The Columbia River Basin is a vast, abundant watershed and the foundation for communities, fish and wildlife, and economic activity. Earth Economics has just released a new report that demonstrates the immense value of the Columbia River Basin’s natural capital - $198 billion in value annually.
On April 26, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order requiring a governmental review of all national monument designations made since 1996. First up for review is Bears Ears National Monument -- over a million acres of mesas, canyons, shrublands, forests, and Native American archaeological sites in Southeastern Utah. We took a quick look at its natural capital value and found its worth to be over $1 billion in ecosystem services benefits.
In February, Earth Economics participated in the Melbourne Network Exchange, a three-day event hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Program. Chief Resilience Officers from cities around the globe convened with Platform Partners to exchange practices and approaches for strengthening natural assets, especially urban biodiversity. As part of the partnership, we shared our approach to communicating nature's value in support of city resilience.
Agricultural lands are an essential part of our economy and quality of life, but they are increasingly pressured by population growth and accelerating urban development. Too often, farmland is divided and developed without a full understanding of the value lost. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a 2015 Earth Economics study of the county's natural capital is helping guide ongoing discussions about how to manage the county’s farmlands.
A clean, abundant water supply is critical to health and well-being, but many water sources are threatened. In Eugene, Oregon, the Eugene Water and Electric Board is taking big steps to ensure future water quality with an innovative new approach to protecting riparian zones that is setting an important precedent for water utilities.
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.
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.