Agricultural, Ecological and Regulatory Context
The Sacramento River Ranch property lies adjacent to the Sacramento River, which runs from Mount Shasta to the San Francisco Bay, in California. River Ranch practices conventional and organic agriculture, and engages in other activities that support its vision of integrated conservation and agricultural production in a managed landscape.
Maintaining and enhancing biodiversity on this mixed landscape of agriculture, urban development, managed waterways, and natural habitat is a complex task. Moreover, the legal framework that farmers and conservationists must navigate to participate in federal, state, or private conservation initiatives is a complicated one. Various regulations effectively gave rise to markets for a whole sector of environmental mitigation and species banking activities. In both cases, markets for mitigation usually involve an actor, who is developing or altering a landscape, paying a private party for a wetland or species habitat credit that ensures that additional habitat has been created and will be maintained in perpetuity.
Sacramento River Ranch Profile
River Ranch is a prime example of how environmental markets can be coordinated to complement agricultural production. In this respect, there is a role for River Ranch in the transfer of knowledge about the business of banking to farms in the area that might be well suited to develop such projects.
Scaling Up: Challenges and Opportunities
The River Ranch example sheds light on the types of policies that will be necessary to encourage adoption of payments for ecosystem service schemes around the country. The River Ranch example shows clearly how crucial Wildlands’ experience and knowledge is to the success of River Ranch, and suggests that there may be a role, at least in the case of species banking, for investment in extension or government assistance in helping farmers evaluate and bring potential projects to fruition.
While demand for mitigation credits
fluctuates dramatically and is correlated with economic growth in the region, in a good year
(see, for example, 2008 shown in this figure), mitigation activities account for more than half of the
profit stream from the ranch.