Ecosystem Studies & Management
Promoting Good Land Stewardship through the Registry of Social-Environmental Responsibility
The Registry of Socio-environmental Responsibility (RSR) is an initiative of the Aliança da Terra (AT), the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), and the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) that unifies property owners who commit to responsible land stewardship in Brazil. Begun in 2006, the RSR creates a link between the growing demands for responsible land use practices coming from commodity markets and demands from the emerging carbon market for reductions in carbon emissions from deforestation.
The idea of a landowner’s alliance originated with John Carter, a Texas-born rancher who came to the Amazon and was shocked at the rapid rate of deforestation in the area immediately surrounding his ranch, and even more dismayed to see the scope of the problem every time he flew his small plane over the region. From his interactions in the community, he recognized that many of his fellow ranchers did care about good land stewardship and about maintaining ecological services from the landscape they depend upon. Carter realized that rather than labeling landowners as environmental villains and rallying against them and trying to stop all development, it is far more constructive to enlist them in a constructive dialog that recognizes their efforts and draws on market incentives along with scientific knowledge to inspire them to improve the way they practice stewardship and at the same time, increase their profits thru market recognition. He realized that because investments in good land management were not economically feasible for them, they would need a market incentive to help them manage their land better, as well as some guidance and education. He also realized that recognizing and rewarding good stewardship would serve as a form of peer pressure to bring other landowners on board. The main goal of the RSR is to assist responsible farmers and ranchers in resolving any conflicts between production and environmental protection.
Ranchers and soybean farmers were reluctant to comply with Brazil’s ambitious environmental legislation that requires 50 to 80 percent of their lands be maintained as forest reserve. However, many large-scale cattle ranchers have expressed interest in complying with environmental legislation if they receive clear signals that this compliance will translate into greater market access or higher prices for their products. Environmental certification is a means of identifying well-managed properties whose products should be rewarded within the marketplace.
Today, many producers are excited about the opportunity to participate in this effort in order to:
- Change public opinion about Amazonian land owners
- Facilitate market access
- Differentiate them from those who do not abide by the law and from those who do not make an effort to be good land stewards
- Join forces with like-minded people to combat wildfires, improve water quality, and keep a meaningful percentage of forest cover in the region to maintain regional ecosystem services
Through collaborations among businesses, community organizations, property owners, AT, IPAM, and WHRC, the RSR provides in-depth, field-based diagnoses of individual properties and produces a management plan for each property with specific objectives and timetable to bring the property into compliance with land management requirements under both federal and state law. It is a proactive tool for agricultural producers based on the following principals:
- Recognition of positive management practices
- Identification of existing problems and presentation of pragmatic solutions
- Communication with and between members to provide transparency and learning opportunities
The more stringent guidelines of the RSR project monitor the progress of each property in fulfilling this timetable. An online database is being prepared, and landowners as well as commodities investors will ultimately be able to view individual properties, see how they are progressing toward compliance, and evaluate their worthiness for membership in exclusive markets.
IPAM and WHRC provide an ecological monitoring component to the RSR. The partnership has also developed methods for restoration of degraded areas, particularly riparian zones provides guidance to ranchers in implementing those techniques.
Ecological auditing protocols that will be the basis for outside certification have also been developed, as well as generating information for the design of more effective land management practices. This monitoring component includes censuses of mammal and fish populations and quantitative analysis of stream water quality on individual properties. This monitoring provides the scientific evaluation needed to assure carbon market investors and commodity markets that the RSR is a credible indicator of ecological sustainability. These protocols will provide the basis for the ecological audits of each property that will be conducted by an independent certifying agency.
As of March 2009, AT has registered and completed diagnostics on 167 ranches totaling 1.8 million hectares of land. AT has also conducted an audit of rancher compliance with commitments on 27 properties. Teams visited ranches and checked on whether they had achieved their voluntarily stated conservation goals. Of the ranches visited, 69% had achieved their goals, 9% had partially achieved their goals, and 22% had not achieved their goals.
For more information on the Woods Hole Research Center’s participation in this project, please contact .
- Linking Land-Use Change to Economic Drivers and Biophysical Limitations of Agricultural Expansion in the Brazilian Cerrado
- Understanding the Influence of Agricultural Expansion on the Water, Energy, and Climate Cycles in the Brazilian Amazon
- Understanding Fire in the Brazilian Amazon
- Feedbacks between Water and Deforestation in Tropical South America
- Community Forestry and Sustainable Livelihoods along Brazil’s Tapajós River