It happens almost every year: my family goes to the beach, and we invariably see an amazing house for sale that inspires us to dream. It takes only a few seconds to realize purchasing a beach house by ourselves is not an option, but what if we join forces with family, friends or neighbors? Suddenly the sticker price doesn’t seem so intimidating – we’ve solved the financial barrier to owning a beach house!! But as we start to think about the details, like how exactly we might join up with 6 other families, it doesn’t take long to come up with a long list of obstacles to joint ownership. What about all the legal issues related to joint ownership? What happens if after a few years, several of the families decide they are sick of the beach? What if one family ends up using the house a lot more than the other families – will they pay more? I’m sure figuring out all these issues is possible, but they seem so daunting it cures me for a least a year of considering buying a beach house.
What does any of this have to do with environmental finance? Going through this yearly personal finance exercise reminds me of one of the critical truths of environmental finance – often paying for an environmental objective has more to do with governance than finding the money.
Glenn Barnes is a senior project director at the Environmental Finance Center at The University of North Carolina and is director of the Sustainable Finance for Wetland Programs project.
EPA is encouraging all states and tribes to create wetland program plans. These plans lay out the activities that each state or tribal program plans to undertake over the next few years in each of the four core elements of wetland programs: regulation, monitoring & assessment, restoration & protection, and water quality.
The above graphic illustrates one of the main challenges of watershed protection: jurisdictional and watershed boundaries rarely align. This issue generates questions about who is responsible for, and who should pay for, watershed protection. Over the past decade, the Environmental Finance Center at UNC has developed and applied the concept of a revenueshed to help communities answer such questions. We define a watershed protection revenueshed as the area within which revenue is generated for watershed protection. Thinking in terms of this concept can help address watershed protection challenges by (1) cultivating accountability, (2) generating discussions among local governments, and (3) developing interactive financial tools to assist in policy decision-making. In a recent report for the Conservation Trust of North Carolina, we applied the revenueshed concept to the local framework of North Carolina’s Upper Neuse River Basin.