Savannah Valley District

Emerging Opportunities in Ecosystem Services Markets for Timberland Owners and Managers

Janet W. Steele, Area Forestry and Wildlife Agent

Ecosystem services, or the additional benefits provided to humans by forests other than manufactured products, include clean air and water, carbon sequestration, and intangible benefits such as natural beauty. Recent opportunities have become available or are being developed in South Carolina to generate income for timberland owners and managers from ecosystem services through various funding sources and markets. These include forested watershed protection through the purchase of conservation easements to improve municipal drinking water in several river basins, the sale of voluntary carbon market credits, and wetland mitigation banks. As demand for these ecosystem services increases, landowners may have the opportunity to profit from the timberland practices they are already implementing. However, unbiased information on how these services are valued and marketed is often challenging to find. Also, many of these projects and markets have restrictions or regulations that landowners and even land managers may not be fully aware of.

Earlier this year, the Forestry and Natural Resources Team partnered with the SC Land Trust Network to provide a “Green for Your Green” workshop for landowners, professional foresters, land trust staff, and anyone interested in developing ecosystem markets in the state. The workshop brought together researchers from Clemson University and experts from the Longleaf Alliance, and companies involved in ecosystem services marketing in South Carolina. The workshop topics included how forest carbon is sequestered and the emerging voluntary forest carbon markets, forest conservation to protect drinking water, and the process of developing and marketing a wetland mitigation project. Since some ecosystem service contracts often require land protection through a conservation easement or other restriction, participants had an opportunity to network with staff representing land trusts from all over the state.

Follow-up evaluation showed that the participants felt the program content had improved their understanding of all of the ecosystem service topics that were presented and that they would attend additional workshops related to ecosystem services, indicating that this is an area of timberland management that is of interest to landowners and land managers. For more information on ecosystem services on timberland, please contact Janet Steele, Area Forestry and Wildlife Agent, at or 803-516-4209.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.