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Thread: Ecosystem Services - a relatively new concept in giving resources value.

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    Default Ecosystem Services - a relatively new concept in giving resources value.

    The link below is to a consulting firm called ECONorthwest. Recently a Dr. Mark Buckley came to Soldotna and gave a presentation on ecosystem services and how decisions on projects have frequently underestimated the value of various ecosystem functions. Dr Buckley combines microeconomic and game theoretic techniques with competence in the biophysical aspects of natural systems to develop economic models and analytical methods for planning and behavior involving water resources and land use. The link is

    http://www.econw.com/


    As an example of how this works read the report on the value of beaver dams in Utah in the Escalante Basin. These studies are site specific. To wet your interest Table ES1 in the report provides the following:

    Ecosystem Services Potentially provided by Beaver in the Escantante Basin, and per unit values:

    Sediment retention - 2$ per cubic yard
    Delayed Water Flow upstream of reservoirs - 520$ per acre foot
    Riparian habitat - $1000 per acre per year
    Wetland habitat - $8000 per acre per year
    Aquatic habitat - $4000 per acre per year
    Pollutant removal through sediment capture - $100,000 per year per percent improvement
    Water temperature - $74,000 -$411,000 thousand per river mile
    Recreation - $75-375 per recreation day
    Aesthetic benefit - qualitative description
    Existence value - qualitative description
    Sensitive species habitat - $9-256 per household per year
    Flood resilience - qualitative description.

    Bottom line for this study " beaver could provide benefits to local residents and visitors well into the millions of dollars per year"

    In other work Dr. Buckley worked with City of Seattle on a bank stabilization project along the Green River and showed that expanding the width of the rehab project would save the City millions in water treatment and other costs. The City followed his recommendation. This project was necessary as a dike system was failing and the question was to rebuilt it in place or move it back from the river and rehab. In a one mile section buying industries properties and moving it back was the most cost effective option.

    Anyway, for Alaska we need to start bring these new concepts into the discussion. With large projects like Pebble or urban development this type of study could be very valuable in understanding the risks and costs.

    Lets not get into a discussion of methods. I have no training in this but those who do are looking with favor on this approach. It is worth looking at for Alaska.

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    Question More information, please . . .

    Might we first ask whether ECONorthwest was paid for the presentation, and, if so, who paid and how much?

    Then there's this — http://www.blueoregon.com/2011/08/So...despite-taxes/



    Chuck Sheketoff


    Using Oregon as one of their case studies, the CBPP report debunks an ECONorthwest study paid for by OBC to thwart what became Measures 66 and 67. . . [A]s shown by CBPP, deep flaws plague ECONorthwest’s analysis.

    This isn't a good week for the Oregon Business Council (OBC), their hired guns at ECONorthwest and others who fight tooth-and-nail to prevent even modest tax increases on the wealthy and, worse, seek special tax breaks for the rich.



    Please don't construe this as any sort of attack on ECONorthwest as it's only an attempt to find out more about them—who exactly they are, why they came to Soldotna, and who brought them here.

    Thanks . .

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    The symposium was sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources. Funds came from DNR, DEC, ADF&G, USFWS Fish Habitat Partnership, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

    Before this thread goes off on ECONorthwest they are a big firm and do lots of consulting in a variety of areas. So having a critical review in one area should not be used to discredit the other portions of the firm. Ecosystem services is being used by other consulting firms and universities. For example the World Resource Institute which is:

    The World Resources Institute (WRI) is an environmental think tank founded in 1982 based in Washington, D.C. in the United States.[1]
    WRI is an independent, non-partisan and nonprofit organization with a staff of more than 100 scientists, economists, policy experts, business analysts, statistical analysts, mapmakers, and communicators developing and promoting policies with the intention of protecting the Earth and improving people’s lives.[1]
    WRI organizes its work around four key goals:
    • Climate, Energy & Transport. Protect the global climate system from further harm due to emissions of greenhouse gases and help humanity and the natural world adapt to unavoidable climate change.
    • Governance & Access: Guarantee public access to information and decisions regarding natural resources and the environment.
    • Markets & Enterprise: Harness markets and enterprise to expand economic opportunity and protect the environment.
    • People & Ecosystems: Reverse rapid degradation of ecosystems and assure their capacity to provide humans with needed goods and services.[2]
    WRI is probably best known for its biennial publication, the World Resources report, a well-regarded collection of data and in-depth analysis on current environmental issues. The most recent edition of World Resources, entitled The Wealth of the Poor: Managing Ecosystems to Fight Poverty, explored the importance of good ecosystem management for the alleviation of rural poverty. The report is a collaborative product of World Resources Institute with the World Bank, United Nations Environment Programme and United Nations Development Programme


    is using it for some of their projects. Also the link below is from the University of Washington Forestry Department. The Puget Sound series references how they are using it for planning in the Puget Sound area.

    http://www.uwtv.org/video/index.aspx...est+management|

    This is about a new way of looking at the value of systems not a particular firm - just to be clear.

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    Just a follow up. I do not believe Dr. Buckley was paid at all. He was in Anchorage for another presentation and came down to add to the Oregon State University staff presentations. They may have covered his travel costs but there was no invoice from ECONorthwest for his time. Since this was a major gathering of people interested in watershed planning they may have treated this as a business development expense. Not sure.

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    Default Thanks . . .

    Sounds very interesting so far. Any conclusions drawn? Any paper issued?

    Where does it go from here?

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    I think we undervalue ecosystems and I don't think we need any consulting firms or studies to prove that out.
    “There's a humorous side to every situation. The challenge is to find it.”
    George Carlin

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    Question Defining "value" . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by billhicksmostfunny View Post
    I think we undervalue ecosystems and I don't think we need any consulting firms or studies to prove that out.
    So true, but so sad. It's true if and only if our social order ever learns to define "value" in some other terms than money. The flaw, if there is one, in the ECONorth view is right there in the title of this thread:

    "a relatively new concept in giving resources value"


    As long as value is defined by dollars and cents, the paradigm stays the same, nothing has changed, the concept is not new.

    Maybe some day we'll learn to define "value" by some other criterion.

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    The flaws inherent with ECONorth or with any firm or profit seeking entity "giving resources value" are quite apparent. But Nerka realizes this here: "This is about a new way of looking at the value of systems not a particular firm - just to be clear."

    And I don't believe this is a new concept or a new way of thinking, it is just new as far as the paradigm is concerned. The fact that we are discussing this possibility is proof of that. As for the paradigm changing or redefining the value we place on things it is hard to tell. In many ways they are changing and in many ways they are staying the same. My fear is that by the time we realize we do need to "redefine" our concepts it will be too late. But that is for time to tell.

    I am not sure how we could redefine ecosystems or their myriad parts minus the dollars and sense. In order to define something value-wise you need some sort of similar benchmark. I think there is only one way to value them and that would be to label them as priceless.

    On a funny side note: if we truly believe the beavers in the Escantante Basin are worth as much money as the report says they are why do we not take that money and put it in a trust for the beavers? That way when a company or individual comes along threatening to destroy the beavers habitat the beavers can hire a lawyer with all that money and then it will be a fair fight.


    As long as value is defined by dollars and cents, the paradigm stays the same, nothing has changed, the concept is not new.

    Maybe some day we'll learn to define "value" by some other criterion.

    “There's a humorous side to every situation. The challenge is to find it.”
    George Carlin

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    I've been familiar with ECONorthwest for many years and they do solid, reliable work. I haven't always agreed with their hypotheses, but I would take anything they're willing to publish quite seriously.

    Quote Originally Posted by billhicksmostfunny View Post
    And I don't believe this is a new concept or a new way of thinking, it is just new as far as the paradigm is concerned. The fact that we are discussing this possibility is proof of that. As for the paradigm changing or redefining the value we place on things it is hard to tell.
    This firm did not invent the ecosystem services model but they are among the pioneers in assigning quantitative values to qualitative criteria and I find their numbers more reliable than most other sources.

    On a funny side note: if we truly believe the beavers in the Escantante Basin are worth as much money as the report says they are why do we not take that money and put it in a trust for the beavers? That way when a company or individual comes along threatening to destroy the beavers habitat the beavers can hire a lawyer with all that money and then it will be a fair fight.
    I know you're being funny billhicksmostfunny, but I'll give a serious answer to your question. We can't take the money for the beavers because the financial value represented is incapable of liquidation without destruction of the resource. We can't directly monetize these services but we can compare them to the costs required to provide equivalent services in the absence of beavers and their habitat.
    Inspiration is simply the momentary cessation of stupidity.

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    Default thanks but no thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by Seraphina View Post
    We can't directly monetize these services but we can compare them to the costs required to provide equivalent services in the absence of beavers and their habitat.
    That would be true (that monetization of their efforts) only if the those beavers were performing a function that we actually would agree to pay (that amount) for, and gosh, they did it for us, so no need to pay that bill now, so "thanks", beavers...

    Is there any evidence of that?

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    Thumbs up Changing times . . .

    "When Daniel Boone goes by, at night,
    The phantom deer arise
    And all lost, wild America
    Is burning in their eyes. "

    So wrote Stephen Vincent Benet a half century ago, and while no one wishes to return to the unbroken prairies or the vast, forested lands of yesteryear, we have lost something. And I'd suggest what we've lost is the older, wilder connections with the land and with human community. Nor can what we've lost be measured, quantified, or monetized.

    Science is a wonderful tool, but science is limited to the material . Science can tell us how this or that happens, but science cannot tell us whether this or that should happen. And if we rely on science to define what we've lost, we're doomed to disappointment because science cannot quantify connections.

    What we've lost is being restored in some quarters. We see it in the increased interest in organic foods, in whole foods, and in eating locally-produced and seasonal foods. We see it in the increased social concern for how we treat the animals that become the meat on our tables. We see it in the writings of folks like Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry. The times they are a'changin' . . again.

    We are learning, slowly but surely, that there are things of value that cannot be defined by money.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    Science is a wonderful tool, but science is limited to the material . Science can tell us how this or that happens, but science cannot tell us whether this or that should happen. And if we rely on science to define what we've lost, we're doomed to disappointment because science cannot quantify connections.
    Sometimes I think you overstate (or oversimplify?) the limitations of science, Marcus. What do you mean that science cannot quantify connections? Perhaps I'm not seeing what you're getting at there, but to my understanding science is all about doing that very thing.

    As I've mentioned before, the working definition that I give my students is that science is a process that uses tests and observations to determine the causes and relationships of events in nature. (It's not a perfect definition, but it captures the gist of it nicely.) Anyhow, what I'm keying in on here is the word "relationships". Science by its very nature works to quantify connections. Again...maybe I'm missing what you mean by that term?

    Furthermore, while the tools of science are only capable of dealing with the material, the pursuit of science is all about helping us understand how this or that should happen. Yes, there is application of values here, but I don't buy for a second that science (or the application thereof) isn't about "should" as much as "why". For instance, over the next few weeks I'll be teaching my Biology students about oncology. We'll learn the mechanics of cancer, but in doing so we'll also learn about what should be done to combat cancer or prevent it in the first place. Yep, this is putting human values onto the study of the material, but I'd vociferously argue that it is a scientific issue more so than a philosophical one.

    The three management fora are by their very nature devoted to discussion of the application of science to resource management issues. If you don't believe that science absolutely gets to the heart of what we should do, well...I'm not sure how productive engaging in these discussions will be. Obviously resource management is about more than just science - we must consider cultural values, economic values, etc., but science has a large role in these issues as well. Suggesting that it cannot tell us anything about how things should happen reflects an incomplete understanding of science, in my opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Sometimes I think you overstate (or oversimplify?) the limitations of science, Marcus. What do you mean that science cannot quantify connections? Perhaps I'm not seeing what you're getting at there, but to my understanding science is all about doing that very thing.

    No, I don't overstate and I don't oversimplify the limitations of science, Brian. Science is limited to the material world and has nothing, can have nothing whatsoever to say about values, transcendence, or the metaphysical.

    As I've mentioned before, the working definition that I give my students is that science is a process that uses tests and observations to determine the causes and relationships of events in nature. (It's not a perfect definition, but it captures the gist of it nicely.) Anyhow, what I'm keying in on here is the word "relationships". Science by its very nature works to quantify connections. Again...maybe I'm missing what you mean by that term?

    I'll be more precise next time, okay? Science can, as you say, quantify materialistic connections. Science cannot quantify values, cannot quantify transcendence, and cannot say anything about metaphysics.

    Furthermore, while the tools of science are only capable of dealing with the material, the pursuit of science is all about helping us understand how this or that should happen. Yes, there is application of values here, but I don't buy for a second that science (or the application thereof) isn't about "should" as much as "why". For instance, over the next few weeks I'll be teaching my Biology students about oncology. We'll learn the mechanics of cancer, but in doing so we'll also learn about what should be done to combat cancer or prevent it in the first place. Yep, this is putting human values onto the study of the material, but I'd vociferously argue that it is a scientific issue more so than a philosophical one.

    The pursuit and application of science are all about values. And if you're teaching your students that the pursuit of science is driven by human values (read "transcendent values"), you are teaching them correctly. If you then confuse materialistic knowledge/data with transcendent values, you are teaching them error.

    The three management fora are by their very nature devoted to discussion of the application of science to resource management issues. If you don't believe that science absolutely gets to the heart of what we should do, well...I'm not sure how productive engaging in these discussions will be. Obviously resource management is about more than just science - we must consider cultural values, economic values, etc., but science has a large role in these issues as well. Suggesting that it cannot tell us anything about how things should happen reflects an incomplete understanding of science, in my opinion.

    Yep, yep, management issues deal with the application of science, but science does not get to the heart of what we should do, rather we employ science in the pursuit of social values (read "what we should do"). Yours is the incomplete understanding of science in that it fails to differentiate between the physical and the metaphysical.

    When you get a free moment or two from your busy schedule, read Science, Faith & Society by Michael Polanyi.
    (Note to mods: The word "Faith" in the book's title is not used in a religious sense but only denotes the necessity of certain assumptions that cannot be proven materialistically.)

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    Taking the findings at face value, it looks like you are trying to put a monetary value on existing ecosystems, am I right?
    Then the results would have to be compared to all the monetary value of the proposed change, calculated in the same conservative or liberal tone. There has been a lot of talk about how the money really doesn't matter, is everyone abandoning that approach now?
    Bought and paid for studies are ALWAYS suspect.
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    Marcus, I don't think you and I disagree on the heart of what science is and the differentiation between the tools of science and the pursuit of science. I guess what I don't get is what the point was you were trying to make when you first brought up the limitations of science in this thread. You've made the same point in other threads. Who are you directing this at, if anyone? I don't see anyone here arguing that science alone dictates what should be done, but rather that findings derived from scientific inquiry can (and should) inform management decisions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Marcus, . . what I don't get is what the point was you were trying to make when you first brought up the limitations of science in this thread. You've made the same point in other threads. Who are you directing this at, if anyone? . .
    (And what I don't get is why you would even wonder whether I was directing my comments on the limitations of science at a person? Where is that coming from?)
    *****************
    My point about science is directed at all of us because we live in a world that is essentially and increasingly defined materialistically/scientifically. Got a headache? Take a drug. Want to save salmon? How much are they worth? Want to teach kids to be responsible? Give them condoms. Is that what we want more of? Is that how we want to define ourselves? Science cannot define community, science is amoral, science can't tell us how to love and respect our neighbors. Science is dead silent about any of the transcendent values that, as I see it, should define us individually and socially.

    Until we, individually and socially, begin to act like and believe and (G*d forbid!) actually talk about the really important things that cannot be defined scientifically/materialistically, we're limited to and doomed to a purely materialistic world view, economically defined. We should read and pay attention to the prophets of Scientific Materialism*, men like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Gould, and the like. Have we considered the logical end of a materialistic world-view?

    When we consider the problems inherent in the management of our state's resources, science is a necessary tool in our efforts to quantify, measure, and define the material at hand. After that, we need something much more than materialistic data in order to properly put our resources to their best use. We need some neighborliness, some concern for the other guy's needs and opinions, some mutual respect, good manners, and so on.

    *http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_vitzthum/materialism.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    and while no one wishes to return to the unbroken prairies or the vast, forested lands of yesteryear
    Speak for yourself....
    "– Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

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    Thanks for the clarification, Marcus. When I referred to "who", I wasn't insinuating that you were directing the post at a person. I should have said "to what post" are you directing this at? I don't dispute your points - as we've discussed via PM, we share many of the same values and world views. What I don't get, though, is what this has to do with the posts preceding yours. Please understand that I'm not trying to be combative here. I'm trying to understand how this relates to the topic of ecosystem services and how we can get this thread back on track.

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    Yet another perfectly good thread, once again ruined by the same individual as usual, all for no useful purpose.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    The three management fora are by their very nature devoted to discussion of the application of science to resource management issues. If you don't believe that science absolutely gets to the heart of what we should do, well...I'm not sure how productive engaging in these discussions will be.
    That is exactly the point, this so-called "discussion" has been an unproductive hijack of a worthwhile topic. I'd like to discuss ecosystem services but cannot do so when the discussion keeps getting derailed. And since the same so-called "point" keeps getting repeated in so many resource management threads, all quite clearly directed at the same OP, discussion becomes impossible.

    I'm leaving this ruined thread, someone PM me if the hijack ever ends, so we can discuss ecosystem services.
    Inspiration is simply the momentary cessation of stupidity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    . . I'm trying to understand . . how we can get this thread back on track.
    Simple. Delete my posts and return to your bean counting.

    Please do.

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