Forests provide many different services to people, most of which we don’t pay for and therefore tend not to be aware of or to take them for granted.
Wildfires burning in important municipal and farm irrigation watersheds have awakened many to the true cost of unhealthy forests, when tens of millions of dollars must be invested to filter the water that nature previously filtered for us, rehabilitate a watershed to stabilize the soil, and clear sediment from reservoirs that filled after a wildfire.
This TedX presentation by Leigh Madeira demonstrates how using financial markets and private investment, water districts, cities and other entities can accelerate the restoration of watersheds after 100 years of fire suppression has created overly dense forests.
Madeira shows two photos from about 100 years apart and points out how the number of trees has increased dramatically. And how, as she says, more trees is not always better.
Then she offers a solution.
Madeira is among a group of financial and science experts, Blue Forest Conservation, who are working with the Forest Service, communities, utilities and private businesses to create coalitions that put together forest restoration projects that will restore healthy ecosystems and protect essential public resources like municipal watersheds.
The funding, in part, comes from a unique Forest Resilience Fund that is made available to private investors: large pension funds, insurance companies, special interest groups and the like. The investors have no say over the projects, but fund the bulk of the restoration work upfront. Then, over time, the project partners pay back the Forest Resilience Fund and the investors recoup their money.
Learn more about this unusual approach to forest restoration by watching Madeira’s full presentation, above. It’s excellent food for thought.
The use of Forest Resilience Funds “redefines forest restoration, not as a cost but as an investment opportunity,” Madeira says. “If you think of forest health as an investment opportunity, we can attract a fresh and vast source of capital to a problem that’s desperate for both.”