A public-private partnership for biodiversity conservation in Lombardy

  • Nature Governance
  • Parco Oglio Sud
  • Italy
  • 2015-2017
  • www.ogliosud.it
  • Facebook Ecopay Connect Oglio Sud Twitter Ecopay Connect Oglio Sud

Ecopay Connect Oglio Sud

  • Learn about our approach to Natural Resources and Area Governance (GRAN)

Setting the scene

Protected natural areas and the Regional Ecological Network are the leading green infrastructures of the Lombardy Region. Maintaining these areas is a challenge that can be addressed through payments for ecosystem services, which are innovative market approaches for financing biodiversity conservation.

The successful mechanism we present here is called Ecopay Connect and brings together park authorities, the timber industry, and the poplar growers under the common framework of FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council) certification. The whole process was designed and facilitated by Etifor. 

The project: a win-win public-private partnership

  1. In the regional park, out of 1700 ha, only 440 hectares were FSC-certified poplar plantations. FSC plantations use fewer agrochemicals, and since 2017, according to Indicator 6.5.5, the farms are required to retain 10% of the surface as a “representative area”, restoring close-to-nature ecosystems.
  2. The set-aside of 10% of the area might have turned out very expensive, so plantation growers had two choices:
  • acting alone, bearing high costs and loss of income;
  • Associating with the park, reducing the costs, targeting conservation actions, and improving the relationships between growers and the local authority.
  1. Therefore, the farms and the Park Authority signed a 5-year agreement in which the farms committed to carrying out specific conservation interventions in natural areas owned by the Regional Park to fulfill the requirement: all poplar plantations will compensate their 10% by restoring the land of the park, instead of setting aside 10% of their productive land.
  2. The Regional Park joined the Lowland Forest Association, becoming the first park under FSC Group Certification to reduce management and certification costs and to facilitate the certification of traditional poplar farmers, who would contribute to the financing scheme by using Park areas to fulfill the FSC requirement 6.5.5.
  3. The processing industry played a key role by showing the local grower the increasing market demand for FSC responsibly sourced poplar wood. They would benefit from the scheme by buying local poplar and contributing to providing the ecosystem service by sponsoring the Park.
  4. The processing industries would guarantee the purchase of poplar in the supply chain. This way, traditional farms will be incentivized to adopt the FSC standard, associating with the FSC certification group.

A success story

The scheme represents a win-win solution and transforms a compliance requirement into an opportunity, where a public-private partnership reduces costs for both partners and more functional restoration. 


  • 87 hectares involved in the agreements;
  • 65.500 € funded, 50.000 € as management practices and interventions, 15.500 as direct sponsorship.
  • It opened the way for the areas to be financed with private citizens funding on WOWnature.eu, which leads to 6k/year of additional income for the Park.
  • It also represents the first Payment for Ecosystem Services officially signed between a Park and an FSC-certified farm in Italy. 
  • The scheme now runs independently, making Ecopay Connect one of the few functioning PES schemes in Italy and the EU.
  • A step-wise methodology that mixed a scientific approach and a practitioner’s view was critical to the scheme’s development. Regional start-up costs were covered by existing funding and supporting projects such as the CARIPLO Foundation Natural Capital Fund and H2020 SINCERE. The ECOPAY Connect was later studied in the GESTIRE 2020 project.
  • The scheme is highly replicable because it lays its foundation on the FSC certification, which is widely known and applied.

Do you want to develop this or a similar mechanism in your area? Find out our service.

Find out more at this video: