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Lunch & Learn | What are markets in ecosystem services, and how might they be useful to farmers?

January 21 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

What are markets in ecosystem services, and how might they be useful to farmers?

Presented by Heather Mackay, WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, Vegetable Seed Pathology Program

Some years ago, a commercial farmer in Whatcom County posed a question: he had a number of valuable development rights, as yet unused, on his land. What he really needed was secure access to a long-term supply of irrigation water so that he could expand his farming operations. Was there some way he could trade the development rights for water rights?

The answer to that deceptively simple question led to an exploration of current laws and new concepts in land and water management, to see whether this kind of trade might be a practical solution to a particularly challenging problem for farmers in the Nooksack River basin – access to water rights – which is closely connected to local conservation goals as well as to the viability of the local agricultural economy. A broad team of local partner organizations, led by Whatcom County’s Planning and Development Services, developed the concepts further towards a Natural Resources Marketplace (NRM). The research was funded by a National Estuary Program Watershed Protection and Restoration Grant.

In this presentation, Heather MacKay will cover the basics of ecosystem services markets on working farmland, introduce some of the accounting tools that are used in these markets to measure “credits” and “debits”, and explain how market-based conservation approaches for Whatcom County were developed and tested through research in the Ag-Watershed Pilot Project.

Heather MacKay has lived in Lynden, WA with her family since 2005. She grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe before moving to South Africa to complete her college education. Heather’s career has been mostly in the public sector, working as a water and environmental policy specialist. Her local work in Washington State has focused on water management and agriculture in Whatcom County, helping farmers and planners find ways to protect and enhance both working farmlands and water resources. Heather joined the Vegetable Seed Pathology team at the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC in November 2019, where she is the Project Manager for a $4 million grant from the USDA NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative titled ‘Stop the rot: Combating onion bacterial diseases with pathogenomic tools and enhanced management strategies’. This 2019-2023 project entails 24 collaborators from 12 states to develop strategies for detection and management of onion bacterial diseases. In her spare time, Heather enjoys hiking, sailing the coastal waters with her family, and exploring local trails with her horse.

While this seminar is presented free of charge, you will need to register to receive connection information for the Zoom session.


January 21
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Event Category:


Mount Vernon NWREC