Now that people increasingly recognize that the natural world provides valuable services to support human and ecological health—clean air, clean water, carbon storage and more—the Center is pushing for the next step. We believe the landowners who keep their land undeveloped deserve to earn some payback for the important services their land provides to society.

Earning income from these natural services can make it possible for a landowner to keep forestland undeveloped while continuing to generate forest goods and services.


"Helping landowners understand the new markets that they can take advantage of is crucial. Landowners pay property taxes, pay for improvement harvests, and their capital stays tied up in the land for decades. Income for carbon storage or water quality protection can help them keep their forests intact."

—Jayson Benoit, Operations Director & Forest Stewardship Institute Director; Northwoods Stewardship Center

The Center tracks and advocates for policies and projects that test new ways for forestland owners to earn income from these natural services. We also serve as a source of tools and information to help forestland owners understand emerging opportunities in the forest carbon marketplace.


Paying landowners for the natural services provided by undeveloped land—what’s now called “Payment for Ecosystem Services”—is new to our economy. Landowners and the marketplace are testing new ideas, such as paying for the carbon stored in trees, which reduces carbon dioxide in the air, or paying for good stewardship of forests that protect public drinking water sources.

The Center has collaborated with partners and landowners to test these new ideas through pilot projects, including:

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