Creating a Return on Conservation™ Index: Texas Partnership for Forests and Water

If you could follow the water from your faucet all the way back to where it came from, it may lead you to a lush Texas forest. In fact, 40 percent of the surface drinking water supply originates from forests and woodlands. Future projections indicate that up to 1 million acres of forest lands are at risk of being converted to other uses by 2060, making the long-term conservation of these landscapes imperative to current and future drinking water supplies. In fact, over 11.7 million Texans receive their drinking water from the 3.8 million acres of high-priority forested watershed outlined by the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Brazos River

The Texas Partnership for Forests and Water (TPFW) is a statewide collaborative led by Texas A&M Forest Service that works to conserve and enhance forested watersheds across the state. The mission of the Texas Partnership for Forests and Water is to sustain and enhance healthy, productive Texas forested watersheds that provide safe, reliable drinking water and forest products through strong partnerships, collaboration, funding, and action. The initiative’s main goal is to maintain and expand healthy forests in drinking water source watersheds through strong collaboration between the forest, conservation, corporate, and water sectors.

In 2022, Texas Partnership for Forests and Water was selected to participate in Texan by Nature’s Conservation Wrangler accelerator program. Through our work with TPFW, we determined that the partnership would benefit from the quantification of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of their efforts. The collaborative works closely with corporate funders through Green Futures, a collaborative program that works with a wide array of local and state networks to accomplish community forestry projects.

To authenticate the economic and environmental impact highlighted by the ROC™ Index, TxN worked with third-party economic evaluation experts, EcoMetrics, ensuring values were unbiased and met current industry standards.

Lesson Learned: Collaboration is Essential

Collaboration between like-minded businesses and conservation organizations has been essential to the success of the Texas Partnership for Forests and Water Green Futures plantings. When multiple leaders come together under one common goal, it is easier to share knowledge and best practices. It also makes the collection of accurate metrics and data a smoother process. The use of partner expertise and metrics collected was critical in creating this Return on Conservation™ Index.

To learn more about the Green Futures tree planting that was used for the creation of this ROC™ Index read through Texas Partnership for Forests & Water’s Demonstration Project Case Study developed through the Conservation Wrangler partnership.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

The Business Case for Water

For businesses in and moving to Texas, water stewardship is key to continuing operations. According to the 2022 Texas State Water Plan, about 30% of future water will have to come from conservation strategies. The business case for investing in local conservation projects like TPFW is already made. By year five of the project, 1,600 trees planted in McKinney, Texas, will intercept and filter 462,894 gallons of rainwater benefitting Wilson Creek and Lavon Lake, North Texas’ major supply of water. In addition, the community will see the added benefit of 101,513 lbs of carbon sequestration resulting in cleaner air. Companies can report verified and tangible progress toward the world’s most pressing development goals like climate change and clean water and sanitation all while creating a positive environmental and economic ripple effect in the communities in which they operate. 

Replication Opportunities

Beyond garnering investments, TxN Return on Conservation™ Index also serve as a roadmap for other projects working with similar resources to replicate these economic and environmental impacts. The replication of the Texas Partnership for Forests and Water model has the potential to make a big impact in a state like Texas where 40% of the surface drinking water supply originates from forests and woodlands. Projects focused on forest management, riparian restoration, volunteer coordination, and more can study how Texas Partnership for Forests and Water achieved and articulated positive impacts in these categories, and then achieve a positive impact themselves.

Davy Crockett National Forest

Other organizations can also use Texas Partnership for Forests and Water’s work as a model to increase their collaboration with other programs and individuals. When we utilize the unique knowledge and experience that others hold, without trying to recreate the wheel, we can end up with a much better outcome. Whether your final goal is a one-day beach clean-up or a multi-year ecosystem restoration, collaborative efforts make your work more robust.

If you’re interested in reviewing the Texan by Nature Return on Conservation™ Index for Texas Partnership for Forests & Water or other local conservation projects, click here

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