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A well-managed and operational Conservation Gateway is in our future! Marketing, Conservation, and Science have partnered on a plan to rebuild the Gateway into the organization’s enterprise content management system (AEM), with a planned launch of a minimal viable product in late 2024. If you’re interested in learning more about the project, reach out to for more info!

Ecosystem Services are the many benefits that natural ecosystems provide to people – from necessities, such as food and water, to services, such as erosion control, flood regulation and storm protection, to cultural values of open space for recreation and spiritual renewal.

According to the comprehensive Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), ecosystems around the world have declined rapidly and extensively over the past 50 years, primarily a result of human actions that have cleared forests, plowed grasslands, dammed rivers, and overtaxed marine ecosystems.  While some of these changes have enabled people to dramatically increase certain services like food production, many have adversely impacted the services that ecosystems provide.

Taking an ecosystem services approach simply means considering people’s well-being at some point in the planning and/or implementation process of a conservation project.  This can mean demonstrating benefits to people for the purpose of engaging new stakeholders or aiming to protect a particular service alongside biodiversity goals.  Through time, TNC has numerous projects that take this approach.   TNC is currently refining the CAP process to include human dimensions, including Ecosystem Services.

Ecosystem service approaches do not necessarily have to involve payments, markets or valuation – they are simply acknowledging and demonstrating the multiple benefit streams that can result from conservation.  That said, valuation of ecosystem services is not uncommon and TNC has a growing number of projects that use this approach.  For more details about growing markets, other case studies (inside and outside TNC) see “Valuation and Payments”.  Read below to learn more about a TNC ecosystem services project in Washington state.

Farming for Wildlife: An ecosystem services project in the Skagit Delta
The delta formed by the Skagit River is critical habitat for migratory shorebirds – a main stopover on the Pacific Flyway.  Over 50,000 shorebirds use this area during migratory season. The Skagit Delta supports 70% of Puget Sound migratory shorebirds birds and yet has lost 70% of its estuarine wetlands and 90% of its freshwater wetlands, the key habitat for these birds.

Farming for Wildlife project is finding a way to allow farmers to keep farmland in production while creating temporary wetland habitats on their property and quantifying the benefits to the farmland and farm products while the land is in a “wetland rotation”. 

The project is working to:

  1. Develop new rotational practices for farmers that improve soil health e.g. decreased crop pathogen  and increased nutrient loads).
  2. Increase available habitat for migrating shorebirds.
  3. Bring together agricultural and conservation interests in working towards mutual goals.  

Farming for Wildlife is working to quantify the benefits of using wetlands as one of the rotations farmers undergo.  The benefits: wetlands may help replenish soil nutrients and combat pests naturally while providing critical habitat for shoreline migratory birds.  The drawbacks: while flooded no commercial crops can be grown and it is costly to drain the lands after flooding when the rotation cycle changes.  This project is very much in the experimental stage where TNC has leased land from eight diverse farmers over the last 10 years as a pilot project, using this experiment to quantify both the costs and benefits.

The goal is to demonstrate the benefits to ensure the project is self-sustaining. Ultimately, changes in the farm bill program may be needed to help pay for the biodiversity benefits from the project, but nutrient retention services and pest management services provided by the flooding maybe beneficial enough to the landowners to compensate for other costs.  See the project website for many more details.