The Mokelumne Benefits Program is one of California’s first programs to link private money to private landowners through a voluntary payment for ecosystem services system. Through this pilot program, financial resources from private and public investors interested in increasing ecological benefits from the Mokelumne River can support land owners who improve and/or restore the river corridor. Stillwater’s primary task is to develop reliable and accessible tools to quantify changes in ecosystem services provided by a healthy river corridor.
We are focusing on five riparian functions: maintenance of cool waters through shade, sediment/nutrient filtration, riparian bird habitat, aquatic habitat, and downstream flood attenuation. Stillwater is also creating a subroutine to model expected changes in riparian vegetation height, canopy cover and density for the Central Valley and Sierra Foothills. These tools are being developed in an open and responsive process, with meetings, field demonstrations, and informal consultations with our Technical Advisory Committee and Stakeholder Group. Altogether, the quantification tools will be capable of (1) providing landowners and investors with quantifiable feedback on the effects of investment in restoration at the site scale; (2) informing restoration designs on associated potential environmental benefits; and (3) identifying priority reaches where restoration can provide the greatest gain in environmental benefits. The tools will also provide input for tracking watershed?scale benefits associated with resource management changes, which will fold into an ecosystem crediting platform. Stillwater’s contributions, which include the quantification tools, user guide, and associated monitoring strategy, will be critical pieces of the Mokelumne Environmental Benefits Program.