting the development of environmental markets.
Environmental markets, broadly defined, are mechanisms that give value to and allow for the purchase and selling of ecosystem services. NRCS views environmental markets as another tool to get conservation on the ground. While NRCS has substantial funding to dedicate to private lands conservation, our funding will never be enough to address the natural resource needs of the Nation’s expansive private lands. Environmental markets complement NRCS’s work by bringing private and other non-Federal investments to private lands conservation.
You can read about our many environmental markets projects and success stories on the new Environmental Markets web page. The page also includes a new Environmental Markets video explaining NRCS’s role and highlighting some of our partners. There is also a link to our Environmental Markets Toolkit, which includes ecosystem service quantification tools such as COMET-Farm. Visit often as the page will be updated frequently with news, tool refinements, and success stories.
Interest in environmental markets is growing throughout the Nation. California has a carbon cap-and-trade system. There are now wildlife habitat banks for Greater Sage-grouse and Lesser Prairie-chicken. Water quality trading markets continue to mature. All of these efforts have the potential to benefit farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners as they work to produce food and fiber and conserve their natural resources. The launch today of our Environmental Markets web page announces to the public and our stakeholders NRCS’s intent to continue our leadership in this area.