This year flew by, and we're already looking ahead to another year of building resilient communities and healthy ecosystems. But we wanted to take a moment to mention a few of our proudest accomplishments from 2017:
WE'RE CHANGING HOW RIVER TREATIES TREAT VALUES
The Columbia River Treaty, a 1964 agreement between the United States and Canada, governs the development and operation of dams along the Columbia river. Some of the Treaty’s provisions are slated to end in 2024. Renegotiation represents an opportunity to consider values and views that weren’t prioritized 53 years ago. Namely, the current Treaty does not prioritize ecosystems.
An Earth Economics report, written in collaboration with both tribal organizations and non-government partners, calls for a paradigm shift in the values considered by international and transboundary treaties. The report, The Value of Natural Capital in the Columbia River Basin, suggests that the value of the Columbia River Basin could be significantly increased by adopting a management strategy that considers ecosystem-based function.
WE CREATED A FRAMEWORK TO SUPPORT WIN-WIN LAND MANAGEMENT ALONG THE SKYKOMISH RIVER
Building on a working relationship begun in 2010, Earth Economics continues to help the Sustainable Lands Strategy (SLS) find solutions to land-management challenges along the Skykomish River. The SLS brings together tribes, farmers, government agencies, and private landholders to protect productive lands, improve fish habitat, and mitigate potential damages from flooding. To help the SLS find win-win solutions among its diverse stakeholders, Earth Economics created a holistic benefit-cost analysis framework. By incorporating economic, environmental, and social impacts of land use decisions, our BCA framework is designed to help diverse stakeholders manage land in mutually beneficial ways.
WE SUPPORTED COSTA RICA AND ITS WETLANDS IN A BORDER DISPUTE
In 2010, Nicaragua illegally dredged a canal through the Isla Calero wetlands (also known as Isla Portillos or Harbour Head Island), a tract of land belonging to Costa Rica. Dredging harmed many ecosystem services, from timber to flood protection to erosion control. In 2016, the government of Costa Rica submitted a monetary valuation of environmental damages assessed in a pro bono report created by our partners, Fundacíon Neotrópica. The Nicaraguan government has since challenged the damage assessment ($6.7 million) and the validity of Fundacíon Neotrópica’s use of an “ecosystem services approach,” stating that the damages assessed are too high.
At the request of Costa Rica’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Earth Economics wrote a letter to the Costa Rica government supporting ecosystem services valuation as an appropriate method for assessing environmental damage and estimating compensation.
WE'RE REVEALING THE NATURAL ASSETS OF CITIES
As part of our work with 100 Resilient Cities, we helped expose leaders from around the world to some of New York's most powerful resilience projects. In partnership with a team from Melbourne, Australia, we designed and led a Living Lab exploration of the Jamaica Bay park system. The session, part of the 2017 Urban Resilience Summit, allowed a physical and interactive demonstration of the many ways that urban green space can benefit a city -- from flood protection to biodiversity support to recreation opportunities.
WE HELPED CHAMPION GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS
Earth Economics helped make a strong case for investing in green infrastructure. We contributed case studies to American Rivers’ Naturally Stronger report, which describes how investing in green infrastructure produces multiple benefits: economic, environmental, and social. In addition to improving the natural function of our water systems, green infrastructure can reduce some our country’s most persistent inequities.
WE ASSESSED THE TRUE COST OF A WILDFIRE TO REVEAL SMARTER LAND MANAGEMENT DECISIONS
As elsewhere in the West, the Santa Cruz Mountains are becoming more vulnerable to wildfires. Understanding the costs of these fires can help planners and developers act to prevent future damages. The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (OSA) requested a comprehensive cost analysis of the September 2016 Loma Fire in Santa Clara County to better understand the nature of the damages as well as to prompt discussion about policies and land management measures that could reduce the scale, impacts, and cost of future wildfire events.
OUR REPORT ON FLOODPLAINS IS MORE RELEVANT NOW THAN EVER
Why do we continue to allow development in floodplains, and why aren’t we taking better advantage of nature-based solutions? This question appears even more urgent at the end of 2017—after a few of the most devastating floods in recorded history—than it did at the year’s start. Our report, Why We Continue to Develop Floodplains: Examining the Disincentives for Conservation in Federal Policy, can help local and federal agencies prevent the costs of future floods by incentivizing floodplain protection rather than short-sighted development.