Ecosystem Services in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

In 1990, the Acid Rain Program introduced market-based environmental policy on the largest scale ever attempted. The program capped the total level of acid rain–causing sulfur dioxide emissions from the US electricity sector and allowed utilities to trade under that fixed cap—a so-called cap-and-trade system. Ironically, though much of the original motivation for that program […]

Conservation Return on Investment Analysis: Three Case Studies

An increasing number of conservation projects designed to address ecological management, protection, and restoration are being judged based on the investment returns they are able to produce. The costs, benefits, and risks of these projects can all be assessed using conservation return on investment (ROI) analysis, a method to help conservancies prioritize possible programs based […]

A Tale of Two Parks (In One)

Without intending to, the team of civil servants that in 1990 created Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) launched a forest conservation policy experiment. In an ecologically rich region where ranchers and farmers were illegally clearing forests at an astounding clip, they established a huge (two million hectare) protected area with two distinct management regimes—a core […]

Valuing Conservation in the Context of Climate Change

In the twentieth century, flooding caused more deaths and property damage in the United States than any other natural disaster. Most climate models predict that flooding will worsen in the future, a prospect that is leading a growing number of communities to explore the use of natural areas as protection against extreme events. These areas […]

Sourcing the Future of Wood Bioenergy

Some of the biggest bioenergy debates stem from a “food or fuel” problem, where agricultural lands have been devoted to growing grain as inputs for biofuels, at the cost of food production. According to a study by Searchinger et. al. of corn-based ethanol production, the large scale substitution  of corn ethanol over traditional fossil fuels […]

Will Biotech Help Bring Back the American Chestnut?

Over a hundred years ago, in 1904, the chief forester Herman Merkel of New York Zoological Park grew concerned as the American chestnut trees under his watch were dying off. Chestnut blight had entered the United States. It is caused by a rapidly spreading airborne fungus, which was accidentally introduced with imported Asian chestnut trees. […]

The Next Decade of Forest Management

In last week’s RFF First Wednesday discussion, the inaugural event in RFF’s Resources 2020 anniversary series of lectures, experts emphasized urgently the need to tackle the problem of rapidly declining forest health. Biotechnology (in the form of genetically modified trees) offers promise but it is pushing the boundaries of regulatory institutions. For example, three agencies […]

How Does Congress View Forest Conservation?

Congressional leaders have finally come to an agreement over the debt ceiling. The proposed deal will raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion while cutting $1 trillion in spending over 10 years. Some of those cuts are expected to target environmental programs. Since cap and trade is essentially dead in the United States for the […]