Partners for Western Conservation (PWC) is a program where landowners voluntarily participate in conservation agreements in exchange for technical guidance and incentives, to include monetary and business certainty. The program focuses on implementation of any tool or process that achieves validated results for the benefit of natural resources; and at the same time, fosters the organization's philosophy of working lands in working hands. Air, water, wildlife, open spaces, etc. can be preserved with a variety of approaches. To engage in these approaches, PWC envisions four quadrants of initiation:
From a conservation standpoint, landowners are able to secure conservation enhancements across a wider geography to offset any losses. This causes an overall net gain in suitable conservation for species and resources, which also results in the restoration of important rangeland ecosystems on private and public lands. Another major benefit to conservation is the increased knowledge of species distribution, abundance and habitat relationships for management decision-making.
One of the biggest benefits on the business side of the equation, is being able to keep working lands in working hands, allowing for positive economic benefits to society. This proactive approach in addressing the public's concern for species and habitat becomes an invaluable marketing tool and alleviates egregious regulatory oversight. However, the most important benefit, as it relates back to the mission of PWC, is the long-term benefit to the species and habitats.
While there are a wide variety of tools that PWC utilizes in order to maintain high levels of conservation implementation and flexibility, a few have risen to the top based on landowner interest.
Mitigation agreements are widely utilized by federal, state, and local governments; and are based upon mutually agreed-upon contracts. Mitigation agreements can be utilized to offset impacts to habitats when a road or building is constructed that interferes with the habitat of concern. Mitigation agreements have been shown to work onsite and offsite, and are very functional in meeting regulatory requirements.
Conservation crediting is another tool available. These systems are built upon a group of simple contracts that clearly define expectations. Credit systems also have the ability to be banked if so desired. Credit systems offer broader participation in the banking and crediting aspects of the program, thus allowing more landowners to participate and more commercial interests to debit the bank. Conservation crediting is showing distinct opportunities in conserving species and natural resources over wider geographies.