Upgrading of Payments for Ecosystem Services Following "Leopard Cat-Friendly" Incentives, Taking Care of Both Species Habitat Conservation and the Economy

The Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture (COA) held a press conference today (22nd) to announce the "Payments for Ecosystem Services for Endangered Species and Critical Habitat Promotion Program," under the witness of Chen Chi-Chung, Minister of the Council of Agriculture. The program is expected to be implemented on January 1st of next year (2021). In the future, the government will pay "ecosystem wages" to environmentally-friendly producers and local residents who cooperate with the system as a reward for their mindful management of the land and for upholding important public welfare values on behalf of all people.
Minister Chen of the Council of Agriculture said that conservation and production are inextricably linked, and that human beings need to be good conservators before they can achieve such production. Currently, the government is promoting payments for ecosystem services (PES) for the habitats of four particular species, namely the leopard cat, grass owl, otter, and pheasant-tailed jacana, as well as other protected species. In the future, it is hoped that more species that require conservation can be included, which will rely upon the support and efforts of all the people.
Lin Hwa-Ching, Director General of the Forestry Bureau, pointed out that nearly 60% of Taiwan's protected wildlife species live on private agricultural or forest land in the foothills and plains, which are also the areas most vulnerable to the pressures of development and industrialized agriculture. Many Satoyama species, including the leopard cat, grass owl, and pheasant-tailed jacana, are the first to feel the impact. In response to the impact faced by farmland ecosystems, a subsidizing system for land relating to ecosystem services has been in place for many years in the UK and many countries in the EU. Since 2011, the Forestry Bureau has also been piloting a PES program for the rice terraces in Gongliao. In recent years, labor subsidies for the ecosystem preservation of farmland for pheasant-tailed jacana and leopard cat have also been introduced. After a long period of accumulating experience and conducting effectiveness evaluations, a complete payments for ecosystem services promotion program has finally been launched.
According to the Forestry Bureau, the promotion program is divided into two categories: "payment for ecosystem services for endangered species" and "payment for ecosystem services for critical habitats." The former targets the four endangered species: the leopard cat, grass owl, otter, and pheasant-tailed jacana; while the latter targets four critical habitat types: rice paddies, rice terraces, land-based fish farms, and private protection forests.

Payment for Ecosystem Services for Endangered Species: Individually Designed Payment for Eco-Friendly Farmland, Active Notification, and Patrol Monitoring
The Forestry Bureau states that the targets of the PES for eco-friendly farmland are the leopard cat, grass owl, and pheasant-tailed jacana; and that the area of a single piece of land must be at least 0.1 hectares. If a pheasant-tailed jacana field meets the condition of maintaining water storage after the crops have been harvested during the winter season and there has been no sowing of rice containing pesticides, an incentive payment of NT$8,000 per hectare will be granted. If the field area can further satisfy the condition of not using herbicides, rodenticides, and traps, as well as meet the conditions of safe pesticide use inspection, the maximum incentive payment is NT$20,000 per hectare for leopard cat, grass owl, and pheasant-tailed jacana land. For those who are willing to cooperate in setting up automatic cameras to monitor and photograph leopard cat sightings, an additional incentive payment of NT$10,000 will be granted for each case area, limited to one application per year.
The active notification payment includes two major categories: invasion notification and breeding notification, with the invasion notification targeting leopard cats and otters. If the landowner finds a suspected otter or leopard cat invasion of a privately-owned pond or poultry farm, but does not endanger the animal's life and immediately reports the case to the county or municipal government for investigation, an incentive payment of NT$3,000 will be paid once the invasion is confirmed. If the monitoring cooperation results in the detection of leopard cats and otters, a further incentive of NT$10,000 will be granted, limited to once per site. The breeding notification targets pheasant-tailed jacana. If the farmer takes the initiative to report a pheasant-tailed jacana nesting site on the farmland, an incentive payment of NT$2,000 will be given for each nest with 1-3 hatchlings, and an incentive payment of NT$3,000 will be given for each nest with more than 4 hatchlings.
The patrol and monitoring payment is aimed at patrol teams formed by local community groups, to monitor the habitats of leopard cats, grass owls, otters, and pheasant-tailed jacanas, and to assist with the reporting and removal of illegal hunting equipment, as well as to cooperate in related conservation and promotion work. Each team will be granted NT$60,000 incentive payment per year. If sightings of leopard cats and otters are captured by automatic cameras within the patrol area, an incentive payment of up to NT$50,000 will be paid each time, limited to two times per year.

Payment for Ecosystem Services for Critical Habitats: Additional Payments for Habitat Preservation, Habitat Creation, and Habitat Effectiveness
The PES for critical habitats targets rice terraces, rice paddies, land-based fish farms, and private protection forests outside of national forest working circles. Each single piece of land must be at least 0.1 hectare in size, and habitat preservation and management regulations and payment standards are set according to different habitat types and conservation objectives. Farmers can receive additional cumulative rewards for habitat preservation, habitat creation, and habitat effectiveness when they manage their farmland in an environmentally-friendly manner, cooperate with the enhancement of habitat creation, and achieve specific plant or animal conservation results.
For habitat preservation, if the "rice terraces" can maintain year-round water storage (saturation) and there is no use of herbicides, rodenticides, traps, poisonous baits, or non-eco-friendly barrier nets, and meet the conditions of safe pesticide use inspection, a maximum of NT$30,000 per hectare will be granted. The preservation conditions for "rice paddies" are the same as those for rice terraces, with the difference in that the water storage (saturation) status is maintained during the fallow period rather than throughout the year. A maximum of NT$20,000 per hectare will be granted for fields that meet the condition. For "land-based fish farms," after harvesting, a suitable water level conducive to the foraging of waterfowl must be maintained for at least one consecutive month between October and March of the following year. In addition, the surrounding fish pond banks should also meet the conditions of not using any herbicides, rodenticides, traps, poisonous baits, or non-eco-friendly barrier nets. A maximum of NT$10,000 per hectare will be granted. For "private protection forests outside of national forest working circles," it must maintain the integrity of the protection forest areas or correct the afforestation efforts in accordance with policy. In addition, there must be no use of herbicides, rodenticides, traps, poisonous baits, or non-eco-friendly barrier nets; there must also be regular removal of garbage and waste. A maximum of NT$20,000 per hectare will be granted.
Habitat creation should be performed according to habitat type. Farmers can implement two types of work: "production landscape preservation" and "natural resources utilization." The former includes habitat improvement measures such as free-growing field ridges, ecological ditches, ridge widening, and replanting of suitable native plant species for multi-layered forests; while the latter includes ecological observation and taking records of the plant and animal habitat. Each category is eligible for an additional incentive payment of up to NT$10,000.
For habitat effectiveness, if farmers carry out ecological observation and record-taking in cooperation with habitat creation and discover three species of endangered plants or three species of protected wildlife of Nationally Vulnerable (NVU) status or above on their farmland through professional identification, they can apply for an additional incentive payment of up to NT$10,000 per case; and a maximum cumulative amount of NT$20,000 can be applied for those meeting the conditions of habitat effectiveness for plants or animals.

Community Support is Key to Foothill Conservation, Equal Cost Sharing of Conservation Outcomes
The Forestry Bureau emphasized that people are becoming increasingly concerned about the survival of wildlife, but if farmers or the public are asked to be environmentally friendly to species that use farmland ecosystems as habitats, this may result in costs such as reduced agricultural production, restricted land use, and obstructed transportation development, which often makes farmers view rare animals and plants as a burden or discourages the public from engaging in conservation work. The Forestry Bureau is aware that the fruits of conservation are shared by all people, so naturally the costs should also be shared by everyone. When local residents no longer feel the negative associations due to the public attention and responsibilities brought about by wildlife and plants, they will be able to change their impression and take pride in protecting their habitats and biodiversity, and only then will coexistence and co-prosperity between humans and nature become a reality.

Making Good Use of PES Policy Tools to Speed up Connection of National Ecology Green Network
In recent years, the Forestry Bureau has continued to work with local governments and ministry departments through the "Taiwan Ecological Network" to implement corresponding conservation strategies for the core species and key areas of conservation in Taiwan, such as alleviating the road kill situation, coaching farmers on shifting to environmentally-friendly agricultural practices, and the afforestation of river corridors to weave "forest, river, plain, and sea" corridors into a national biosafety network. Now, together with the policy tool of PES for "endangered species and critical habitats," farmers are encouraged to maintain the biodiversity of farmland ecosystems through concrete measures. It allows the integration of production and ecosystems to become more comprehensive, so that farmlands can become safe havens where wild animals and plants can live and reproduce in peace, enabling the value of healthy ecosystem services to be shared by all people in a sustainable manner.
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