The IEAB examined the cost-effectiveness of different approaches used by BPA to acquire and protect habitat in Task 104 "Scoping Investigation of Approaches to Preserving Habitat" (IEAB 2006). In that report the IEAB offered several conclusions and included recommendations for future analysis.
This report builds on our earlier analysis by addressing the following questions:
- Can the Fish and Wildlife Program (FWP) work with federal, state and non-profit conservation programs to acquire habitat, improve habitat quality or reduce costs?
- Could the FWP participate, as a buyer or as a seller, in the emerging markets for environmental attributes associated with habitat units?
- What problems and opportunities exist when habitat acquisition occurs in more developed regions such as the Willamette Valley?
- How might land acquisitions respond to fluctuations and uncertainties in land values, and how should the program work with federal and state agencies and non-profits to manage risk?
- What additional strengths and weaknesses of the strategies identified in the Task 104 report can be identified and described?
This report is focused on the acquisition of wildlife habitat although the principles apply equally to fish habitat. The IEAB concludes that:
- The FWP has successfully worked with tribes, state and federal agencies and non-profits to acquire and improve wildlife habitat. The vast majority of habitat units — more than 99% — have been generated by projects implemented by tribes and state agencies. Expanding existing partnerships and seeking new partners is crucial for protecting and restoring habitat in areas with high land values and hence, costly habitat units, such as the Willamette Subbasin, Methow Valley and Deschutes Subbasin.
- Opportunities exist for the FWP to participate in the emerging markets for environmental attributes, for example, carbon sequestration, biodiversity credits and water quality. These markets are in their infancy, but they hold promise for reducing the cost of meeting habitat unit obligations and could potentially generate a revenue stream from existing projects. Before pursuing this opportunity the Council should seek to clarify whether they, or project sponsors, have the right to sell environmental attributes generated by projects receiving Council support.
- Areas with high land values such as the Willamette Subbasin, Methow Valley and Deschutes Subbasin present opportunities for partnerships since many state and local agencies and nonprofits are active in these areas. However, partnerships can be challenging to implement when partners have objectives that are inconsistent with the Council’s program. In addition, the process of formulating a multi-party agreement for habitat conservation can involve extended negotiations and legal reviews.
- Because land values vary widely and useful parcels for habitat preservation or enhancement become available infrequently, it is important that the program be flexible and able to act quickly when acquiring land and conservation easements. This is difficult for BPA due to its planning and budgeting processes. Some potential partners, however, do have the ability to act quickly. An example is the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program, which operates a riparian conservation easement pilot program. The IEAB suggests that the Council consider expanding this type of program to increase the flexibility, and likely the effectiveness, of the Council’s program. We believe these types of programs are consistent with the FWP’s call for a land and water conservation fund.
- Given the diversity of possible ways to acquire habitat, the IEAB has concluded that the evaluation template it proposed in Task 104 is unnecessarily cumbersome. Instead we propose a checklist (Table 5) of alternative acquisition methods and alternative evaluation criteria that should be reviewed for each potential acquisition. We present three hypothetical scenarios which illustrate how the alternative ways of acquiring a particular habitat parcel can be evaluated.
Additional recommendations include:
- Given the issues and complexities involved with habitat unit accounting, the IEAB recommends that the next FWP include a section detailing a policy for habitat unit accounting. This policy should address the differences between the Council’s 2:1 accounting directive and the 1:1 ratio used in practice by BPA. It should also address how wildlife HUs are credited for projects that are expensed versus those that are capitalized and how HUs are credited for projects that receive funds from partner entities.