By Ben Gager

As part of the Executive Master of Natural Resources curriculum, students take on an Individual Development Process (IDP) capstone project that allows them to explore specific interests using a hands-on approach. Ben Gager, a 2023 alum of the program, partnered with Schroeter Consulting to examine opportunities in his home state of Colorado. He shares his reflection on the project below.

Biodiversity markets and investments can provide a way for individual organizations and industries to invest money directly to support nature-related projects and/or organizations addressing their impact on biodiversity. An effective market has the potential to help protect the biodiversity within a region, the nature we interact with daily, and the species and wildlands we value locally. 

These trends and opportunities can be applied to many regions, and biodiversity markets and investments are emerging globally. Early adoption and strong participation has the potential to generate meaningful and measurable funding for biodiversity across the globe. Early adopters, at state, local, or regional levels, will shape the future market options and realities. 


Ben Gager in mountaintop in Colorado with two dogs.
Ben Gager recently moved back to his home state of Colorado. Photo courtesy of Ben Gager.

The release of the new Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosure (TNFD) framework provided a tool to better understand potential market emergence and strategies for market development. Working alongside Josef Schroeter of Schroeter Consulting, whom I met locally through shared professional connections, we used the framework to investigate some of the emerging trends in the near to medium term, highlighting the potential for biodiversity rich states to partner with organizations and industry to protect local biodiversity. 

Our exploration led us to produce a document outlining potential market formation strategies for Colorado, but the lessons and strategies can apply to other states and communities, too. Our tool enables funding to protect the future of Colorado’s biodiversity and provide insights for others to do the same in their regions. 

Ben Gager with a chainsaw
Ben performed extensive mitigation and fuels work as part of a previous role working for the FourMile Fire Protection District. Photo courtesy of Ben Gager.

An opportunity for early market adopters

Creating a market for biodiversity credits will mitigate the potential for bad actors and greenwashing within the system. The TNFD provides the framework in which to evaluate impact, and the market can provide the system to financially support biodiversity protection and development. We explored trends and potential strategies for the development of a regionally bound biodiversity market including data, potential frameworks, reporting, and market development. 

Companies are showing early acceptance and engagement with TNFD voluntary disclosures and strong willingness to report and integrate biodiversity into strategy planning. Existing biodiversity related data collection reduces cost and time input for early market adopters and long term data collection can be specified by market users’ needs. We believe that in the near-term biodiversity rich states and nations will lead the way in market development and adoption, as well as the creation and development of associated regulations. 

Biodiversity markets have the chance to gain insight and experience from the controversy that has plagued carbon markets though challenges of fungibility, or value exchange, exist. Although one ton of carbon easily equates to one ton of carbon, comparing a sandhill crane to a wolf, or a tree in NYC to a tree in a cloud forest is a nonsensical effort. That said, while a global or general value may be some distance off, local and regional markets in nature rich regions can provide the early markets for such instruments as biodiversity credits and bonds. 

Our view is that the early winners and pioneers of biodiversity credit markets that have integrity will be states and countries that can develop healthy collaboration with their commercial partners, indigenous protectors of the environment, and the community at large that will result in local improvements that can be independently verified.


A biodiversity market for Colorado

Colorado contains many ecoregions and hosts one of the most diverse wildlife species compositions in the country. Colorado contains six major ecoregions: The Wyoming Basin, Colorado Plateaus, Southern Rockies, Arizona/New Mexico Plateau, High Plains, and the Southwestern Tablelands and each is subdivided further into unique and distinct ecological areas. Those ecoregions fall into four major watersheds: The Platte, Colorado, Arkansas, and Rio Grande. According to the Colorado Wildlife Council, these ecoregions and watersheds house nearly 1000 wildlife species, giving Colorado one of the most diverse wildlife populations in North America.

Local businesses directly impact these ecoregions and species, making Colorado a potential leader for the development of a public, private partnership for a geographically defined biodiversity futures market. A market that could link businesses, land managers, state offices, indigenous protectors of the environment, and communities. This market could provide effective, meaningful, and measurable biodiversity protections within the state, ensuring long term funding for biodiversity protection and management. 

Though our efforts were focused on our home state of Colorado, many of the emerging trends and strategies have broad applications and could be used in any region looking to form a biodiversity market. The generation of markets with integrity, community involvement, and meaningful results on local scales can provide the path forward for larger and stronger biodiversity markets globally and enable us to effectively and meaningfully support biodiversity. 

For further information please see the attached white paper titled Trends and Opportunities in Nature Related Disclosures and Markets.

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Ben Gager portrait
Ben Gager. Photo courtesy of Ben Gager.

Ben Gager graduated from the Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) program at Virginia Tech in 2023. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Montana, majoring in resource conservation with a minor in fire sciences and management. Ben  has worked as a Project Manager, Wildland Firefighter, Structure Firefighter, Forestry Technician, and Operations Manager among other positions. His experience in fuels and fire management extends from defensible space projects to landscape scale fuels mitigation projects, as well as the creation of a mitigation leadership training program currently in use in Colorado. Through the XMNR program, he hopes to extend his passion and experience into sustainability consulting to have a broader and more meaningful impact.