Nevada is the first state in the nation to launch an online Conservation Credit System which provides private landowners and public land managers incentives to preserve, enhance, and restore greater sage-grouse habitat. This system provides a statewide market that allows developers (e.g. mining and energy companies) to offset their impact on sage-grouse by purchasing credits from private landowners who have land that qualifies as a safe habitat for the endangered birds. The first credit transaction on the online platform occurred November 9th.
A credit equals one “functional” acre of greater sage-grouse-friendly habitat. To help the public learn if their land is eligible, our partners at Environmental Incentives asked Sitka to build an online site screening tool for land managers to instantly learn their property’s suitability for the program. We leveraged our experience working with geospatial datasets and user workflows to build a tool that is easy to use and informative.
The tool allows landowners to assess the potential of their property to provide protected sage-grouse habitat via a map layer representing the habitat quality throughout the state. Landowners draw a boundary around their site, answer some basic questions, and in a few seconds receive an estimate of their site’s credit potential. Behind the scenes, datasets of state-wide habitat quality and anthropogenic features are analyzed to determine if the site is eligible, and if so, the potential habitat quality ranking from Low to High. Additional results, including the site’s habitat and man-made disturbance ranking relative to the rest of the state and a break down of the site’s acreage in different management categories, are calculated and displayed.
A recent Bloomberg article on this topic – Can Markets Save the West’s Most Controversial Bird? – shares how state officials believe “the market incentivizes efficient conservation and provides certainty to companies that have to mitigate their impact on sage grouse.” While this platform benefits both industry and private landowners, I also see it as an innovative solution that will benefit conservation efforts across the globe.