Land Stewardship > Ecosystem Services
Woodland landscapes, characteristic of Central Texas, provide numerous benefits to society, including air and water quality protection, flood control, aquifer recharge, visual aesthetics, recreation, and wildlife habitat.
Historically, these "services" have been taken for granted, with no dollar amount placed on their environmental contributions. As such, these landscapes are primarily valued based on their development potential, an approach that threatens the very benefits we are so dependent upon.
The goal of ecosystem services is to conserve natural landscapes through the creation of marketable values for the societal benefits they provide. Marketing these services allow landowners to generate additional income from their land, reducing the likelihood they will convert it to other land uses unable to provide these same environmental benefits. Developing these markets is one of the most promising solutions for land conservation.
While these markets have been slow to develop, several factors show reason for promise. The environmental movement, federal legislation (both existing and pending), and our exploding population may all influence market creation. As such, many universities, government agencies, and other organizations are researching the feasibility of these emerging opportunities. While still in their infancy, markets exist for the following ecosystem services:
- Nature Tourism (Hunting, Fishing, Agritourism & Adventure, etc.)
- Carbon - long term storage, removal, or destruction of certain atmospheric gases
- Water - protect water quality or quantity in streams, lakes, and rivers
- Biodiversity - promote endangered species/wildlife protection
- Wetlands - mitigate the loss of wetlands
To date, tourism, especially hunting has long been a part of land use in Central Texas. More recently, many more non-hunting markets have become viable. In addition, the voluntary carbon market has garnered interest from Texas landowners. This interest has primarily occurred in the forested region of East Texas, however, landowners in the Panhandle and High Plains have also been involved. As these markets continue to develop, greater landowner participation is expected. Landowners interested in these emerging opportunities should:
- Manage their land in an environmentally sustainable manner
- Contact professionals in your area for assistance
- Stay informed on latest developments