The Open Space Council Blog


Live! From inside the fishbowl!

September 25, 2014


We experimented with a new format – the fishbowl – and it resulted in a rich conversation about a complicated topic. People were leaning in, asking questions, and engaging. It was a Gathering that felt like a graduate level seminar. Wow!

For even more photos take a look at our Fall Gathering Flickr Album.





A huge thanks to the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation for hosting us. Also thanks to our speakers:

And thanks to our guest speaker, California Director of Conservation Mark Nechodom. You all shared your expertise and knowledge and experiences in a way that opened eyes, sparked ideas, and started something great. Let’s continue the conversation, shall we?


Want more information? There are many resources out there, including: – The Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook serves as a training manual that helps to streamline the management of ecosystem services. With the guidebook, resource managers can create clear, workable plans that prioritize the work needed to establish and maintain resilient communities throughout the country… – ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services represents a dynamic and growing assembly of professionals, researchers, and policy makers involved with ecosystem services. The ACES 2014 Conference brings together this community in partnership with Ecosystem Markets and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP), providing an open forum to share experiences, methods, and tools, for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions…



11:55am: We’re about to break for lunch. Wow – what a morning!

11:45am: Here are some more highlights from this conversation:

“I am seeing a very interesting turning of the wheel in Sacramento. There’s more recognition of the values of what we’re talking about here today. It’s now a conversation about the network of land, incentives and capital that is necessary.” – Mark Nechodom

“We can’t wait to know how this ends in order to get started.” – Andrea Mackenzie

“What the local NGOs think is important might not be what the public agencies think is important. Take notice that it doesn’t always line up!” – Daniel Mountjoy

“You don’t always have to have monetized data. Just quantitative data can be enough. What did people (voters, funders) get for their investment?” – Karen Gaffney

“Before you collect data, to whom does it matter? Is it the finance folks? Or the farming community? There’s a lot of interest academically, but to what end? For whom?” – Daniel Mountjoy

“We typically deal with one species at a time. We are trying to create a more standardized approach that can be applied across the landscape, across species. We’re not able to achieve the conservation goals without a broader approach.” Ann Hayden

“We all came to this work because we love nature. We have tons of tools at our disposal, i.e., CEQA, Endangered Species Act, HCPs. Theose don’t change. I think it will be naïve to not look at other options, including ecosystem services. We need to be at the table.” – Andrea


11:30am: We are now in Q&A! It’s a rich conversation. It feels like a graduate level seminar! Here are some of the questions that were asked:

“What can the land conservation community learn from the marine conservation world?”

“What is our personal obligation to the land? What are the social justice issues that are tangled into the concept of ecosystem services?”

“What is the role of San Francisco Bay and how ecosystem services can help integrate the bay people with the land people?”

“How can these tools be used at the local level? How can lower income communities benefit from parks, trails, etc?”


11:25am: We have a guest speaker today, California Director of Conservation, Mark Nechodom. Mary has invited him into the circle to share his perspective. Here’s what he had to say:

“This is a really powerful conversation. I’m finding it really encouraging. We’re seeing a culture change. We are now counting things that weren’t counted. It’s not a sell out – it’s a different calculation. It’s a deeper reach into values that are already there.” – Mark Nechodom


11:15am: This is much more of a conversation than a presentation, but they are mentioning some projects. You can see them here:


11:07am: Someday I’ll learn to be a court reporter and be better at transcribing conversations like this one. In the meantime, here are some highlights:

“The threats are larger than they’ve ever been for ecosystems and working lands. We need credible data that supports natural capital investment. We need to broaden the base of supporters.” – Karen Gaffney

“We need to have a more dynamic system with financial performance assurances to adapt to climate change and more palatable for private land owners to engage.” – Ann Hayden

“Our finance tools aren’t the same for investing in our natural systems. For example we can’t debt finance some of the things we really need to do.” – Tim Ramirez

We need to learn how to speak to new groups. Like water engineers!” (giggles from the crowd) – Karen Gaffney

“Landowners are often criticized for their impacts but not recognized for their contributions.” – Daniel Mountjoy

“We are at a moment of time when we don’t have a choice to look at problems and solutions in an integrated way. Otherwise we’re going to miss the boat. Money is coming from infrastructure and transportation. We need to shift our frame and sit at those tables.” – Andrea Mackenzie


10:41am: Here’s how today’s Gathering is working. The 7 speakers are sitting in the middle and they have microphones. And they’re basically having a conversation about ecosystem services that we all get to listen in on. It’s like we’re eavesdropping. And then we’ll open it up to discussion with the full group.



10:40am: Mary has introduced today’s speakers. Here’s who is sitting in the middle of the circle:

Karen Gaffney is the Conservation Planning Manager at the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, where she works with a diverse cross section of the community on innovative conservation programs. Karen is currently leading landscape scale initiatives related to climate change, ecosystem services, and conservation prioritization. A graduate of U.C Berkeley, she has a Master’s degree in biology from Sonoma State University and is a Switzer Environmental Leadership Fellow. Karen serves on the Department of Conservation Statewide Watershed Advisory Committee, is past president of the Board of Conservation Corps North Bay, past president of the Society for Ecological Restoration, California Chapter, and has served on the board of directors of the international Watershed Management Council. She is a co-founder of West Coast Watershed, where she supported integrated watershed planning and funding of over $55 million in projects for tribes, agencies, counties, NGOs and special districts. Karen is an instructor at the Santa Rosa Junior College, where she teaches watershed ecology and restoration. She has published peer reviewed papers on riparian corridors and invasive species, and is the principal author of several guides to watershed assessment and ecological restoration, including the riparian restoration section of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Stream Habitat Restoration Manual.

Ann Hayden, California Habitat Markets Director, Ecosystems Program at the Environmental Defense Fund leads the development and implementation of the Central Valley Habitat Exchange, including building support for the Exchange among state and federal agencies, landowners and other stakeholders. Ann joined EDF in 2002 to help lead EDF’s efforts to improve urban and agricultural water supply reliability and restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. She currently leads EDF’s work to advance habitat markets to restore critical habitat to benefit the environment and agriculture in California, where she is building broad coalitions of state and federal agencies, non-profit partners, landowners and the private sector to support the development and implementation of environmental markets that help increase California’s healthy freshwater and terrestrial systems and improve delivery of the environmental services these habitats provide. Ann currently sits on the California Roundtable for Agriculture and Environmental and the California Roundtable for Water and Food Supply and previously sat on the Steering Committee for the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan which seeks to improve urban and agricultural water supply reliability and restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. (Masters., Environmental Science and Management, U.C. Santa Barbara; B.A,, Marine Biology, U.C. Santa Cruz)

Andrea Mackenzie is General Manager of the Open Space Authority in the Santa Clara Valley which is working to protect and steward the region’s natural capital – our open spaces, water resources, natural areas, and working lands to support healthy communities and economies.  For more than 25 years, Ms. Mackenzie has worked in the fields of land use planning, conservation policy, and open space protection for county, regional, state, and national agencies.  She is a past fellow of the National Conservation Leadership Institute and serves on the Advisory Council of the Bay Area Open Space Council and the SPUR San Jose Policy Board. Ms. Mackenzie earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from U.C. Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Natural Resources from U.C.L.A.

Dr. Daniel Mountjoy is Director of Restoration on Private Lands for Sustainable Conservation, a non-profit organization that seeks business solutions to environmental problems.  He is responsible for leadership of three program areas:  Simplified Permiting for Restoration, Ecosystem Services, and Water Management.  In support of these program areas, he is also working on strategies to strengthen the capacity of Resource Conservation Districts to assume a greater role in implementing restoration projects.  Prior to joining Sustainable Conservation, Daniel was an Assistant State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service serving the California Central Coast and San Francisco Bay-Delta regions.  During his 17 year career with NRCS he fostered partnerships with Resource Conservation Districts, technical advisors, researchers and the agricultural community to promote water quality and habitat protection practices and led efforts to integrate food safety with conservation practices. He collaborated with Sustainable Conservation for more than a decade to pioneer and expand permit coordination programs for restoration projects.  Daniel earned a Ph.D. in Human Ecology from UC Davis in 1995 for his research on strategies to improve cross-cultural communication for resource management with Hispanic farmers.  He also holds a B.A. in Agroecology from UC Santa Cruz and an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Stanford University.

Tim Ramirez joined the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) in October 2005 to lead its new Division of Natural Resources within the Water Enterprise. Created in July 2005, the new Division is responsible for integrating environmental stewardship principles into current and future operations and maintenance of the SFPUC water supply system and watershed and right-of-way lands, including the Tuolumne River, Alameda Creek, and Pilarcitos Creek watersheds. In January 2012, Tim was also appointed by the Governor to serve as a member of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, which is responsible for flood management and flood risk reduction in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins. Previously, Tim spent six years working as the Assistant Secretary for Water Policy and Science at the California Resources Agency and as the Senior Policy Advisor and Deputy Director for Ecosystem Restoration at the California Bay-Delta Authority. Tim’s responsibilities included serving as the State Coordinator for the CALFED Bay-Delta Program, and he focused on river systems and the intersection of water supply, ecosystem restoration, water quality, flood protection, and agricultural issues. Before joining the State, Tim directed the Tuolumne River Preservation Trust’s Central Valley Program. Tim completed his graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley.


10:37am: Peter Liu, a member of the Open Space Council’s Board of Directors, is welcoming everyone. He asked for a raise of hands for how many people work for Open Space Council member organizations and about half the room raised their hands. Peter then introduced Dr. Mary Ruckelshaus who will serve as today’s moderator. Here’s a little bit more about Mary:

Mary Ruckelshaus is the Managing Director of The Natural Capital Project (NatCap), a collaboration among Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and the University of Minnesota.  NatCap provides scientific capacity and open-source technical tools allowing incorporation of ecosystem service values into decisions at the intersection of human development and conservation interests.  Until September, 2010, she lead the Ecosystem Science Program at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA, USA. Mary received the NOAA Employee of the Year award in 2002 and has published over 100 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters and Federal technical reports. She serves as the Chair of The Nature Conservancy’s Washington chapter, and is past trustee of TNC’s Worldwide Board of Directors and the Science Advisory Board of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). Prior to joining NOAA, Ruckelshaus was a faculty member in Biology for three years at Florida State University. She has a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University, and a PhD from the University of Washington.

10:36am: We have started! The room is set up in a circle and it’s full of people. We all managed to get here despite the awful Bay Area traffic.


10:00am: Hello! Today we’re holding our Fall Gathering at the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto. We’ll be talking about ecosystem services with around 110 people. Seven of those people will be sitting in the middle of the room, having a conversation that we all get to listen to. It’s called a fishbowl in business speak, eavesdropping in other contexts. Here’s what the focus of the conversation:

There’s an increasingly popular approach to funding land conservation called ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are what sustain human life including clean air and water, healthy soil, pollination of crops, maintenance of biodiversity, and much more. Efforts are underway to place a monetary value, however imperfect, on the services and introduce them into markets. There are policies to support these efforts and there are also challenges of translating all of it into plain language that “regular” people can understand. Ecosystem services are very complicated, not always agreed upon, often misunderstood, known to be essential, and hailed as the next big opportunity for conservation funding. Around the Bay Area and beyond there are a host of projects that are exploring this opportunity, pushing the boundaries, and learning a lot along the way.

The fish in the fishbowl will discuss:

The fish (in the most respectful use of the word) are:

I’m Annie Burke and I’ll be blogging throughout today’s event. I’ll share pictures and quotes as we go along. And we’ll also be tweeting at #osc925.