Colorado State University, The Nature Conservancy, BeLocal Northern Colorado, Sylvan Dale Ranch, The Community Foundation / The Colorado Conservation Exchange

Drs Josh Goldstein, Robin Reid, Rick Knight, Patrick Flynn
Center for Collaborative Conservation
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado

Heather Knight, The Nature Conservancy

Hill Grimmet, Be Local Northern Colorado State University

David Jessup, Sylvan Dale Ranch

Ray Caraway, The Community Foundation

Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

New initiatives to pay landowners for the ecosystem services they provide are underway around the world.  This initiative started in 2010 to create an ecosystem services marketplace in northern Colorado, which is currently called the Colorado Conservation Exchange.  This initiative works with both public and private landowners and managers to protect and improve stewardship of two large watersheds, the Poudre River and the Big Thompson River watersheds.  Both these watersheds also reach across the continental divide into the upper Colorado River watershed because of interbasin transfers of water.  The initiative links ‘sellers’ of ecosystem services to ‘buyers’ who are philanthropists, businesses, and consumers in the region.  The initial focal ecosystem services of the exchange are water quality and quantity, but this will likely branch out into habitat, carbon and others in the future.

Our Mission: To create a marketplace where community members support land stewards who conserve and enhance nature's ability to provide clean and abundant water, healthy food, productive soils, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and inspiring open spaces.

The goals of the Colorado Conservation Exchange are to:

1. To preserve and enhance our quality life by raising the awareness of rural-urban interdependence on the benefits of healthy wildlands and working agricultural lands, and the threats to those benefits

2. To create a marketplace that enables beneficiaries ("buyers") to support land stewards ("sellers") who enhance nature’s benefits

3. To develop the transaction functions necessary for marketplace transparency and effectiveness

Key Academic Disciplines 

Ecological economics
Conservation biology
Business and financial management
Ranch management

Methodological approaches:
Valuation of ecosystem services
Collaborative process
Community building
Remote sensing
Field ecology

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

The partners above are key.  We have engaged over 30 major organizations or businesses in our communities.  Key partners include New Belgium Brewery, Fort Collins Water Utility, Larimer County, the City of Fort Collins, Regenesis, the Colorado Water Institute, Conserve to Enhance (Tuscon), US Forest Service, Brendle Group.

Initiative History and Champions 

Critical points in the group’s history:

• 2009, idea invented and group first engaged

• 2010, acquired funding for a Wyss Fellow to get the initiative moving

• 2011, major interest on the part of local government, business, NGO’s, start-up grant acquired, first pilot projects started

• 2012, 30-40 partners agree to help design, text and implement the exchange; launch of exchange in fall 2012 planned

• 2013 ??

Early champions were the leaders above, plus a strong contingent of advisors from across the US, especially Bobby Cochrane of Willamette Partnership and Sally Collins of the Office of Environmental Markets.

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

To our knowledge, this is the first ecosystem marketplace initiative that is starting as a voluntary marketplace with heavy involvement of local businesses, linked very strongly to the local food movement.  We believe this creates the major social capital that is needed to build this marketplace, but that also makes it much more than a set of transactions, to become a major community building effort to link rural and urban communities.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

So far, the community response has been very strong and thus we think there is a good prospect this will be effective in the future.

Transferability of the Initiative 

The community building is transferable as is the innovation diamond concept we created.  The diamond brings together the heady mix of the private sector, local government, universities and local communities, and has been key to our success so far.

We also have a major community leader at the core of this initiative and this charismatic champion, who knows how to knit people across institutional and landscape boundaries is critical to this effort.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

We are not sure, but we think this will become a model for other initiatives around the country.

Engagement Strategies 

The major community engagement, as described above.