The California red-legged frog, Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, San Joaquin kit fox – these are just a few of the endangered species PERC Enviropreneur Institute Alum Kent Carter is ecstatic to have found on his California ranch.
In 1973 the Endangered Species Act set out to prevent threatened animals and plants from going extinct. A contentious component of the act allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to unilaterally designate private property as ecologically valuable critical habitat, limiting freedom to develop it. In the face of these heavy regulations, many landowners have created their own mantra: “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
And so it is surprising to see early-career, entrepreneur-minded Kent Carter celebrate the discovery of endangered species on his 1,500 acre ranch. Instead of fighting the ESA, however, Carter is working to use incentives such as mitigation credits to protect critical habitat and earn profits.
As PEI Alum James Workman notes:
Spend enough time with Carter and you see a savvy new breed of capitalist, one who is planning to make green by going green, squeezing profits from the ragged margins of both spreadsheets and landscapes. Carter readily acknowledges that the Endangered Species Act has its flaws. He’s seen it polarize older patriarchs, who fume that modern Americans value wild, rare, vermin species like coyotes or bobcats more than the domesticated plants and animals these ranches and farms produce.
As development continues to hem in endangered species and critical habitat, mitigation credits actively provide a market solution for achieving environmental goals. Mitigation credit markets have cap-and-trade at their foundation. For example, a regulatory cap is placed on the quantity of an environmental good, such as riparian lands, that must be present in a defined geographic area. By encouraging the growth of riparian lands on an acre of his land, Carter can then sell his earned credit to a neighbor who plans to destroy an acre. Profits Carter earns from trade in credits can be reinvested into improving the environmental quality of the land.
As an environmentalist with entrepreneurial skills, Carter is striving to partner landowners and non-profits to design land use strategies that generate revenue and achieve stewardship goals. Read more about his efforts here in the latest issue of PERC Reports.