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PES model needs replicating

Coming from another Latin-American country, it was very informative for me to see [in “Bees and Barbed Wire for Water,” December 2006] this case of payments for environmental services (PES) working effectively. When we are talking about property rights in Latin American and Caribbean countries, we always have to deal with issues like lack of land tenure, especially titles.

For that reason it is challenging to see how the enabling conditions to start contracting were built at the same time that the confidence between partners was enhanced.

This is a very good example of mobilizing biodiversity funds from an external donor. The most important point in this PES case is that the payments are made in sustainable production systems that generate income for landowners and tenants so they can commit to protect some areas for conservation purposes. Scaling or replicating this model in other areas will be the next step.

 —Daniel Arcila
Private Lands Coordinator
The Nature Conservancy

On the right track

Cooperative efforts such as grassbanks between conservationists and ranchers are to be applauded. Grassbank programs, like those mentioned in the December 2006 issue of PERC Reports, that fit the local environmental conditions and the desires of the people are likely to be more successful than the bureaucratic command-and-control approaches. Providing incentives through a market is one of the keys to encourage participation, create win-win outcomes, and reduce the acrimony between ranchers and conservationists. Grassbanks are on the right track.

—Myles Watts
Professor of Agricultural Economics
Montana State University-Bozeman

Dam-busting praised

Not only does James Workman explain that most dams have a useful life and afterwards can cause more harm than good, he presents a practical way to get rid of obsolete dams: “businesses seek out credits generated by third-party projects for environmental services in advance of their proposed development—and pay handsomely for them… the average obsolete dam may be worth far more broken up than left intact; the sum of its removed parts are worth more than the integrated whole. Busting the dam could release a net gain in legitimate, measurable economic value, which can be brought to market and sold to willing buyers.”

Workman estimates there are 79,000 dams in the United States, and that 85 percent of these dams are no longer providing economic benefits. Meanwhile there are developers throughout the USA who are trying to provide new industrial, commercial, and residential facilities for a country whose population just topped 300 million and grows by over 3 million per year. All of them are required to mitigate whatever land and habitat their developments encroach upon, usually by ratios well beyond one-to-one.

Another noteworthy point regarding dams is the value of an alternative to mega-dams, which is to build small check dams. These dams catch seasonal flows and divert the water to temporary basins where they refill aquifers. This is a terrific way to recharge the water tables, particularly in areas where wells for crop irrigation have drawn underground water reserves to dangerously low levels.

—Excerpted from

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