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Rappahannock River Basin Commission enables creation of Rappahannock Ecosystem Services Exchange

Yesterday, environmental history was made at the Old Beale Memorial Church in Tappahannock, the oldest documented courthouse in Virginia. Surrounded by Flemish bond brickwork with salt-glazed headers and compass-headed windows, the Rappahannock River Basin Commission took the first step toward moving Virginia into the ranks of the leaders of the worldwide ecosystem services movement.

In a unanimous vote, the Commission approved the FY2010 workplan that paves the way for the launch of the proposed Rappahannock Exchange, a marketplace for the transaction of environmental assets, ecosystem services, and conservation real estate.  Should Conserv’s recent application to the Small Watershed Grants Program of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) be approved, the Commission will launch the Exchange with a kickoff symposium this fall.

Earlier this year, via the NFWF grant, Conserv proposed to The Commission a five-year holistic program to create a marketplace that within it would contain multiple markets facilitating the transaction of products and services that are friendly to Chesapeake Bay ecosystem health, and that builds on ecosystem services efforts of the Virginia Department of Forestry and other partnering agencies. Featured markets may include regulating, supporting, and provisioning ecosystem services, such as biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and  non-point source nutrient uptake through forested land cover, as well as cultural service markets such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation leasing platforms. The application included support from U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-1) and Virginia Senator Emmett Hanger (24th District), Chair of the Commission.

In letters of support submitted with the NFWF application, Senator Hanger stated:

The creation of an ecosystem services marketplace, as proposed in your grant application, has the potential to create a conservation-based economy thereby changing behavior through the optimum social marketing currency-money. We strongly support your efforts and look forward to working with you to bring this to fruition…Your proposed outcome, the creation of the Rappahannock River Basin Exchange, is a high priority for the Commission; we are therefore prepared to support your efforts by promoting the project to the elected officials throughout the basin.

Working with the Commission, and other partners, Conserv now has the green light to move The Exchange from an idea into reality. In recent weeks, we have begun actively working with Buck Kline, Director of Forestland Conservation, with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) on methodology and  identification of sources of additional funding. Buck and the Department have been actively promoting the concept of ecosystem services for many months and are thrilled that these efforts are now beginning to move into an implementation phase. Regarding Conserv’s proposed approach, Buck notes:

There are multiple efforts across the country to move ecosystem services into the marketplace. Many of these current efforts focus strongly on the supply side by creating protocols for registering environmental projects and quantifying the ecosystem services provided by these projects. The effort envisioned by Conserv recognizes the importance of stimulating the demand side for these environmental services by incorporating opportunities for a variety of businesses to market their products and services on The Exchange and at the same time promote and improve their corporate environmental stewardship. This makes developing the Rappahannock Exchange a very unique effort.

The weeks and months ahead are going to be busy. We are going to begin to create a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency Ecosystem Services Council to help guide the creation of the Exchange and particularly the ecosystem services markets portions of it. Membership on this Council will likely be large, and will need to include representatives from many Virginia state government agencies, and regional, national, and international non-governmental organizations. It also must include corporate representatives, ranging from local small business to fortune 500 firms. Finally, because the goal of the Exchange is to create a Bay economy, and is therefore place-based, it must include local government and citizen representatives from the Rappahannock Basin.

We also need to begin planning for a fall symposium on ecosystem services, specifically those that serve the Rappahannock River Basin. The symposium will be designed to build from the conference held earlier this year in Charlottesville, Ecosystem Services: Marketing Environmental Solutions, and will serve to help enroll and educate private and public entities from the communities within the Basin interested in the creation of a Bay-friendly economy, as well as a kickoff to launch the Exchange, should we receive funding.

Things are now just beginning to come into focus. To say that the challenges ahead are significant is an understatement. But I have not yet met anyone that does not believe that the implementation of the concept of ecosystem services, in some way, is an essential path toward sustainability, and thus, a worthy and noble pursuit.

And thanks to Essex County, Virginia and the Historical Walking Tour of Tappahannock for the use of the courthouse image.

- Michael Collins

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4 Responses to “Rappahannock River Basin Commission enables creation of Rappahannock Ecosystem Services Exchange”

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Recent publications relevant to the creation of The Rappahannock Exchange | Conserv™:

    [...] has recently released some reports helpful to creation of bioregional sustainable economies such as The Rappahannock Exchange. These include the [...]

    --July 14, 2009 @ 11:06 am

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