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Ecosystem Services

We will restore and protect the ability of nature to sustain healthy and resilient urban communities and a sound economy.

The Ecosystem Services program makes grants to support efforts, based on sound science, to restore and protect the natural green infrastructure that provides ecological goods and services to the region’s major metropolitan areas.

One consequence of such efforts will be to illuminate the links between healthy ecosystems and vibrant human communities.  Unfortunately, these linkages are not well understood by most policymakers or by the public they serve. Ecosystem services include more than the obvious things – the products we obtain from natural ecosystems. They also include the fundamental life support services provided by them: purification of air, regulation of water flows, detoxification and decomposition of wastes, regeneration of soil fertility, pollination of food crops, and production and maintenance of biodiversity from which we derive the raw materials on which our economies and communities are built.

The Bullitt Foundation’s Ecosystem Services program views conservation through a human lens. It favors bold urban projects that lie at the interface of human communities and the natural world. It seeks to advance innovations in the management of land, air, and water that fully value the benefits of nature and enable the citizens of major metropolitan areas in the Pacific Northwest to live and work sustainably and serve as a model for others. It recognizes that reciprocal agreements, market mechanisms, taxes, fees, subsidies, and public education can complement regulation as a policy tool. It acknowledges climate change as a major additional stress on ecosystems, and it overlaps substantially and intentionally with the Foundation’s other programs.

Program priorities:

  • Major areas of program engagement include applied urban research and tool development, advanced regional planning and collaborative governance, conservation finance and environmental economics, and ecosystem defense and ecological restoration.

Grants awarded from the Ecosystem Services Program typically seek to:

  • Retain remaining natural areas and open space within or near major urban regions to prevent the further loss of ecosystem service benefits.
  • Restore or enhance the provision of ecosystem services in urban areas where past activities have harmed natural capital and ecological processes.
  • Minimize urban demands for ecosystem services to reduce stress on natural systems and natural capital.
  • Ensure that management decisions and actions pertaining to urban, agricultural, and forest lands identify and properly account for ecosystem service values.
  • Mitigate to the extent possible unavoidable direct harm to natural ecosystems in urban regions and their ability to provide ecosystem services.

To advance these objectives grantees employ strategies to:

  • Illuminate the benefits of open space resources to urban sustainability, ecological well-being, and human health.
  • Increase the use of “soft-path” green infrastructure in urban or urbanizing areas.
  • Incorporate consideration of ecosystem service values in decisions affecting urban development at the site, neighborhood, city, and regional scales.
  • Advance regional governance guided by sophisticated urban and regional environmental planning.
  • Develop conservation finance mechanisms, metrics, and other needed tools to encourage protection and restoration of ecosystem service values.
  • Support actions to improve forest and agricultural practices in the proximity of metropolitan regions and prevent conversion of working agricultural and timberlands to urban uses.
  • Encourage policies and actions that build resilience in source areas for urban water supplies.
  • Monitor compliance with environmental laws and seek enforcement when they are violated.