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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Jun 27;103(26):10140-5. Epub 2006 Jun 16.

Business strategies for conservation on private lands: Koa forestry as a case study.

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  • 1Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources, Stanford University, 397 Panama Mall, Stanford, CA 94305-2210, USA.


Innovative financial instruments are being created to reward conservation on private, working lands. Major design challenges remain, however, to make investments in biodiversity and ecosystem services economically attractive and commonplace. From a business perspective, three key financial barriers for advancing conservation land uses must frequently be addressed: high up-front costs, long time periods with no revenue, and high project risk due to long time horizons and uncertainty. We explored ways of overcoming these barriers on grazing lands in Hawaii by realizing a suite of timber and conservation revenue streams associated with their (partial) reforestation. We calculated the financial implications of alternative strategies, focusing on Acacia koa ("koa") forestry because of its high conservation and economic potential. Koa's timber value alone creates a viable investment (mean net present value = $453/acre), but its long time horizon and poor initial cash flow pose formidable challenges for landowners. At present, subsidy payments from a government conservation program targeting benefits for biodiversity, water quality, and soil erosion have the greatest potential to move landowners beyond the tipping point in favor of investments in koa forestry, particularly when combined with future timber harvest (mean net present value = $1,661/acre). Creating financial mechanisms to capture diverse ecosystem service values through time will broaden opportunities for conservation land uses. Governments, nongovernmental organizations, and private investors have roles to play in catalyzing this transition by developing new revenue streams that can reach a broad spectrum of landowners.

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