Farmers in Jamestown, R.I., are being paid by local residents to delay haying their fields until after birds have completed nesting in a unique test to establish investment markets for ecological services.
The project to protect habitat for bobolinks, a grassland-nesting bird whose population is declining in New England, was designed by a team of University of Rhode Island economists in collaboration with a URI biologist and Providence-based EcoAsset Markets, Inc.
“The public constantly says that they value a clean and healthy environment, and yet the economy overlooks those values and instead creates environmental problems,” said Stephen Swallow, a URI professor of environmental economics. “Ecological markets are a way to correct these environmental problems by enabling businesses and individuals to express their values and invest in the environment. It’s a way of bringing environmental qualities into our everyday decision making.”
Farmers who grow hay for their livestock can usually get two cuttings a year from their fields, but the first one typically interferes with nesting grassland birds. The mowing machines can destroy the birds’ nests, eggs and young. By compensating the farmers for the cost of delaying the harvest and purchasing replacement hay, the birds have enough time to mature and fly away without negatively impacting the farmers.
“This market approach is brand new,” said Emi Uchida, assistant research professor in the URI Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. “The Jamestown residents and farmers experienced one of the first experiments in the world to use a market approach to enhance ecosystem services.”
Read the rest of this very cool story here. Very cool idea! More communities should steal that idea.