What is ECOSEL?
ECOSEL is a tool that aids forest landowners in selling ecosystem
services from their forestland. The tool was designed to establish a price for
ecosystem services provided in connection with specific forest management plans.
The original model was written for the University of Washington’s Pack Forest as
a means of demonstrating and monetizing the value of ecosystem services provided
by that property. The tool finds the most efficient combination of ecosystem
services that can be delivered at the least possible cost and therefore the tool
is well suited for many natural resources issues that involve trade-offs between
private and public goods and services.
Why use ECOSEL?
Forest landowners often want to keep their land as forest but face economic pressures from the holding
costs of taxes and the very long time frame that forests take to produce income.
Imagine planting corn but having to wait 60 years to bring the corn to market.
Few farmers have the ability to hold their land long enough to make their
investments whole and must pass land to their heirs. This transition is often a
time when land is sold for development. Landowners are correctly tempted by
offers from developers to sell land for cash that yields immediate liquidity.
What is a landowner to do? ECOSEL provides a way for payments to be made to the
landowner now in exchange for adhering to a specific management plan for some
time into the future. This way a landowner can make sure the land is properly
stewarded both now and in the future.
Who buys ecosystem services?
Individuals and groups with local or regional ties to a project Land Trusts with specific
land-use goals for a given location Conservation-oriented people and groups
aiming to provide habitat Organizations required to purchase carbon offsets to
fulfill legal or self-imposed restrictions.
How can my small bid make a difference in natural resource management?
ECOSEL brings to the public choices
as to how a parcel of land should be managed and allows them to state their
preference through relatively small payments. There is no limit to the number of
people who can bid on a management plan and their bids can be added. Therefore
individuals and groups with similar goals can change the management on a parcel
of land through cooperative bidding. There is no obligation to bid but many
submit a small bid as a means of showing others how they feel a parcel of land
should be managed. Discussion boards are available for those who bid and this
allows for very active and engaging conservation discussions.
How is this different than a conservation easement?
ECOSEL provides a mechanism for many
people to contribute the management of a parcel of land. The group therefore
pays to direct the management and the resulting contract is a multi-party
conservation easement. The landowner is bound by the contract and insurance is
priced into the transaction for failures to comply due to acts of God or changes
Wouldn’t ECOSEL just make more money for already wealthy landowners?
It is certainly true that some landowners have deep pockets, but for
many the decision to hold their land is difficult one as life forces such as
illness or retirement pressure them to sell land for development. In a lot of
cases the owners would like to hold on to the land but face little other choice
but to sell. ECOSEL allows you to review projects and contribute to management
on a scale and for the purposes that are important to you. Some contribute to
projects to help preserve wildlife others to help a small landowner keep their
property as working forestland for another generation.
Why should landowners use ECOSEL?
The fundamental premise of ECOSEL is that forest landowners are
providing valuable services (e.g., carbon storage, wildlife habitat, downstream
water quality) that to date have only been a cost to the landowner. The approach