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Market-based conservation in the Rappahannock River Basin

When I was still Director of Community Development for the Town of Orange, it was appropriate for me to attend meetings of the Rappahannock River Basin Commission (about 1/2 of the Town is in the Rappahannock River Basin, the other half being in the York River Basin). The last meeting I attended, a year or so ago, I noted that nearly every one of the folks in attendance were government employees, most at the local, regional, and state level. I went on to ponder why more members from the private sector, and particularly, developers, were not in attendance. Conserv had just been created, and that in addition to more traditional government conservation programs (that continue to be needed), it seemed to me there was significant opportunity for more market-based programs that would help to bring development interests into the discussion. This sparked a fair amount of discussion among the attendees of this particular meeting of the Commission.

Finally, many months later, Conserv staff, and the coordinator of the Commission, Eldon James, are going to get together in the coming weeks to begin to seriously discuss a pilot program in the Rappahannock watershed. The thing I am so excited about with this discussion is the aspect of “unleashing” the market to protect and enhance ecosystem services, in synergy with government and NGO support.  More on the mechanics of how this might be possible in the months ahead.

- Michael Collins

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