Flamingos Laguna Colorada

Project Report:
Implementing Ecosystem Valuation as a Global Conservation and Economic Development Strategy
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates the effect of the global financial system and/or the monetary system in fostering a sustainable economy.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


Tourism to protected areas including World Heritage Sites is a significant contributor to economic development. However, policy decisions to protect the natural capital upon which the industry depends, tend not to reflect this. Consequently opportunities to maximize tourism's contribution to conservation and poverty alleviation are being lost. This project is working with park systems to quantify tourism's value and make policy recommendtaions for more effective market-based strategies to achieve financial sustainability.

Outdoor Latrine vs. Visitor Center
Outdoor Latrine vs. Visitor Center. Entry fees paid by ecotourists have funded improvements to Eduardo Avaroa Preserve such as upgrading visitor facilities and improving sanitation. Photos by Barrett Walker on Foundation site visit.


The Nature Conservancy achieved many successes over the course of the past year employing ecotourism as a conservation strategy. With the launch of a joint initiative with the UNESCO World Heritage Center to promote sustainable tourism, the Conservancy continued to strengthen the financial sustainability and management of protected areas in developing countries—while also increasing the benefits to surrounding communities and sharing best practices for widespread application. These achievements were made possible through the generous support of the Alex C. Walker Foundation, a new grant from the Bank of America Foundation, and the continuing support of the USAID/TNC Parks in Peril program.

The Walker Foundation commitment enabled us to leverage support from the UN Foundation and the Bank of America to co-finance this first year’s work and has enabled us to initiate discussions on new funding opportunities with the Multilateral Investment Fund and International Finance Corporation at the World Bank.

With the right market-based policies in place, developing countries have the opportunity to help pay for the cost of conservation by capturing the economic value of tourism. To demonstrate this potential in Bolivia, the Conservancy held a workshop with park directors and managers of the Bolivian National Park Service and successfully achieved consensus around a plan to implement policy reform. The plan will implement mechanisms such as visitor entrance fees, tour operator license fees, and concession agreements at the country’s most visited protected areas to generate over $1 million per year for conservation. The Conservancy also helped create the policy framework for these new mechanisms by facilitating the development of a proposal and process which resulted in January in the promulgation of an Administrative Decree by the Bolivian government. As a result, six Bolivian parks will begin, with our support, implementing tourism-based income generation mechanisms for the first time over the next year.

At our Bolivian World Heritage Site - Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, the Conservancy worked with Price Waterhouse Coopers to carry out a financial analysis of tourism operations to further guide government strategies on tourism business management and to prepare for the development of a tourism concession to take over business management from the government.

To capitalize on the economic benefits of tourism for conservation in Ecuador, the Conservancy launched a study together the Ministries of Environment, Tourism, and Finance, as well as the tourism private sector and conservation NGOs. This study to quantify the economic value of tourism to protected areas and identify its potential economic value and form the basis of a strategy to optimize the flow of tourism spending to conservation of Ecuador’s protected area system. In this way, we will be able to demonstrate how tourism can be a significant contributor to the financial sustainability of the park system, rather than a threat to it.

We have now completed the first phase of the tourism valuation study in the protected areas system. Preliminary results show that while 95% of self generated revenues for the system derive from tourism (approximately $900,000 pa) only 2.5% is reinvested in tourism management - well below the minimum necessary to achieve the 'threshold of sustainability'. As a consequence, there is a notable threat of erosion to the natural capital within the system. We carried out contingent valuation study with the technical guidance of Dr. Kreg Lindberg of the University of Oregon. This entailed interviewing approximately 700 foreigners and 700 national visitors to eight representative parks. Preliminary results indicate a willingness to pay beyond what is currently captured by entrance fees. We are currently preparing policy recommendations for the government to adjust fees upwards, diversify income generation mechanisms and modify the flow of revenues to ensure adequate reinvestment at site level to ensure both sustainability and to provide a market incentive to staff to charge fees efficiently.

The study has also identified a series of ‘complimentary opportunities' to provide services at visitor sites which would generate additional revenues for the system as well as opportunities for local communities and businesses.

We held two planning meetings with the Peruvian park service (INRENA), private operators and others to share the methodology and preliminary results of our work in Ecuador. As a result, INRENA has formally solicited our support to carry out a similar study to quantify the value of park tourism in order to help them prepare policy recommendations on the park system’s financial sustainability.

Some funding has been obtained from USAID to help carry out the next phase of this work.

Building the Capability to Reduce Threats of Park Visitation
Parks must have the capacity to manage the threats uncontrolled visitation poses. In an effort to help build this capacity at a national level in Bolivia, the Conservancy organized a workshop in collaboration with Colorado State University at the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve attended by representatives from local NGOs, the Bolivian National Park Service, and four protected areas. The workshop provided training in the techniques of monitoring conservation impacts and developing strategies to mitigate threats such as the disturbance of wildlife, uncontrolled access to sensitive areas, and contamination from human waste. Implementation plans were prepared for each of the protected areas represented, thus providing the participants with directly applicable actions.

Sharing Ecotourism Best Practices
As a part of an on-going effort to share best practices in ecotourism management, the Conservancy empowered conservation professionals at priority sites with a range of tools and training opportunities by:
• collaborating with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and Conservation Commons to supply the latest ecotourism strategies and case studies from the 3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress on a CD-ROM to over 1,000 protected area managers, government officials, and conservation practitioners.
• Co-developed "Implementing Sustainable Tourism in the USAID Context" a training manual and implemented training course for USAID mission staff from around the world.
• presenting at international events including the Conservation Finance Alliance conference in Panama on sustainable finance for protected areas and at a conservation strategies session in Jamaica for the partners of the Conservancy’s Parks in Peril program.

Report on Fisheries Component

Thanks to support from the Walker Foundation TNC has continued to develop conservation strategies that recognize that the well being of coastal communities is directly dependent on the status of the marine resources as well as the communities’ ability to participate in the market. As will become apparent in this report, the experiences this year have been important to the development of TNCs marine market based conservation strategies. However, as often occurs at the early stages of the development of new strategies, the path we have followed has differed from the one we had expected to follow.

TNCs budding effort in South America to develop market based strategies for marine conservation is focusing in Chile and Brazil where existing legislative framework permits the allocation of exclusive rights of use to given areas and or resources in the marine environment. In Brazil, the national system of protected areas includes a class of areas that attributes exclusive rights of use to traditional communities along the coast. The support from the Walker Foundation has allowed TNC to further develop these efforts in Brazil.

Deliverable 1) We propose to organize and host Brazil’s first Community based Property Rights for Marine Conservation Forum (2006) to provide the few existing RESEX communities an unprecedented opportunity to exchange experiences with their peers, and to provide opportunity for coastal communities that aspire to create such a reserve in the area to learn from those who have already done so.

In Brazil the responsibility for the creation and management of Extractive Reserves (RESEX) belongs to the Centro Nacional de Desenvolvimento Sustentado das Populações Tradicionais (National Center for sustainable development of traditional communities - CNPT), a division within IBAMA(the Brazilian Institute for the environment and renewable natural resources – a branch of the Ministry of Environment; http://www.ibama.gov.br/resex/cnpt.htm).

In November 2005 TNC approached the CNPT to discuss the possibility of co-hosting a national forum on marine RESEX, as we had proposed to the Walker foundation. They said that they would be interested in such an event but that it would have to take place after the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity that was hosted by Brazil in March 2006. At that meeting a new attempt was made to set plans to co-host a national forum on the RESEX with the CNPT, but despite the interest expressed the effort did not materialize, mainly due to the fact that the CNPT was engaged in an internal review of the rules and regulations for the creation and management of the RESEX, and hosting a national internal forum for the RESEX managers in Brasilia, which I attended. The CNPT decided that they would hold off having a more inclusive public forum once the new regulations and guidance had been developed. Given that the public forum was not a priority for them at that time they had no funds available for such an event. As the participation and indeed collaboration of the CNPT would be vital for the success of such an event and that TNC did not have all the resources necessary to host this effort alone, we decided not to pursue the matter independently. The engagement with the CNPT has lead to a budding relationship with TNC which is important for future collaborations.

Deliverable 2) Report on Market based marine conservation strategies in South America.
The second deliverable: “the Report on Market based marine conservation strategies in South America” has also progressed as a slower pace than we had anticipated.

During discussions with the Brazilian Ministry of Environment about TNC’s interest in working with the RESEX the ministry staff working in the Marine and Coastal Zone nucleus expressed interest in obtaining support from TNC for a publication that is to be focused on the interaction between the RESEX sites and fisheries. The publication would be one volume in their series on Protected Areas, and would provide a good venue for a paper on the use of market based strategies on marine conservation. This publication is at a stage where most of the papers to be included have been submitted and are in the process of being translated. However the Ministry of Environment does not have the necessary funds to cover the printing expenses, even with a contribution from TNC. TNC’s paper is still being developed and it is expected to be finalized in this calendar year. We will continue to help the Ministry of Environment in Brazil to find the necessary funds to publish the report. As soon as TNC’s paper is ready it will be sent to the Walker foundation.

New Market based project with Coastal community in Paraná, Brazil.

An exciting development regarding marine market based conservation strategy in Brazil has been that TNC has partnered with the Grupo integrado de Aquacultura e Ambiente, of the Federal University of Paraná on their Cultimar project. The University has been working with the oyster harvesters in the State of Paraná to introduce aquaculture practices that would relieve the pressure on the natural oyster banks and increase their income. The University has trained some fishermen to cultivate oysters, has monitored water quality and oyster quality, providing a “health certificate” to the product they sell. They have also developed a logo that is being associated with their oysters and has improved the marketing of the product and, according to the harvesters, has resulted in 40% growth in their income. These are very positive results which should be showcased and replicated elsewhere. However some fundamental risks to the continued success of this effort exist, such as the lack of a clear legal framework for the activity that could be applied to the area in question to capitalize on both the economic and environmental benefits of the activity.

For example, a legal framework to grant concessions for the aquaculture activity is needed and it is unclear whether IBAMA has the capacity, or will, to develop it. TNC has partnered with GIA to apply planning methodology to examine this issue more thoroughly to determine best approaches to overcome the obstacles to the long term success of this effort as a conservation strategy. This will include working with IBAMA, state and municipal governments and possibly involving financial institutions to explore the use of lines of micro-finance as a way to facilitate the replication of the success of this budding project with other coastal communities. We will keep the Walker Foundation updated regarding development on this promising project in Brazil.

International Tourism Reciepts


Tourism and recreation is an ecosystem service which, due to inappropriate or non existent pricing mechanisms is creating economic imbalances and undermines the functioning of the free-market system. By implementing ecosystem valuation and market-based mechanisms at sites in a broad international alliance with partners including Bank of America, UNESCO, and others, this project promotes an enabling environment for free-market solutions to these imbalances so that conservation, community and business benefits result.


Over 50 US nature tourism operators generate significant revenue from tour programs sold to US citizens to protected areas in the study region. Hundreds of thousands of US citizens derive significant recreational and educational benefits each year through their visits to parks in South America. The financial sustainability of these same parks is critical for protecting these benefits for the US economy, as well as for creating local employment which reduces the flow of economic migrants to the US. Additionally by generating crucial revenues for S. American parks, tourism can protect migratory birds which are important for the domestic US tourism and recreation industry, as well as mitigate negative climate change impacts by capturing and retaining carbon from the atmosphere.

By helping establish the policy framework and mechanisms to facilitate a free-market approach to the provision of recreation as an ecosystem service, including through fees and reinvestment based on costs, the project addresses an economic balance which is widespread in park conservation.

Information Dissemination

This project has developed initiatives in four countries and is supporting a global learning network with UNESCO World Heritage Center.

An international conference will be held in Cartagena, Colombia and a publication which will include results from the work carried out in this project will be produced in 2007 to share lessons broadly around the world.

Project Link http://www.nature.org/aboutus/travel/ecotourism/

Amounts Approved
$70,000.00 on 11/30/2005 (Check sent: 12/12/2005)
$15,000.00 on 11/30/2005 (Check sent: 12/12/2005)

  Related Organizations
The Nature Conservancy  

Virtuous Cycle of Tourism User Fees

Flamingo Pair
Pair of James flamingos. Three of the world's six species of flamingos nest at Eduardo Avaroa Preserve, located in the high Andes of Bolivia. Flamingos seen in the SE United States also nest at this site. The entrance fee program developed under this grant is demonstrating a way to fund the management of preserves that would otherwise have inadequate support.

Flamingos Laguna Colorada
Flamingo Pair
Outdoor Latrine vs. Visitor Center
Mocking Bird on TNC Hat, vertical
International Tourism Reciepts
Virtuous Cycle of Tourism User Fees

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Dan Quinn
John LaBine
Senior Writer - Global Priorities, The Nature Conservancy

Posted 8/8/2006 8:29 AM
Updated   11/2/2007 4:11 PM

Mocking Bird on TNC Hat. Photo TNC.

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