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Environmental Markets & Conservation Finance

Environmental Markets and Conservation Finance

The Conservation Innovations Team was established in 2016 in response to growing interest in environmental markets and conservation finance. NRCS’s work in these emerging areas complements, and in some ways is already integrated with, our traditional conservation planning and program implementation approach to private lands conservation. Our vision: Developing new revenue streams and sources of private capital for agricultural producers and rural economies by attracting non-Federal funding to private lands conservation.

What are Environmental Markets?

The environmental benefits that healthy ecosystems providesuch as clean water and air, flood prevention, healthy soils and wildlife habitatare collectively known as ecosystem services. When ecosystem services can be measured and quantifiedfor example, the amount of carbon stored in soilthey can be bought and sold through markets known as ecosystem or environmental markets.

Link to Environmental Markets at NRCS



What is Conservation Finance?

Conservation finance is the practice of investing capital to support conservation. The core of conservation finance is a belief that it is possible to align conservation and economic outcomes. A series of analyses in recent years has revealed a growing appetite for impact investments—those that provide a financial return to the investor, but also make a positive impact on the environment. Conservation finance vehicles may rely on environmental markets, the development of value-added agricultural products, or increased profits or equity resulting from conservation actions.

Link to Conservation Finance at NRCS



Why is NRCS Involved?

NRCS’s annual budget provides substantial funding for conservation implementation on farms, ranches and forest lands, but much more can be accomplished on these lands with investable dollars flowing from private capital. The total potential for global conservation impact investment has been estimated to be between 200 and 400 billion from 2016 to 2020. Both environmental markets and conservation finance offer opportunities to attract this private capital to working lands conservation, to complement and amplify NRCS’s work with private landowners.

As a Federal agency, NRCS can play a role in incubating and supporting the development of promising environmental markets and conservation finance approaches in their early stages, when entities looking for returns would be less likely to invest.

How We Work

NRCS supports the development of environmental markets and conservation finance approaches through its programs such as Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS also develops technical tools such as COMET that can help estimate the benefits of conservation efforts, providing the infrastructure to help make markets and new financial vehicles work. In addition, NRCS is leveraging its partnership building capacity to support networks such as the National Network on Water Quality Trading and the Conservation Finance Practitioners Roundtable, which develop communities of practice to support these emerging approaches. NRCS conservation finance and environmental markets work is carried out in partnership with organizations including:

Logos of Environmental Markets and Conservation Finance partner organizations



Read on to learn more about our work:

Our Team

  • Kari Cohen, Director, Conservation Innovations Team
  • Adam Chambers, Co-Leader, Energy and Environmental Markets Team
  • Lindsay White, Management Analyst, Conservation Innovations Team