$2B in private investment, new Interior center chief announced

Corbin Hiar, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, March 7, 2016

Nearly a dozen private-sector groups at a White House roundtable today announced more than $2 billion worth of investments to protect land, water and wildlife.

The Interior Department also named the first leader of its new Natural Resource Investment Center (NRIC), an organization created to promote habitat conservation, water conservation and water infrastructure. As executive director, Jeffrey Klein — who spent decades on Wall Street before moving to a nonprofit — will work to secure additional conservation commitments from the private sector.

The biggest commitments were made by NatureVest, Resource Environmental Solutions and Ecosystem Investment Partners.

NatureVest, an investment unit of the environmental group the Nature Conservancy, announced 10 investments totaling over $400 million across four continents. Additionally, the group is set to launch a water fund of just over $19 million in the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia that seeks to balance environmental and agricultural interests.

Resource Environmental Solutions, a mitigation banking company that sells credits to developers that need to offset their impacts, said it intends to invest over $350 million on land, construction and vegetative restoration. RES also pledged to expand its current ownership of restorative vegetation nurseries, build on its existing work mitigating negative impacts to threatened and endangered species, and expand nutrient trading to 17 states.

Ecosystem Investment Partners, another conservation banking company, said it will put $300 million of new capital to work over the next four years on projects that protect and restore wetlands, streams and wildlife habitat. EIP said it will work with partners to identify and invest in new opportunities that aim to facilitate smart infrastructure and other development.

Klein comes to the NRIC from the Global FoodBanking Network, where he was the president and CEO. The international nonprofit is dedicated to alleviating world hunger by creating, supporting and strengthening food banks in countries outside the United States.

Before leading the food bank organization, Klein spent three decades on Wall Street. He was managing director at Equity Group Investments and a senior banker at Citibank and Mellon Bank.

“Jeff Klein brings extensive private sector and nonprofit expertise that will enable us to find innovative solutions that better address the challenges facing our natural resources,” Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor said in a statement. “Under his direction, the Center will analyze and design projects that provide incentives for private investments in the infrastructure and conservation of water, species, habitat and other natural resources.”

Also working at the center is Interior’s Senior Conservation Finance Fellow Martin Doyle, who is on leave from his position as director of the Water Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. Doyle is also a professor of river science and policy at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

The administration also announced $20 million for conservation innovation grants that the Department of Agriculture will award to cutting-edge conservation pilot projects. USDA awarded about the same amount in grants last year (Greenwire, Sept. 15, 2015).