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The fate of heads of state across the globe is tied in large part to their ability to ensure employment, economic growth, and access to cheap food and clean water. Rising food prices have helped topple dictators across the Middle East. Europe, the United States, Japan and other major economies are spending trillions of dollars to restore growth and jobs.

Too often, efforts to address environmental challenges such as pollution, habitat loss and global warming are seen as in conflict with job creation, economic growth and development. Some have suggested that protecting forests will lead to scarcity of land for farming, exacerbating the rise in food prices.

While there are often trade offs, this is not always the case. Recent analysis by WRI’s team of experts, working with the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, has unveiled one of the greatest potential opportunities for combined economic and environmental gains.

With forests being converted at a rapid pace in the South, conservation easements are one of the most promising approaches to conserve and sustainably manage them. A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement in which a landowner agrees to sell or donate the development rights to his or her land. In contrast to some traditional approaches to forest conservation, conservation easements can prevent forest loss while still allowing landowners to own their land. This has made conservation easements an increasingly popular land conservation tool in the United States. While the use of conservation easements continues to grow nationally, adoption lags behind in the South (Figure 1).

WRI’s new issue brief, “Gaining Ground: Increasing Conservation Easements in the U.S. South,” released today jointly with the American Forest Foundation, aims to increase the use of conservation easements in the South by helping landowners, conservation professionals, and conservation funders understand the unique benefits that conservation easements provide, key barriers to their implementation, and how to best address those barriers.

Gaining Ground

Increasing Conservation Easements in the U.S. South

This issue brief provides an overview of the current status of conservation easements in the U.S. South relative to the rest of the United States and how easement use can be increased.

This piece was written with Paula Swedeen of the Pacific Forest Trust

A new issue brief, released today by the World Resources Institute and the Pacific Forest Trust, looks at the economic opportunities for southern landowners created by emerging forest carbon offset markets. This new revenue stream can offer real rewards to landowners who steward their forests for climate benefits.

Original economic analysis done by the authors suggests that under current market conditions (offset prices in the $8-$12/metric ton CO2e range), income from carbon offsets may be sufficient in some instances to pay property taxes or the “incremental” costs of sustainable forest management certification. From a purely financial perspective, however, revenue from offsets in today’s still-developing market is not likely sufficient to outcompete real estate development in the region.

Forests for Carbon

Exploring Forest Carbon Offsets in the U.S. South

This issue brief explores forest carbon offsets in the context of the southern United States. It is intended as an introductory resource for southern
woodland owners, nongovernmental organizations active in
the region, offset project developers, and other forest carbon
offset...

This story originally appeared in the Guardian.

Over the past 150 years, industrialization has taken its toll. All-too-often, forests have been sacrificed in the face of expanding business and national interests. In the future, forests can act as a backbone of a sustainable economy by providing a multitude of renewable goods and services. The successful forest companies of the future will recognize this opportunity, use it to advance their own bottom line, and help ensure that forests survive and thrive.

Using markets to protect and restore ecosystems – and the many services they provide – is gradually becoming a reality. Market-based systems have already protected hundreds of thousands of acres of land while still meeting human economic and development needs. They can help ensure that environmental benefits, from wildlife habitat to water purification, will be preserved for future generations.

But what are the critical elements for success? What progress has been made? What are the innovative ideas that will push these markets forward? The World Resources Institute and the American Forest Foundation recently convened some of the world’s leading experts on ecosystem markets in Madison, Wisconsin to address these questions.

Today, WRI and the WBCSD release an update to the guide “Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper-Based Products.” The guide is meant to help company managers—who are charged with making large purchases of wood and paper products but may not have the time or the knowledge to navigate all the different resources— as they develop and implement their procurement policies.

What’s new?

We have updated the sections on legality and the listing of useful resources, which we call the “guide to the guides." The 12 resources that we highlighted when the guide was first published three years ago have now increased to 47. Resources include publications, projects, rating systems, procurement policies that help people develop and implement forest procurement policies.

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