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Oregon Legislature Moving Ahead on Ecosystem Services

As reported last month on the Katoomba Group’s Ecosystem Marketplace website, in a post called Building Oregon’s Ecosystem Marketplace by Sara Vickerman, the Oregon Legislature on July 23 drafted a framework that will begin to develop the “circumstances under which providers of ecosystem services can combine different environmental values in one transaction without double-dipping”.

Vickerman goes on to state:

Once this is agreed on, a landowner whose property generates wetland services, water quality services, biodiversity services, and carbon sequestration can earn income by maintaining all of these services on one property. If a piece of the property generates more than one service, he can earn income from the most valuable service, but he will most likely not be allowed to sell multiple credits from the same piece.

The bill was proposed by a coalition of organizations including Defenders of Wildlife and supported by a host of other diverse stakeholders including the Willamette Partnership, the Oregon Homebuilders Association, The Nature Conservancy, the Oregon Forest Industries Council, the Oregon Business Council, Ecotrust, Sustainable Northwest, Wildlands Inc., Parametrix, Clean Water Services, and the City of Portland.

Interestingly, the bill also defines “ecosystem services”, “ecological values”, “ecosystem services market”, and “payment for ecosystem services”.

The law also notes that that maintaining sustainable rural landscapes is important to Oregonians, and that landowners need assistance to maintain ecological values on the land and pass it on to future generations. Other aspects of the bill include:

  • Market Encouragement: Narrowly-focused mitigation approaches remain embedded in agency policy and culture.
  • An Ecosystem Services Workgroup: To address the remaining policy issues, SB 513 directs the Oregon Sustainability Board to convene a workgroup to prepare a report and policy recommendations for the 2011 legislature. Staff support is to be provided by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. The workgroup will be composed of diverse interests including – but not limited to – local, state and federal agencies; Indian tribes; conservation organizations; developers and landowners from the private sector.
  • Goals: According to the Katoomba Group, the workgroup “will study and propose over-arching goals to guide the development of integrated ecosystem service markets in Oregon that are efficient, coordinated, and designed to produce positive ecological and economic outcomes with reasonable administrative costs to all participants. The purpose of this section is to encourage agencies to work together to develop an integrated system rather than continue in silos”.
  • Implementation: The workgroup will identify the entities that would be the most appropriate to guide, facilitate, and implement an ecosystem service market in Oregon.
  • Methodology: The workgroup will address the need for consistent methodology to describe and quantify ecological values and in doing so consider methodologies that have been developed or are in the process of being developed.
  • Government Participation: The workgroup will consider the appropriate role of government participation in ecosystem service markets.
  • Bundling & Stacking: The workgroup will consider rules concerning the “bundling” and/or “stacking” of ecosystem service.
  • Stimulating Demand: The workgroup will propose policies to stimulate the demand for payments for ecosystem services, in particular the development of voluntary or regulatory markets.

Sara Vickerman is Senior Director for Biodiversity Partnerships for Defenders of Wildlife. She can be reached at


One Response to “Oregon Legislature Moving Ahead on Ecosystem Services”

  1. Terry Mock Says:

    Can We Harness Greed for Good?
    SLDI Newsletter – September 2009

    Greed—self interest on steroids—is everywhere. This fact is usually a bearable consequence, if not a potent driver, of a free market system that has given us unparalleled wealth and prosperity in recent history. However, numerous reports of impending system-wide failures, along with lessons from historical declines in ancient civilizations, should inform us that there are limits to how much greed we can handle and still be sustainable as a society.

    Nowhere is society’s debate over fairness more important than when we discuss a region’s biological carrying capacity. A ground-breaking final report on local population and the environment, funded in part by local governments, was released last month by the group, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population. The report is entitled, Estimating Impacts of Population Growth on Ecosystem Services for the Community of Albemarle County and Charlottesville, VA, and it indicates that as growth occurs, fields and forests disappear and impervious surfaces and pollution occur, which then impair ecosystem services so that the community will not be locally sustainable.

    Emergence of the Market for Ecosystem Services

    In order to sustain civilization with a high quality of life, landowners whose properties generate essential ecosystem services should be rewarded for preserving those services – but that requires agreement on what those services are and how they should be measured. The State of Oregon has embarked on a two-year program designed to reach that agreement. Payments for ecosystem services can help improve the environment while expediting development in appropriate areas. They can also provide revenue to struggling rural areas by paying cash-strapped landowners to act as guardians of the ecosystem. To achieve their potential, however, these schemes must not only be properly structured and managed, but they must follow a clear set of rules that everyone agrees on.

    The Oregon program is supported by a host of diverse stakeholders including the Oregon Homebuilders Association, The Nature Conservancy, the Oregon Forest Industries Council, the Oregon Business Council, Ecotrust, Sustainable Northwest, and the City of Portland. You can read about a SLDI ecosystem services initiative in our featured articles in this newsletter.

    Your participation and comments are welcome.

    Terry Mock
    Executive Director
    Sustainable Land Development International

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