Portland State University / Cascadia Ecosystem Services Partnership

Fletcher Beaudoin, beaudoin@pdx.edu

Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

The Cascadia Ecosystem Services Partnership (CaESP) is a network of regional organizations that are using an ecosystem services framework to develop innovative approaches for increasing the pace and scale of conservation in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). The partnership was built in response to the dramatic increase of organizations in the PNW using an ecosystem services approach to access new sources of leverage (innovative policies, financing, etc.) for achieving conservation outcomes. The core goal of the partnership is to facilitate the development and refinement of ecosystem services approaches so that these methods become powerful mechanisms for driving new and major areas of conservation in the PNW.

The Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State has taken the central role in coordinating the ecosystem services efforts of partner organizations. CaESP draws resources from PSU’s growing number of faculty, staff, and students with deep expertise in ecosystem services. This growing expertise has allowed PSU to capture a series of competitive research and curriculum grants for ecosystem services work, such as the National Science Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant, which is the first of its kind to focus on training PhD students in ecosystem services issues related to rapidly urbanizing areas.

The principle objectives of the partnership are to:

1. Develop and maintain robust and transparent information-sharing networks and tools.
2. Help establish linkages between on-the-ground projects and large landscape-scale conservation goals in the region.
3. Integrate and coordinate the many disparate projects in the region.

Key Academic Disciplines 

Public administration, nonprofit administration

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

The partnership works with over 40 regional organizations, including the Bullitt Foundation, the Willamette Partnership, Portland State University, the Institute for Natural Resources, the American Farmland Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Northwest Natural Resource Group, and Ecotrust.

Initiative History and Champions 

The existence of the CaESP would not have been possible without an initial grant from the Bullitt Foundation. The Foundation saw many examples of redundant work and a lack of deep collaboration within the PNW ecosystem services community. The CaESP began gaining support in 2011, when it partnered with the Willamette Partnership and the American Farmland Trust to convene the first regional workshop focusing on ecosystem services and conservation finance. This was a powerful event where 25 of the key organizations gathered for two days to discuss collective strategy. The resulting action items from the event provided the partnership with a “portfolio” of collaborative projects to manage. In March 2012, a second workshop with representatives from 30 organizations was held to further advance a collective strategy and develop new initiatives.

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

The CaESP provides a powerful mechanism for deep and ongoing collaboration—creating the space to have transformative discussions, as well as the capacity necessary to maintain and evolve those discussions.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

Over the past year, there has been an increase in intra- and inter-state communication and collaboration (more exchange within Oregon, Washington, and Idaho communities, as well as between the states). This collaboration and the development of collective agenda items has been vital for helping build more effective, informed, and impactful projects.

Transferability of the Initiative 

Before CaESP developed, there was already a network of organizations working on ecosystem services approaches to conservation in the PNW, and they were communicating and collaborating with each other on an ad hoc basis. This existing ad hoc network provided a basis from which CaESP organizers could draw relevant ideas, experiences, and relationships in order to demonstrate the value of a coordinating organization. Additionally, this partnership takes a regional approach, which could lend itself to other regions where a critical mass has formed around a topic and demands tighter coordination and development standards.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

Currently, the CaESP is filling an organizational gap in the region and has been able to demonstrate strong value in the first year. The long-term success of the initiative will depend on its ability to adapt to the changing needs of the partner organizations and also to access more resources and different funding sources (beyond foundation dollars).

Engagement Strategies 

There are currently three methods for engagement:

1. Biannual workshops where the key organizations spend two days developing a collective strategy (this includes NGOs, academic organizations, and some consulting businesses.)

2. An online platform (on the Ecosystem Commons) where members can share information, post documents, and engage in dialogue.

3. Monthly emails (eventually transitioning to an e-newsletter).