Cases in Conservation Finance: Case #5 - Zach Knight, Blue Forest
Learn from one of the pioneers in designing financing mechanisms to support watershed conservation.
As fires rage across the entire Western US, parts of Russia, the Amazon, and elsewhere, it has become clear that fires have become a huge environmental, social, and economic issue. But what the apocalyptic images coming out of San Francisco and Portland don’t tell you is what might be done to address this problem. In our next “Case Studies in Conservation” webinar we will talk to Zach Knight, Co-Founder and CEO of Blue Forest Conservation, a company that seeks to come up with innovative approaches to conservation finance. Their first project, which launched last year after several years of planning, is the Forest Resilience Bond. The idea behind this innovative approach is to create a “pay-for-success” structure to address forest fires, an idea that could not be more timely. Essentially, the structure is designed to bring together US parties who are affected by forest fires, including the National Forest Service, water utilities, and insurers, and get them to agree to pay for the sort of forest remediation practices at prevent or minimize forest fires: practices like thinning, prescribed burns, and others. The genius behind the structure, however, is that it raises money from investors to do the work, and then gets the interested parties to agree to pay it back over time. Currently Blue Forest is working on a pilot of this initiative in California. Zach will tell us more about the fires engulfing western North America, the idea and how it could help address future fires, what it took to get a pilot going, and where he sees things going from here. Join us for this discussion with the brilliant entrepreneurs behind this one-of-a-kind innovation in Conservation Finance, one that given the orange skies above much of the Western US, we only wish had been started decades ago.
Zach Knight is a co-Founder and the CEO of Blue Forest. Prior to founding Blue Forest, Zach started his career in finance at Merrill Lynch where he specialized in structured finance. Zach also served as a high-yield and distressed corporate bond trader before leaving Wall Street to pursue an MBA at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a focus on sustainability and environmental investing. Zach holds an MBA with honors from UC Berkeley and a BA in economics from Cornell. At BFC, Zach leads the outreach program with foundations and the conservation finance community. Zach also leads BFC’s engagement with the US Forest Service and the State of California. A passionate finance nerd, Zach loves digging into new structures, contracts, and anything related to financial engineering.