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Ecosystem Services

Environmental features such as wetlands, endangered and threatened species habitat, and areas of high recreational value often prevent or restrict conventional economic use. Additionally, such environmental or recreational features often confer a special obligation or standard of care. These obligations are a particular challenge for trust land managers who, as trustees, have a fiduciary duty to generate revenues each year from those lands. In this context, market mechanisms and incentive programs that reward trust land managers for protection and management of these sensitive environmental resources may provide benefits that meet the fiduciary responsibility of the trust, while also protecting the ecological values of the lands.

Increasingly, state and federal agencies require measures to mitigate the negative impacts new development has on ecosystem elements such as threatened species, wildlife habitat, plant communities, and water quality. Because of the unique obligation of trust land managers to require economic activity and returns for trust beneficiaries, school trust lands may be ideally situated to take advantage of the range of conservation and restoration related value propositions. These market mechanisms include wetland banking, habitat conservation banking, and carbon credits.

Image of Minnesota wetlands

Wetland Banking

The Office of School Trust Lands is currently exploring the establishment of wetland banking credits on school trust lands. The fiduciary obligation of school trust land trustees requires that economic activity be undertaken on trust lands whenever possible. Taking advantage of wetland banking on currently unproductive trust lands with aquatic features furthers the fulfillment of this statutory duty.

canada lynx rubbing against tree

Habitat Banking

A habitat conservation bank is a parcel of land that supports the natural habitat of one or more species listed under the Endangered Species Act. These lands are conserved and permanently managed for species that are endangered, threatened, candidates for listing, or are otherwise species-at-risk.

Image of Minnesota pine forest

Carbon Credits

Carbon sequestration is among the most well-known ecosystem service provided by forests, and is one way to generate a carbon credit. Although developing forest carbon projects is a complex and often daunting endeavor, payments for carbon sequestration present an opportunity to gain a new revenue stream from school trust forestlands while reducing the impacts of climate change.

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