Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ecosystem services: some important stories from 2013

I've assembled a non-exhaustive, non-representative sample of stories in the ecosystem services world (broadly defined) from this year that promise to be important in 2014. Here they are - what are yours?

2013 was a year chock full of hotspots of ecosystem services projects and controversy - like the debates in the UK over the country's new habitat mitigation market - but among them, Louisiana stands out. Dubbed "the Himalayas of ecosystem services," there's been more than enough to report on there. There's the very beginnings of RESTORE Act implementation, for starters. The Act will take all the cash BP gets fined in its civil trial and put it towards comprehensive wetland restoration and sediment diversion projects across the Gulf. It's a windfall for the region, and state agencies and conservationists there want to spend the money wisely, knowing what they get for their investment. They've written a raft of plans on how to proceed, and ES feature prominently as the objects of concern and the measures ($ and otherwise) of success. We'll see more projects coming online in 2014 and begin to see their effectiveness.

Speaking of BP's ongoing civil trial, there've been lawsuits left and right in Louisiana this year that revolve around what's the best way to do coastal restoration and who's to blame for the mess of wetland loss. As arguments came to their final stage in BP's ongoing civil trial, the southeastern Louisiana levee board that was created after Katrina to deal with systemic wetland loss in the area drew on some arcane French-era law on levees to launch a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against oil/gas companies for the part their canals have played in destroying wetlands. That drew the outrage of the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, who says, no, the Army Corps of Engineers and their levees on the Mississippi are to blame. Gov. Jindal had John Barry - the levee board member who advocated for the lawsuit - sacked while CPRA went ahead with its own lawsuit against the corps. The different lawsuits are not just indicative of differing opinions of who's to blame - the corps or the resource extraction industry - but of what's the best way to do restoration: fill in old oil/gas canals, or breach levees to divert sediment to form new land?

If billion dollar plans and lawsuits weren't enough, New Orleans was named one of the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 resilient cities. NOLA will get a "Chief Resilience Officer" funded by Rockefeller and the city will also be the test site for some new software made by the same company that makes data mining tools for the CIA that will help the new CRO figure out what investments in resilience will be most likely to payoff.

In fact, this year we learned that about half of all federal spending that could be defined as related to ES is on tools for mapping, monitoring, and modelling ES. In the Gulf (and for several other places around the world), The Nature Conservancy and partners have put together a slick interactive tool that lets users visualize different investment options for restoration. ES monitoring is moving to automation at the same time that folks are figuring out how to build new maps and models. The Forest Service runs several experimental "smart forests" that collect lots of data on many different environmental indicators, and they (and many other resource agencies) are also (infamously) exploring the use of drone technology to manage forest fires. There's a growing number of tools for measuring and managing ES, and these tools have become fundamental to the ES paradigm (see a great special issue on them in the new journal Ecosystem Services here). Watch for new efforts at big data analysis and ES in the coming year.

2013 saw yet more institutions organizing business and government around seeing environmental degradation as a matter of nature's benefits not having an economic value. That's not to say these new fora and panels actually did anything about the very issues on which they pontificated. I'm thinking here about November's first World Forum on Natural Capital, which was essentially more a feel-good pep talk for corporate leaders and less a hashing out of actionable tasks. It didn't go uncontested and in 2014 we should expect to see the same sort of opposition that we've see for carbon as business leaders aim to price any and all other ES. In December, the new Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services convened in Turkey to finalize their first work plan. It's been years in the making and we'll see in 2014 how it starts to get implemented.

The story that most fell under the radar this year was the White House's executive order on climate change adaptation and resilience. This year, about 30 federal agencies developed their first-ever set of plans for how they intend to respond to climate change in their operations and outreach. The EO goes a step further and calls on all agencies to revamp their programs to make it easier to fund projects that are meant to support resilience, for agencies like Interior to manage their lands for resilience, for agencies to develop data and tools for recognizing resilience, and for agencies to plan for climate change risk. All these have the potential to be driving significant work in the coming year and beyond.

The story that wasn't was the US Supreme Court's ruling that appears to constrain regulators' flexibility in determining appropriate compensation for wetland and stream impacts under the Clean Water Act. It's not yet clear whether it'll actually turn out to be problematic. Meanwhile, EPA and ACOE are finally getting around to clarifying what wetlands and streams are within their ambit, a move that environmentalists have long fought for in the legislative sphere. As the draft guidance currently stands, it could bring in millions of dollars more in compensation work yearly because it expands what counts as a water of the US.

The single best piece out there this year on ES was Paul Voosen's history of ES as told through Gretchen Daily, Peter Kareiva, and Michael Soule. He does a brillant job showing how even if it looks like it from 30,000 feet not every conservationist is on board with the project of valuing nature, and he ties this in with an on the ground look at ES "modelling sausage." If you haven't read it yet, go do it now. The runner-up is SciAm's recent piece characterizing the paradigms and debates in wetland restoration today, with a major focus on differing opinions on how to do work in the Gulf.

So what did I miss?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Time to CHAT? Mapping "Regulatory Resistance" in the West

"Mining companies like to say, 'The gold is where the gold is, that's where we need to go,'" said Chet Van Dellen, GIS coordinator for Nevada's Department of Wildlife. "We like to say the animals are where the animals are." New high-tech maps detail wildlife habitat in West, Scott Sonner, 12/13/13
Late last week a coalition of western governors released a new tool meant to help gold miners, transportation designers, energy companies - just about anybody with a natural resource impact - to plan development projects. CHAT, the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, going to be one big map for the West, and although it's not entirely filled out yet, the idea is to show those gold miners, hey, here's where our important habitats are. It pays to be clear: the maps are not, as the AP's headline suggests, simply mapping wildlife habitat in greater detail. The tool's resolution is somewhat impressive - down to the square mile - but what it's really doing is visualizing the spaces where project managers can expect to run into problems getting their permits. Some habitats will not be as crucial or as much of a priority as others. The difference may be subtle, but on it turns the role mapping plays in setting the public agenda in environmental governance today.

Here's how CHAT works. Each state has gathered a bunch of data and assigned weights to different kinds of habitats, on a scale from 1-6 (most to least important). The weights are based on information like the condition of habitat as well as economic significance. Each state has its own process, and very often, it's got its very own personal CHAT tool. You should expect no less from the West, and this brand of formal coordination, was likely what got every single western state on board. What CHAT isn't is a project to get all states on board to a similar standard for evaluating habitat significance. It's just meant to project (in the mapping sense) the standards each one already has. Take a look at some of the screenshots of the map if you haven't already, because you can see differences in regulatory regimes on the map.

A CHAT map. From:

Where you'd expect some important habitats to cross-cut state boundaries, like in Yellowstone, we see that they cut off at Montana, either because the state hasn't gotten around to doing it's categorization yet or because that habitat simply isn't as important to Montana as it is to Wyoming. CHAT is meant to show all western states so that if you're a pipeliner you can see what sort of regulatory resistance you're going to run into across your entire project. Or if you're a gold miner, you can easily see whether it'll be easier to do a project in Utah or Arizona.

It may have been five years in the making, but it's roots go back way further. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to start at the Articles of Confederation to get a sense of what kind of coordination this represents: federalism. Not only does each state gets to develop and share its own particular habitat standards, the map is a way for states to show federal authorities that, hey, we've got everything under control here, much as they are doing with candidate species rulings. More concretely, though, we only have to go back to the mid 90s to understand why we have CHAT now. Federal listing of endangered species like the northern spotted owl generated what boil down to two calls, two sides of the same coin really: state-led environmental policy, and economics-sensitive environmental policy. It'd be no understatement to say that most environmental politics in the West for the past 20 years has been an outgrowth, good or bad, to the issues raised at that time. Utah's and Oregon's governors, on separate sides of the aisle, have developed a set of principles they dubbed, "Enlibra" that they've promoted in the WGA. Enlibra is a new regulatory regime whose ambit is reconciling economic growth and environmental protection, and we've gotten ecosystem services markets and community forestry alike, to name a few examples, out of it. As a prioritization tool rather than a data display tool, CHAT is straight out of the Enlibra playbook.

But here's what it all comes back to: I can't help but feeling that CHAT is like showing your opponent your hand in a game of cards. Of course, it's not like the Nevada Department of Wildlife or some other agency couldn't say, "psych!" and go back on their promise of little regulatory resistance: the map isn't immutable. That also means there's no reason they couldn't go back on their promise of heavy regulatory resistance. The map is a curious legal entity. There's no mandate for all western states to make it: it doesn't have to exist or be used. But it sort of justifies its own existence. All I mean is that by putting the map - described as a "pro-development tool" by the Nevada Department of Wildlife - out there into the world, it's going to be hard to take it back. Developers, regulators, and even the Center for Biological Diversity like it, and that gives it a ton of legitimacy that goes beyond its ambiguous legal status. 

All the cards are on the table now in the West. It's not clear yet whether that's a good thing. It'll probably make regulators' lives easier, for one. There's also certainly a power in being the one to set the terms of engagement. Either way, maps like CHAT are going to play an important role in the making of the relationship between states, nature, and capital in the near term. Just take a look at the interactive maps the Coastal Resilience Network has set up that allows users to choose how important different economic and ecological variables are to determining great places to do restoration. It's not a regulatory map (yet), but you can imagine some of the opportunities that it would afford regulators. It'd make it easier for them to say, for instance, hey, we made the map based on how users (citizens?), not us, weighted restoration priorities. It's not our fault...Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scaling up? Difficulties in the prioritization, selection, and evaluation of restoration sites for Oregon's ecosystem services market

I gave a talk today at the World Conference on Ecological Restoration here in Madison, WI. It's a take on how restoration sites in the Oregon wetland mitigation market are planned for, chosen, and evaluated, and ends with a discussion of what the case may suggest for other markets. It's something I've addressed in other ways, to other audiences, here, here and here. Oh, and here and here, too! My argument in the talk is that efforts to concentrate on watershed needs and processes may not be so easily implemented when it comes to mitigation markets, though that's likely to differ from region to region. Below you can find the slides and text.

Scaling up? SER 2013 presentation - Eric Nost from ericnost

Thanks for coming. I’ll be sharing just a slice of some recent research which is part of a larger NSF-funded project on stream mitigation banking here in the US.
The message I hope yall can take home today is this: efforts to concentrate on watershed needs and processes in ensuring greater ecological returns from restoration may not be so easily implemented when it comes to mitigation markets. Outcomes are likely to differ from region to region, however. PES promoters regularly call for spatially-explicit approaches to restoration, but on the ground their efforts run into resistance from the entrepreneurs at the heart of these markets. Their concerns are both economic and ecological.
I’ll make the argument by taking us through how restoration sites in the Oregon market are planned for, chosen, and evaluated, ending with a discussion of what the case may suggest for other markets.

We’ll start here. Welcome to the HML restoration site in exurban PDX.

It’s one site in a regional market for aquatic ecosystem services, providing several. The wetland you see stores and delays water, for instance, mitigating flood impacts for downstream homes.

The stream, OTOH, provides habitat for salmon that migrate into the foothills of the Coast Range.

And so on January 25, 2012, the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) authorized the sale of mitigation credits representing this salmon habitat to the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Department (THPRD). Now, it’s absolutely worth taking just a second to make sure we’re on the same page about how mitigation markets work. In US markets for wetland and stream ecosystems, federal environmental regulatory agencies – ACOE, EPA, in conjunction with state agencies like DSL - permit developers to compensate for unavoidable resource degradation by paying entrepreneurs (or, “mitigation bankers”) who speculatively restore ecosystems. At HML, DSL is the banker, but usually it is private industry.
DSL did not sell the Half Mile Lane (HML) property itself to THPRD. Instead, it sold credits - measures of both the quality and quantity of habitat created after the agency replaced a culvert and performed other restoration there.

THPRD wanted these credits so it could tell regulators that it had adequately compensated for a trail bridge it is building that will degrade habitat elsewhere in the watershed.

The idea is to ensure some kind/degree of equivalence between resource impact and resource restored, in order to accomplish a no net loss of function and acreage. This is the art and science of assessment.

HML is operated by DSL, but it is a testing grounds for the WP, TNC and other cons developing what they see as more rigorous assessment methods and protocols for Oregon’s market and beyond. HML embodies 3 big moves in market-based environmental governance. While it’d be nice to go through all of them, given the growing number of calls for watershed approaches to how sites are chosen and evaluated - here at the conference, for instance - I want to focus on this last point. We can chat later about any of them.

Indeed, mapping and modelling landscape interactions at existing and possible restoration sites is increasingly recognized as an important component of site evaluation. The idea is that a site like HML’s ES are spatially dependent, or contextual - relative to what’s going on up and down the watershed. Think of it like this: if you restore a wetland in the middle of nowhere and no one’s around to benefit from how it retains flood waters, does it provide an ES? For many, the answer is no.
The international think-tank for ecosystem services accounting, TEEB, for instance, note that the specific provision of services depends on the site. The work of the wetland at HML to store and delay water matters because there are homes in the 100 year floodplain downstream that benefit.

Cons bio and head of NCP, Gretchen Daily concurs. She calls for focusing on the right places in the landscape that leverage high ecological returns on investments.

HML’s position, for instance, allows it to slow down and cycle the increased runoff from logging, quarrying operations.

Such calls from conservationists have in fact made it into policy. In 2008, ACOE and EPA put out a new rulemaking formalizing many aspects of the mitigation market nationally. The rule called for states and regions to implement strategic approaches to restoration siting, rather than sites being chosen opportunistically, in reference to cost or availability or interest..

And to bring it back to DSL, the value of a wetland means its opportunity to provide an ecological function/service based on where it is.

So not only is landscape ecological assessment and prioritization on the minds of conservationists and of official interest to the feds,  it’s central to DSL, and in the rules in OR. But it’s one thing to be on the books and another to be in force on the ground. The question is: how does restoration siting actually play out in OR?
There are three moments to it, but they are moments that put the interests of regs and cons against those of private entrepreneurs.  In the short-term, at least, entrepreneurs’ work is made difficult in 3 ways by regs and cons’ new metrics and approaches. In the rest of this talk I’ll walk us through these 3 moments and 3 difficulties to siting.

In the first moment, ecologically-trained consultants to bankers work in the office with several online mapping utilities to gage how ecological processes occur across the landscape and affect the site where bankers have chosen to do restoration.

Here’s one of the key mapping utilities consultants use, called Oregon Explorer. Hydric soils are the orange/yellow, but we also see the 100 year floodplain downstream of the HML. Consultants have to answer questions about landscape context by using OE to, for instance, draw a 2 mile radius circle around the site to see how many other similar habitats the site is connected to in the area, or what sources of ecological stress are nearby, like the quarry. The key point here is that the assessment of a banker’s site is relational to the site’s surroundings – but these are things which the banker has no or little control over.

Whatever their score, bankers then have to take their numbers to the agencies and staff judge the offsite stressors and risks consultants find in their assessment, approving, modifying, or denying an entrepreneur’s choice of where to do restoration.
Agencies also categorize wetlands. Some kinds of wetlands in the landscape mosaic are more market-worthy than others. For instance, DSL has written farmed floodplain wetland sites off the map in a recent rule. Based on a series of reports on long-term success and failure, DSL doesn’t think they restore a lot of the storm water retention services that the wetlands in urban areas - where the majority of impacts are  - provide. They didn’t meet watershed needs. In the rule, a farmed wetland is seen as not hydrologically degraded and so restoring it wouldn’t bring back hydrological functions. Bankers disagree on ecological grounds: these kinds of wetlands have been tilled, tiled, and plowed. They think those are precisely the sites that need to be restored in the landscape.

Now, when bankers finally do get their bank approved, they get credits to sell. What non-profit conservationists want to see happen in the market is that when a banker brings a site to the market, the amount of credits they can sell would depend in large part on the location of their project.

These are “priority areas” - habitat sites mapped by state environmental agencies, and collated by TNC.
The idea is that if they were doing restoration in a priority area bankers would get the full amount of credits they normally would and receive less if they were not in a priority area. But potentially restorable properties in priority areas are on average slightly more expensive than elsewhere, and this could cut into bankers’ profits. Perhaps more crucially, it drastically cuts into their potential range of sites to choose from, when finding a site tends to be more luck than anything anyway. And bankers also wonder how priority areas were chosen, often noting that their sites have plenty to offer as important.
The point is that this sort of watershed plan, something called for in the 2008 federal rule, makes some places obviously more valuable than others to do restoration, and that’s a big shift. It may make the market more like any other traditional market, but now working outside a priority may not earn bankers as many credits as it would have. To be clear, this isn’t yet implemented, but it’s very much on the table because of the federal rule.

So we can start wrapping up. We can pull out 3 points of difficulty in the market:
1) The priorities aren’t necessarily what bankers see as priorities, and even the idea of prioritizing is limiting, at least right now, in comparison with current practice.
2 The categorization of wetlands in the landscape isn’t how bankers would address watershed needs..
3)They’re asked to account for offsite processes they have little control over

Because of all this, bankers are hesitant about starting new projects. No private entrepreneur has done a project with the new landscape focused metrics and rules yet.
But this isn’t simply because bankers don’t get the gospel of landscape ecology. Bankers’ considerations are both economic and ecological - it’s sometimes bad for business, sometimes not what they see as the right ecological priority. So how have regs and cons been able to put forth such a strong vision of their own in the first place? Markets around the country vary and a lot of discretion about which watershed plans to choose and metrics to use is left to regional, district, or state staff. In a place like OR, with strong institutional momentum behind planning/zoning, regulators are more willing to make and point at maps and say, do resto here. With better data collection and availability, they’re also just more able to. Regs and cons’ ability to come out with a strong plan very much reflects the Oregon context..

The conclusion to takeaway is that in spite of calls from TEEB, Gretchen Daily, and others, efforts on the ground to improve the assessment and consideration of watershed/landscape needs in restoration run into resistance when implemented in restoration markets. The causes stem from both differing economic and ecological viewpoints, but this resistance will differ from place to place. What’s implied is that in some places, there may be other approaches to addressing watershed needs within a compensatory mitigation framework that are more effective than relying on private entrepreneurs, who have economic and ecological hesitations. We don’t have to look any further than HML - DSL’s own bank - for an example, and similar approaches exist nationally. But that’s going to have to be the topic of another talk.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A look at RESTORE Act implementation

What would you do if you had about a billion dollars for ecological restoration?

That's exactly what the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (or, Council) is trying to figure out. That's no easy task given that the Council is a powerhouse, high-level government entity composed of the five Gulf Coast governors and six executive branch Cabinet members (think secretaries of Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security, Commerce, EPA administrator, etc.)The Council came into being when President Obama signed the RESTORE Act last year. That Act put 80% of the Clean Water Act fines BP and Transocean are going to pay for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill into the hands of the Council. It's the largest pot of money for restoration in the US ever.

Question is, how do you even go about spending that much money in a time when any sort of surplus in government hands seems like the work of a divine hand, and so usually gets cannibalized in the ritual sacrifices that follow? [Update: the sequester is already taking a 5% toll on RESTORE Act funds] Well, this Council has a comprehensive plan. More accurately, as of late last week the Council has put out their initial comprehensive plan that describes the principles for how it will distribute money to various Gulf Coast restoration projects and programs. I had the chance to read it; here are my initial reactions:

1. "The decisions made pursuant to the Plan will be based on the best available science, and this Plan will evolve over time to incorporate new science, information, and changing conditions. The Council will coordinate with the scientific community to improve decision-making." (5)It's a living, breathing document. It's meant to change over time, as funding levels and priorities change, but also with new science. Whether scientists can tell them what they want or need to hear, is of course another question.

2. No one actually knows how much money there is, since so much of it is tied to pending litigation. The number could go up past 10 billion when BP pays up.

3. The plan doesn't actually spell out how the Council will fund anything, nor what it would most like to fund. A funding strategy and priorities list come later.

4. "Storm risk, land loss, depletion of natural resources, compromised water quality and quantity, and sea-level rise are imperiling coastal communities’ natural defenses and ability to respond to natural and man-made disruptions." (4) It's clear that the Council sees ecosystem health as fundamental to community health, though no necessarily vice versa, and that this means a weaker ability to adapt to future climate and other disasters.

5. Scientists do seem to have gotten across the point that restoring species alone, on postage-stamp size sites is not the best approach to restoration. "The Council recognizes that upland, estuarine, and marine habitats are intrinsically connected, and will promote ecosystem-based and landscape-scale restoration without regard to geographic location within the Gulf Coast region." The planners apparently see themselves as immune to geographic bias and politics, and there's some good landscape ecology here.

6. It only comes up once, but it's unclear what the role of the private sector is here. However, much ado is made about coordinating with other efforts, in general: "The Council will encourage partnerships and welcome additional public and private financial and technical support to maximize outcomes and impacts. Such partnerships will add value through integration of public and private sector skills, knowledge, and expertise" (7) There are a growing number of voluntary restoration projects in the works, not to mention talk of linking up with California's cap and trade scheme for wetland blue carbon credits, and how to coordinate these market sector activities with a federal plan will be worth watching.

7. You don't spend a billion dollars and not have anything to show for it. "The Council recognizes the importance of measuring outcomes and impacts in order to achieve tangible results and ensure that funds are invested in a meaningful way." (7) There's an opening here for ecosystem services accounting, but we'll have to wait and see.

8. The money quote from the whole thing is the Council's definition of ecosystem restoration. That's kinda what they're about anyway:

"All activities, projects, methods, and procedures appropriate to enhance the health and resilience of the Gulf Coast ecosystem, as measured in terms of the physical, biological, or chemical properties of the ecosystem, or the services it provides, and to strengthen its ability to support the diverse economies, communities, and cultures of the region. It includes activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its health, integrity, and sustainability. It also includes protecting and conserving ecosystems so they can continue to reduce impacts from tropical storms and other disasters, support robust economies, and assist in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change (per Executive Order 13554)."

There's a lot going on here! What is restoration? Well, it's not just bulldozers and backhoes, it's methods and procedures. In other words, it's science and technical expertise just as much as it is new wetlands. Watch for this to become controversial, with conservationists claiming that not enough money is being spent on the ground in actual projects. What's the goal? Health, resilience, and mitigation of climate impacts. It's not clear to me that there isn't potentially a huge tradeoff between the ecosystem health and ability to mitigate climate impacts, but we'll see. How do you get there? You initiate or accelerate recover, or you protect and conserve. And finally, how do you measure it all? Straight out of the CWA, it's physical, biological, or chemical properties. Or, ecosystem services.

9. The last point is, again, the Council won't be just drawing on existing marine and wetland science, and they won't just be incorporating the best available science as it hits the presses, they're producing it. The sense is that there's a lot yet to figure out yet in the planning, technical assistance, and implementation phases of restoration, and that the Council is more than ready to dish out money to "evaluation and establishment of monitoring requirements and methods to report outcomes and impacts; and measurement, evaluation, and reporting of outcomes and impacts of restoration activities." (15) The question will be, what kind of science is the Council interested in funding?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Forever forever? What the heck does permanent mitigation mean?

In a recent op-ed for USA Today, mitigation banker Wayne Walker argues for establishing prairie chicken conservation banks, as a way to prevent the looming "train wreck" between environmentalist and oil/gas industry interests. It's a well-written piece that tries to spell out in basic terms, what mitigation is all about (EcosystemMarketplace renamed it, "How to explain mitigation to your grandmother"). Sometimes, though, it's deceptively simple. A big part of Walker's case is that offsets, like diamonds, are forever. He points to wetland and stream mitigation: "The logic of permanent easements is straightforward: Draining a wetland to build something is permanent -- not temporary -- and therefore the mitigation should also be permanent. The same principle holds true for the chicken. Impacts to it and its habitat are both permanent – the offset should be as well." Problem is, there's a clear difference between a permanent easement and a permanent offset, a difference Walker doesn't sort out. An easement is no guarantee of ecological function. Sure, the Corps will require an easement, but are they going to come back to the site in 50 years and check in to see what's up? To assess whether the wetland, stream, or prairie habitat is in a condition or performs such that it will account for the original impact the site offset? Maybe, but even if the Corps/USFWS did come around, would they require the bank to do anything about it? Should we even care? If the wetlands your local Wal-Mart paved over today are going to dry up or sink into the sea anyway in the next 20 years because of climate change, does it matter that the compensatory mitigation site Wal-Mart buys credits from function in the same way the wetlands currently do? I've walked through similar issues here and here. If, as Walker notes, the goal for all sides is "certainty," these are key questions if mitigation banking is to gain a sense of (ecological) legitimacy in an era of rapidly changing climates.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New climate adaptation lawsuit in Louisiana

A flood protection agency in Southeast Louisiana is suing oil and gas companies including BP and Exxon Mobil for damages to wetlands caused by pipeline canals, and their case is making it above the fold of the NYT. Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East claims that the canals have altered hydrology in the area in such a way that has caused hurricane damage to increase and that, over time, will cause coastal lands to "slip into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of this century, if not sooner." Though they don't state it as such (itself interesting), the object in question in this case is ecosystem services: "BP and Exxon Mobil, you've destroyed the flood mitigation service these wetlands are supposed to provide to us, and we're going to hold you accountable for our loss" As cities and states attempt to preserve, design, and restore dunes, marshes, reefs, wetlands, etc. in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, SLFPAE's case will tell us more about the extent to which not just these habitats, but the climate-buffering services they provide will be treated by the courts (see Keith Hirokawa's work here and here for excellent first answers).

At first glance, a water agency in SE LA doesn't seem like the sort of entity to be bringing suit against some of the world's most powerful corporations. But they're pulling absolutely. no. punches. The gem of the case is here - to them, the oil/gas pipelines constitute a:

“mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction”

BOOM. So what are they asking for? 

"many billions of dollars. Many, many billions of dollars.”

Um...It's hard not to think of a certain late 90s comedy here, making it difficult to take the agency's case seriously. From the starting gates, the flood protection agency is equivocating on the role of the federal government, namely the Army Corps of Engineers, and why that entity shouldn't be held liable as well for its part in reworking the bayou's hydrology.

At any rate, it seems the lawsuit's hooks are not in the Clean Water Act per se, but in common law: negligence, nuisance, and some archaic LA code dating back to French rule called "Servitude of Drain" requiring downstream landowners to provide means for conveying water off adjacent upstream properties. It's not spelled out for us how SLFPAE thinks it applies to this case, but I suppose the argument is that BP and Exxon Mobil have altered the area's hydrology in a way that downstream areas too effectively drain, indeed conveying stormwaters onto higher ground than before.

Bringing it back: we can probably think of this as perhaps the US's second major climate adaptation lawsuit - NYT explicitly makes the link to the first: Kivalina, the Alaskan community that sued Exxon Mobil for the effects of climate-caused sea level rise on their village. The court there said that Kivalina's case was more a political question than a justiciable one. We'll see how SLFPAE's case pans out, but hopefully it'll regain some ground, as common law applications to the environment become increasingly tenuous, from Kivalina to Wisconsin.


I've been working for the past couple of years at the University of Kentucky on my master's thesis. Building from a bigger NSF-funded project on stream mitigation banking, my research has argued that market planning and design for wetland and stream ecosystem services in Oregon has not been as easy a task as some pundits might think it, nor has it as of yet been as devastating as others might imagine it. The thesis is available here:

I'll be moving to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to carry on with the Ph.D. I look forward to keep exploring and communicating how market environmental law and policy is (not) equipped to account for climate change and its effects on ecosystem services.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Optimal natures

Recently, the Natural Capital Project released its new tool for watershed-based ecosystem services decision-making, the Resource Investment Optimization System, or RIOS (spanish for rivers). It builds on InVEST, NCP's tool for mapping and valuing all sorts of services. Where InVEST could tell you for instance where to invest in a watershed to achieve the best water quality gains (efficiency), RIOS is geared to help you decide between different sets of investment (optimization).

RIOS joins a fast-growing cadre of other ecosystem services decision-making software tools. A short list includes:

Social Values for Ecosystem Services (SOLVES) - the USGS's tool of choice
Integrated Water Resources planning suite  - led by the Army Corps of Engineers
Simple and Effective Resource for Valuing Ecosystem Services (SERVES) - from Earth Economics
i-Tree - USFS built this one
ARtificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services (ARIES)

These models literally instantiate ecosystem services as a framework by providing the means for framing services - ES is a framework for understanding tradeoffs in managing nature and here are the algorithms for modeling them. One of the key points the tools have in common is that they are spatially-explicit; what might distinguish them is whether they aim to inform either investment or policy decisions. Or, since ecosystem service policy tends toward treating nature as always already an investment (or lack thereof), the distinction is probably: what kind of investment (public or private)?

These tools parallel a number of data analytics firms working with so-called Big Data on the environment. Many, like Cloudera and Ayasdi work with oil and gas companies to visualize optimize the use of their drilling equipment, in the name of preventing future environmental catastrophes. Others, like Remsoft's suite of tools aim to improve forestry practices by incorporating extensive data on tree health, location, etc. - Google and Microsoft are working on similar software for "seeing the trees and the forest."

In short, the stated goal of these models is to "optimize" environmental management, which, for many of them, also means optimizing business practice. Is there a difference between optimal and efficient? For some, maybe not. But Remsoft's tools, they claim, allow you to "understand and manage the supply-demand balance, identify current and future supply chain bottlenecks, manage production and delivery capacity, forecast costs and revenues, and generate plans that stay within budget." Clearly something more than the sense of efficiency as input/output is going on here. Indeed, optimization, in the language of mathematics and computer programming, means to choose the best from among several alternatives given a particular criteria. Yes, the criterion for Remsoft might be $, but that may or may not be the case for USFS's community forestry tool, i-Tree.

Where does all this talk of optimization come from? That's hard to say, and 600 pg. tomes have been written about it. But there is a curious perpendicular conversation happening in the weird realm of biology, computer programming, and artificial intelligence themselves meet: where NCP, Remsoft, and others want to optimize nature, these researchers think nature optimizes. They "use and abuse" evolutionary concepts (note: optimization is not necessarily about selection pressure) as metaphor for informing tech design, their goals ranging from the everyday to the lethal. Researchers have found that ants respond to disaster and disruption - to their environment - in ways that may inform optimal transmission of information over internet protocols. The US military has enrolled apiologists to use bee swarms as an analogue for drone maneuvering. The goal, of course, being to optimize surveillance and kill rates. What brings together the "optimize nature" modelers and the "nature optimizes" researchers and designers is the idea that the environment serves as a model for our treatment of it.

This is not to get us lost in the thickets of environmental philosophy or social theory. The question is: on the ground, what is lost and gained by thinking in terms of optimizing ecosystem services? Who stands to win and lose? These models are meant to inform land use decisions, and in doing so, they help to bring about the optimized world they only purport to represent. If you model it, they will come. In this performance, the way the models are programmed matters. And what differences are there between the flavor of optimization led by the conservationists using NCP and the timber managers using Remsoft's Spatial Optimizer? One has to inform policy, the other business - can optimization serve as an adequate guiding concept for both?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Militant climate particularism?

Militant climate particularism: it's a mouthful, but it's an idea to follow-up on recent posts about the tensions between local and global problems and solutions when it comes to restoring ecosystem services in the face of climate change.

Flood mitigation is an ecosystem service that this driver who abandoned their Ferrari during some recent severe flooding in Toronto, ON, Canada sorely could have used. Poor guy.

Don't feel to bad for 'em. In an editorial, the National Post argues for bailing out that driver and all the rich dudes who in the future may face that most dreaded decision to ditch their $200k PCV. Why spend money on climate mitigation - wind turbines, solar panels, and carbon sequestration - the newspaper asks, when what these floods and those recently in Alberta tell us is that we need to adapt to changing weather patterns.

Ignore the gross misunderstanding of climate science here (i.e. their claim that there is no link between extreme weather and climate change and that such extreme weather events and the problems they cause are entirely predictable), and even set aside the fact that this is the worst of "climate resignation" - giving up on the goal of preventing high concentrations of GHGs. Whistle past the part about the limited growth in renewables. Just about the only thing the editorial might have right is that carbon sequestration and offsetting are rabbit holes not worth falling into.

But what the National Post is calling for is not any flavor of "climate protectionism" either. Yea, they'd rather keep money in the province, but they're proposing raising tariffs on goods coming in from countries without carbon markets, because they're arguing against setting up something like a carbon market to being with. They're not suggesting taxing imported turbines and panels - the NP would rather have the province abandon new renewable energy projects all together. The argument here isn't even "climate austerity", in which taking action on climate change is believed to be the fix for shoring up dwindling coffers.

So what's going on here with the newspaper's utter rejection of climate as anything but a very local problem? David Harvey uses the term "militant particularism" to describe social movements that are based on particular struggles in particular times and places. He worries that although such struggles can produce intense solidarities and achieve immediately positive and perhaps necessary results, they often aren't informed by - and in turn contribute to - broader movements and approaches. These particular struggles may tend toward single issues over a short time frame, employing responsive tactics rather than embracing a long term strategy.

That's exactly what's going on with the Post's editorial: let's fix the problems of climate - which amount only to extreme weather - here and now, and call it a day. Let the Pacific Islanders eat carbonated saltwater.

Now, the National Post is a conservative rag, and what their approach would hardly fall within the realm of what would be called socially progressive to begin with. But as the drive towards climate resilience and adaptation grows stronger, we may see a retreat from the left into a militant climate particularism, where all that matters is saving in particular the city (After all, with all the doom and gloom that surrounds impending climate change as an urban phenomenon, it's easy to think: we have to do everything we can, here and now!). The idea that cities - "smart cities" especially - are at the heart of responding to a changing climate - and may be best suited to addressing ecosystem service provision - is perhaps the germ of this. Maybe. But even the influential US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement is primarily about reducing carbon emissions. The question is, to what extent can climate planning qua city design overcome that most perennial problem of urban planning: the idea that the city is a containerized unit apart from the rest of the world.

At any rate, I can't imagine that a Toronto-only strategy is something the city will ultimately benefit from, at least with this guy in charge.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Restoring climatized ecosystem services for the market: Part 2

In my earlier post I asked whether and how regulators might respond to the effects of climate change by changing how they ask industry to do environmental restoration as compensation. This week's events provide a good opportunity to follow-up briefly:

1. Obama's climate speech. Not only was this the biggest occasion upon which he's said anything about his plans for mitigating climate change, he also laid out a strategy for responding to the effects. The point? Adaptation is finally on the table in a big way at the federal level.

2. The SCOTUS ruling on Koontz. You can find good analyses here, there, and over yonder. In short, the case was about a landowner who wanted to turn some wetlands into a shopping mall (sound familiar?), but the local authorities wanted him to dump some cash into area conservation efforts as a condition of him paving those wetlands over. The court was unclear on the merits of this specific case, but ruled that asking for money can constitute an unconstitutional taking of property. At any rate, the points to keep in mind here are: 1. the impact on existing wetland and stream compensation practice is uncertain; time will tell; 2. As Kagan argued in her dissent - and which others have duly noted - part of this uncertainty means that that local regulators will be hesitant to condition developers' permits for fear of litigation. Given that most interest in adapting to "climatized" ecosystem services in the US so far has come from local level action, what we might see then is local regulators less willing/able to ask developers to do forms of restoration or compensation that are more than they would otherwise get away with asking for. Concretely: if Local Water Management District X were to say to Developer Y that climate change could mean Y's postage-stamp wetland restoration will fail and so it should pay into an area-wide restoration fund, does it have a takings claim on the basis that such predictions about the effects of future climate change on one particular parcel are uncertain and therefore excessive? Here again we raise the question of how science can and will interface with law.

So, to put this week's two big environmental law new stories side by side, let's ask: if the feds are getting serious about climate planning, to what extent can they see and account for what so many claim is at the core of a changing climate (and ecosystem services) - localized hydrological impacts?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Measuring and Marketing Ecosystem Services, Functions, and Values in Oregon

I've linked to my presentation from the Blue/Green Economies session at the recent Association of American Geographers meeting in LA. The text of the talk is below and each paragraph corresponds to a slide. It's about how regulators, conservationists, and entrepreneurs in an ecosystem services market in Oregon are assessing the landscape ecological aspects of restoration sites. Similar to my talk on "Code/Nature," I argue that state environmental agencies like the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) and conservationists including the Willamette Partnership are pushing for stronger ways of planning for, choosing, and evaluating sites and that this may prove constraining to mitigation bankers.

1. Today I want to tell you about the social relations and spatial logics motivating environmental regulators, conservationists, and eco-entrepreneurs in Oregon plan as they choose, and evaluate where in the landscape to do wetland and stream restoration for a cap and trade-type market. I’ll show how the state’s and conservationists’ efforts to map priority locations for restoration and to point out these places to entrepreneurs are market-constraining, but perhaps only in the short-term. The takeaway here is that many of the new or revamped markets in ecosystem services we are seeing may not be about ecosystem commodification and commercialization so much as they are about state formation, power, and legitimacy.

2. Let’s start here. Welcome to the Half Mile Lane site in exurban Portland, Oregon. It provides a number of ECS.

3. The wetland you see stores and delays water, which mitigates flood impacts for downstream homes.

4. The stream provides habitat for salmon that migrate into the foothills of the Coast Range.

5. A couple of years ago, state environmental agencies like the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) and conservationists including the Willamette Partnership undertook ecological restoration on the site, turning old farmland and a straightened ditch into a productive wetland and stream. This work was done for a market where developers purchase offsets for impacts to wetlands and streams. HML also serves a demonstration project for what regulators and conservationists see as stronger metrics for the market, both of what counts as successful restoration, as well as what locations in the watershed are worthwhile to do restoration projects.

6. As global ECS pundit Pavan Sukhdev explains to us, these markets are supposed to be about valuing nature.

7. Well, what does that mean? For him – and we hear this quote a lot - “we cannot manage what we do not measure,” which means measuring the nature’s benefits and doing so as a $ price.

8. Price itself, however, is not an ecological measure. Lest you think the focus on “value” is the domain solely of pundits like Sukhdev, consider what the Oregon DSL – one of the environmental agencies – has to say. For DSL, it means the opportunity to provide an ecological function.

9. Importantly, this opportunity is location-based; it’s spatial, contextual, embedded.

10. HML has the opportunity to mitigate flood impacts, because it is upstream of homes

11. and downstream of logging and mining operations that increase runoff.

12. So the question is: how do Oregon’s market actors measure the value of ecosystem services? Put more concretely - where in the landscape do they plan and choose to do restoration for the market and why? Sukhdev makes the challenge of resource protection sounds so easy when he says that all that needs to be done to prevent environmental degradation is to “put a value on” nature. But the task of valuation has not been so effortless in Oregon.

In the rest of this talk I want to walk you through the assessment of restoration sites in Oregon’s market, and how they become valued as places to do restoration. There are three moments to this, but they are moments that put the interests of regs and cons against the interests of entrepreneurs. I want to demonstrate an at least short-term strength of state agencies against entrepreneurs in constraining a kind of accumulation by restoration. New ventures in market governance may not deepen ecosystem commodification and commercialization as much as they throw up roadblocks. While these may only be short-term constraints, we should pay attention to them as potential moments where the market collapses under its own contradictions.

13. I first want to take a second to make sure we’re on the same page about how these markets work. In US markets for wetland and stream ecosystems, state and federal environmental regulatory agencies – ACOE, EPA, DSL - allow developers to make up for resource degradation by compensating entrepreneurs (or, “mitigation bankers”) who speculatively restore ecosystems. A good example: Early last year DSL authorized the trade of four salmon habitat credits to the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Department (THPRD).

14. DSL did not sell the Half Mile Lane (HML) property itself, where it had restored salmon habitat. Instead, it dealt THPRD ECS credits. These credits are a measure of both the quality and quantity of habitat functions “uplifted” after DSL replaced a culvert and performed other stream and wetland restoration work at HML.

15. THPRD wanted these credits so it could tell environmental regulators that it had adequately compensated for a trail bridge it is building that will degrade habitat elsewhere in the watershed. Note that in this case a state agency, DSL, was the one selling credits, but more often it is a private entrepreneur.

16. Either way, the idea is to ensure some kind/degree of ecological equivalence, and this is the art and science of assessment.

17. There is at once a strictly ecological assessment, which measures ecological functions on a site, but also these kinds of trade demand an assessment of the value of the ecosystem services in question. Value scores are 1-10 rankings of each function’s (e.g. water storage and delay) ability to provide some service (e.g. flood mitigation).

18. In the assessment moment, restoration bankers hire ecologically-trained consultants to use several online mapping utilities to gage how ecological processes occur across the landscape and affect the site where bankers have chosen to do restoration.

19. Here’s one of the key mapping utilities consultants use, called Oregon Explorer. It’s bringing a lot of data from beyond the boundaries of the site together, and showing it to the user in one frame. Hydric soils are the orange/yellow, but we also see the 100 year floodplain downstream of the site. Consultants have to answer questions about landscape context by using OE to, for instance, draw a 2 mile radius circle around the site to see how many other similar habitats the site is connected to in the area, or what sources of ecological stress are nearby, like the quarry. The key point here is that the value score of a banker’s site is relational to the site’s surroundings – but these are things which the banker has no or little control over.

20. Bankers and their consultants then have to take their scores to regulators. Agency staff judge the offsite stressors and risks consultants find in their assessment in the regulatory moment when they approve, deny, or modify a banker’s choice of where to do restoration.

21. For instance, regulators often focus on reed canary grass, an invasive species that can spread rapidly on a restoration site from without and foil a project. They question whether a site and its landscape surroundings will, in the end, prove valuable if there is too much RCG around. Environmental agencies can in this moment modify a banker’s proposal to work on a certain piece of ground that is particularly susceptible to weeds by asking them to put more money into a long-term management.

22. Bankers then finally have to sell their credits. This is a market moment to value’s measure. What non-profit conservationists like WP want to see happen in the market is that when a banker brings a site to the market, to get their credits to sell, the amount they get depends in large part on the location of their project.

23. These are “priority areas” - habitat sites mapped by state environmental agencies, and collated by TNC.

24. The idea is that bankers would get the full amount of credits if they were doing restoration in a priority area and less if they were not. The problem is that if a banker had to do work in a priority area lest they not get as many credits as they expected, they’d be incentivized to work on land they might not normally restore. But being driven to work in priority areas would mean a narrower range of landowners they could work with. And all else equal, bankers want to work on sites where they can get the most credit bang for their restoration buck. This system means having to work on sites with higher costs of restoration and potentially higher land prices, both of which would cut into their profits.

To be clear: this isn’t how the market currently works, but regulators are using GIS to see/check whether bankers are siting in priority areas, and conservationists are pushing for this trading ratio protocol to be adopted. It is still part of the discussion on the ground in Oregon, about what the market should and will look like.

25.In general, then, through all three moments, how state agencies in Oregon - with help from the conservationists who have helped map priority areas and author market protocols - how they assess ecosystem service value in site selection proves constraining to entrepreneurs.

26. Assessment – the landscape context they have to look at weighs bankers down

27. Regulatory – bankers have to put more capital into long-term management

28. Market – they will not get full credit, have to work in different places

29. Bankers are in fact rather unhappy about this way of valorizing restoration – and question regulators’ authority to do it. It’s come to the point where entrepreneurs may take state agencies to court on the issue and stop doing more restoration for the market. And so what we see here is not the state rolling out the conditions for market success, but genuine market constraints.

30. I do want to caution that this only holds for the current political moment. We know that every crisis can become an opportunity. In the long-term, what we might see is bankers getting used to regulators’ expectations about where it is valuable to do restoration. Indeed, the way state agencies have mapped out priorities might only serve as sort of visual aids to bankers, making it easier for them to find sites. This would facilitate the commodification and commercialization of ecosystem restoration and provide more opportunities for developers to just buy credits for their resource impacts.

31. And so, to wrap up, what I think this case does for us is two-fold. First, it reminds us to pay attention to the spatial logics of these markets, asking what sort of notions of spatial efficiency and prioritization constitute these markets, besides the idea that there is a difference in opportunity costs between global north and south. Kathy McAfee has called efficiency “the holy grail of environmental economics.” I agree, but I’d add that spatial efficiency, which economists would think about as equimarginality, is a similar crusade.

32. Also, while the search for value might be what makes attempts at ecosystem markets and payments look similar across the globe (Robertson 2012), this case suggests a need to keep paying attention to change over time, within specific historical-geographical contexts to see the moments where neoliberal conservation confronts its own contradictions, and what happens.

33. In the short-term, we might see moves by the state and conservationists to implement new measures of restoration success not as a deepening of commodification and commercialization, but as having the effect of slowing the market.

In the long-run, it might only enhance capitalist investment in restoration in particular places at the expense of others, in what several scholars have named as the variegation of neoliberal natures or conservation.

Either way, demarcating the difference between the two can tell us a lot how about market-oriented conservation projects succeed and fail, and to what effect.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Restoring climatized ecosystem services for the market: Part 1

In the foothills of the Cascades in western Oregon, a landowner contracts with a local firm that will restore a stream that runs through her property. Among other things, they'll plant trees to shade the stream during those cloudless Oregon summer days and the restoration company will throw some logs in there to create habitat for salmon and other creatures. The trees might take 20 years to grow to the point where they're really shading the stream, but the logs will work more quickly. The landowner restores the stream with the help of payments from a local water utility that is under state and federal pressure to mitigate for the impact its effluent has on stream temperature, and consequently the salmon that like the water cool.

Salmon are a big deal in Oregon
All the while, snowmelt from the Cascades is becoming more erratic and there's less of it, both of which spell trouble for the salmon. Because the snow has melted earlier in spring, the fall low stream flows are inching their way closer to the high temperatures of summer. The trees might cool things down a bit, but they won't be very tall for several more years. The trees may also soak up carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change in the first place, but what are 600 stems going to do for this particular watershed? These ecosystem services are what I call climatized. In short, this one attempt - on the part of a landowner and regulators - to deal with a local water temperature issue is confounded by the regionalized effects of climate change at the same time that the effort has the possibility to be part of a global solution.

How states and land managers can enhance ecosystem service provision under changing climates is a pressing issue, but it's clearly one complicated by the temporal and spatial nature of the problem. In a three part series, I want to problematize how we conceptualize climate "adaptation". In this post I discuss how regulators at local, state, and federal agencies - often the front line of climate response - might be both constrained and enabled to act on the temporal dynamism of changing climates. In the post to follow, I again ask about regulators, but ask who's responsible for, capable of, and willing to respond, focusing on the spatial nature of climate change - the differences between climate change as something globally produced and solvable, but with especially regionalized and localized effects. Finally, I look at the vulnerability of people to the effects of climate change - think increased flooding - and how ecosystem services alone - think restoration of wetlands or sand dunes - may or may not mitigate vulnerabilities.

There is certainly a literature on climate change, ecosystem services, restoration. I want to pull out three key points: 1) we really don't know how successful restoration is at developing ecosystem function; 2) changing climates will intensify ecosystem processes and make them more variable, dynamic; 3) climate change is global, but its effects are variegated - some places will fare better than others.

The question is how regulators like those in the scenario can deal with this. For starters, stream services - be it water temperature regulation, surface water storage, or sediment transport - are going to change over time as increased rainfall intensity and shifts in snowmelt timings and quantity reshape streams. In markets or payment schemes for stream restoration - where a landowner like the one we opened with gets paid by a local water utility - what happens when the service the landowner was supposed to provide no longer exists or does not function in the same way anymore because drought and higher temperatures killed off her trees? Can regulators practice adaptive management - going back and revisiting restoration projects and ask land managers to adapt them to the climate du jour? Or can regulators ask for "future-proof" designs that are meant to be resilient over time?

Newly planted trees at a stream restoration project that provides temperature offsets.
My answer is one of those typical social sciences cop-outs: it depends. Yes and no. In the yes camp: 1) in PES schemes or markets regulators get a chance to "condition" so that land managers only get to sell restoration credits if certain "performance standards" are met. Regulators may be able to make some of these standards about site performance in the face of regional climate effects. Moreover, regulators, especially after the 2008 federal rule on stream/wetland mitigation markets, can ask land managers to put aside money for a long-term endowment that will ensure the site will continue to function over time; 2) In these markets, regulators also craft the ecological assessments by which restoration sites are evaluated. They may be able to write these assessments in such a way to "future-proof" restoration, by encouraging restorationists to design streams that are adaptable to changing climates. The authors of a draft stream assessment in Oregon, for instance, want to assess ecological functions as a way of gaging how over time, a site will perform. This is an improvement on how most assessments currently operate, but it raises the question of how to "future-proof" restoration to "unknown unknowns" of climate change. In other words, functions-based assessment provides a good deal of insurance for the future, but it does not necessarily give regulators the authority, 15 years later, to go back and ask land managers to plant more trees, put in more logs, or do something completely different. Most of the times, they're off the hook after 5-10 years.

In the no camp, I only want to point out that any sort of planning for future ecological conditions always presents a challenge because it leaves agencies open to litigation from those who will say, "you can't ask us to do that." In much the same way that agencies are more or less limited in what offsite factors - think upstream sedimentation - they can ask restorationists to account for, they will be constrained in asking land managers to think about the future. These markets are mitigation markets, where restorationists are supposed to provide "ecological uplift" in a similar kind and degree of impact elsewhere, like when a landowner plants riparian trees to cool streams that have been warmed by effluent from a municipal wastewater plant. And so as long as the landowner can cool the same amount of kcals/day of water that the plant is adding to the system, they are ok. Whether they also provide salmon habitat, refugia for climate affected species, etc., is another question. Subsidy payment schemes may have different, potentially more encompassing, criteria. Moreover, as practitioners know, incorporating "ecosystem services" into official regulatory practice is not an easy project. It's not a straightforward term, and it's not in any statute, and it can become another thing restorationists would point to and say, "what is that and why do we have to do it?"

What it all comes back to is that already existing markets in ecosystem services may or may not be responsive to climate change. At this point, you might be thinking, "this sounds like a lot of 'depends'!" That's my point. The ways that regulators are going to respond to climate effects in markets for streams, wetlands, species, etc. is going to depend on: 1) what level of government they're working in. Federal authorities may have powers that local governments don't - and vice versa; 2) it'll depend on where they're working - Oregon environmental agencies have had different institutional responses to emerging issues like climate than, say, Texas. I'll take up this spatial/scalar unevenness of regulation in more detail in my next post.