Trails and parks are valuable assets that provide critical ecosystem services. Far too often, they are left off the balance sheet in spite of their tremendous value. This past week, residents of Alaska’s Mat-Su Borough recognized the value of their public lands and passed a $22 million bond in support of trails, parks, pools, and ice rinks.
As worldwide temperatures soar and disasters intensify, urban planners and political leaders are spending more time trying to understand and build local resilience. The Rockefeller Foundation has emerged as a global leader in this effort with the 100 Resilient Cities initiative (100 RC). Under the 100RC program, Earth Economics worked with the City of El Paso to value its natural capital and ecosystem services.
In the remote waters of Alaska's Bering Sea, a tiny community wants to maintain its rich resources. St. George Island is home to about 80 residents - many of whom rely heavily on the island’s natural resources for cultural and subsistence purposes. To help the community plan resource protections, Earth Economics is conducting an economic assessment of St. George Island and its surrounding marine area.
For far too long, nature has either been undervalued or ignored entirely in planning and investment – with profound effects on decision making. But recent policy changes are beginning to reflect the value of ecosystem services. Federal agencies like FEMA and HUD are starting to recognize that nature does indeed hold value for people, and that it should play a role in our decision making.
The Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River is a powerful force – currently managed primarily to maximize hydropower generation and flood risk management, the Columbia River Treaty is due for an update in 2024. To help inform Treaty negotiations, Earth Economics is partnering with a coalition of tribes and area stakeholders to conduct an economic valuation of the Columbia River Basin’s natural capital.
It’s been a busy year already at Earth Economics! We’ve attended a number of conferences and events, worked on projects from Alaska to Central America, and seen a lot of exciting developments in our work. Natural capital is increasingly becoming a part of the conversation as agencies like FEMA and HUD begin to incorporate ecosystem services, and we are excited to engage in these efforts to account for nature. Take a look at our 2016 program highlights so far.
In cooperation with the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, Earth Economics is embarking on a new project focused on Colorado's South Platte River Watershed in collaboration with the Ecosystem Sciences Foundation and Plan-It Geo. The project will assess the watershed’s ecological health with the aim of identifying and prioritizing restoration and conservation areas.
In an effort to spark investment in sustainable agriculture, Earth Economics is embarking on an agriculture-focused valuation project in collaboration with Farmland LP and the Delta Institute. This new collaboration will quantify the financial impacts of farm-scale, sustainable management practices on ecosystem services.
Across the country, planners and policy makers are starting to consider the value of natural capital assets and ecosystem services. In Arizona, Earth Economics has joined in to work with groups on incorporating ecosystem services into planning for the Sabino Creek watershed.
In December, Earth Economics released a new report that found that the benefits of investing in the trails, parks, and open space of Alaska’s Mat-Su Borough return more than $5 for every $1 spent. Now, that same report is being used by Mat-Su Borough Assembly members to negotiate a proposed recreation bond in support of trails.
Central American biodiversity hotspots are increasingly at risk from drug trafficking, but not much is known about the full costs and risks to ecosystem services. In a new collaboration with Fundación Neotrópica, Earth Economics will contribute to a large-scale study that aims to support drug policy reform with solid scientific evidence of the unintended and under-recognized consequences of standard drug policies, including impacts on some of the world’s most biodiverse regions.
A new Earth Economics report evaluates the cost-effectiveness of continued dam operations as compared with the benefits of a free-flowing Lower Snake River. Earth Economics’ latest analysis took a look at four dams along the Lower Snake River in Southeast Washington, investigating whether the dams’ benefits outweigh the costs. As they stand, the dams return only $0.15 on every dollar, but a free-flowing Lower Snake River has an estimated $4.30 return for every dollar.