Ecosystem Services in Working Lands: US Northeast

consortia were most prevalent at the regional scale. In addition, many of these efforts come in the form of watershed protection groups or programs (e.g., the Watershed Agricultural Council, the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, or the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit), which target not only a variety of ecosystem services, but do so across a landscape matrix that spans the rural-urban divide. Such efforts are notable in that they are potentially more adept at achieving a landscape perspective on how to address a set of ecosystem services simultaneously. Researching the efficacy of regional public-private partnerships when compared to public or private programs alone might be one interesting avenue for future research and may be used as a model for future watershed and non-watershed related work. Another institutional framework of interest in regards to multiscalar thinking and cross-boundary action is that of county conservation districts. County conservation districts, which cover nearly all states and municipalities, can implement programs and practice at a local level and bridge the gap between communities and larger scales of governance. Not only do conservation districts have a longstanding history of working with producers and landowners at the local scale, they also have a unique socio-political history, which dates from another era of socio-ecological crisis in U.S. history, namely the Dust Bowl. Exploring and leveraging the institutional framework and unique capabilities of county conservation districts in implementing ecosystem service programs and policies is important. Last, the land grant university system, Agricultural Experiment Stations, and Cooperative Extension programs — as regional partners with pre-existing state, multi-state, and regional collaboration structures in place — are vital institutional partners for achieving improved multiscalar thinking and cross-boundary action. Extension services and the educational institutions in which they are embedded are often the source of not only new practices regarding the management and production on working lands, but they are also a source of new knowledge of and thinking about working lands. In this sense, the land grant university system and higher education in general have a crucial dual role to play in developing research and implementing programs to improve ecosystem service provisioning on working lands across the U.S. Northeast.


Conclusion 4: Ecosystem service provisioning programs for young and beginner farmers, while important, may not be enough to entice young people into working lands-related careers. Programs that couple ecosystem service provisioning with incentives that directly support livelihood provisioning such as cash-in- hand (basic income), land access/acquisition, free education/professional development, and health care, may help. Another challenge for working lands comes from the need to increase the appeal of working lands careers as a profession to a wide range of young people. Such a challenge is not new for the sector, which for years has struggled with a declining number of farms, producers, and landowners, as well as with issues of farm succession and farmland preservation. In the context of a changing climate and precarious economic realities (see Kalleberg 2018), however, such a challenge becomes even more complex. Addressing this problem will require policy and programmatic solutions that allow farmers, young and old, to navigate the increasing uncertainty of agriculture as a profession. Put another way, the challenge is not just how to make the profession of agriculture more appealing, it’s how to make agriculture a good livelihood option for young people entering the labor market at a time of unprecedented economic precarity and climatic disruption. Of the programs reviewed in this assessment, there are 30 designed specifically to reach new, young farmers. These programs have a range of incentives — from loans and grants to technical assistance and education — but generally, they are present in each of the U.S. Northeast states and the District of Columbia. Such programs are important and need to be expanded if current leaders want to systematically increase the appeal of working lands careers to young people. Programs geared towards farmland preservation and succession planning are also important. Despite the moderate availability of these incentive and


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