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.
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.
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 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.
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.