Payments for Ecosystem Services: Cases from the Experience of U.S. Communities

Cara Bottorff
Posted on: 10/27/2020 - Updated on: 1/19/2024

Posted by

Molly Johnson



Payments for Ecosystem Service or PES programs are defined as “formal and informal contracts in which landowners are remunerated for managing their land to produce one or more ecosystem service, [and that involve] actual payments between at least one willing buyer and one willing seller to produce or enhance a well-defined ecosystem service or bundle of services (Mercer, Cooley, & Hamilton, 2011, p. 1).” But what do PES programs look like in practice? How formal or informal does the payment mechanism need to be? And what ecosystem services (or ecosystem processes and benefits) are most amenable to these market- based or market-like approaches to environmental problems?

To help answer these questions for the benefit of landowners, community groups, local governments, and businesses curious about whether such systems could become part of a strategy for addressing climate adaptation needs or other environmental concerns, Key-Log Economics has commissioned this review of representative examples of PES programs from around the United States. Our intention is to inspire ideas for how to connect the resources needs of those who can make improvements in the protection, restoration, and enhancement of ecosystem processes to the resource capacity of individuals, businesses, governments, and communities who enjoy the benefits that spring from those processes.

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At Key-Log Economics, we believe that better (more efficient, more just, more sustainable) outcomes are attainable when complete information is available to, and is used by, environmental and economic decision-makers.

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