W3133: Benefits and Costs of Natural Resources Policies Affecting Ecosystem Services on Public and Private Lands
Statement of Issues and JustificationI. STATEMENT OF ISSUES AND JUSTIFICATION
Since its inception, W2133 has made substantive contributions to the theory and practice of valuation of ecosystem goods and services. These values are essential inputs to decision-making that attempts to balance sustainable economic growth, environmental quality, and natural resource use and conservation to support a variety of (sometimes conflicting) societal needs. The importance of this work influences the highest levels of decision-making, as evidenced by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report to President Obama on July 2011 (PCAST 2011). Two of the report's six summary recommendations include:
"Federal agencies with responsibilities relating to ecosystems and their services (e.g., EPA, NOAA, DOI, USDA) should be tasked with improving their capabilities to develop valuations for the ecosystem services affected by their decision-making and factoring the results into analyses that inform their major planning and management decisions."
The recommendations go on to elaborate that:
"This will entail expanding current efforts on ecosystem-service valuation in EPA, USDA, and other agencies, as well as generating new knowledge about the ecosystem-service impacts (in both physical and value terms) of activities taking place on both public and private lands. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), OSTP, and CEQ should ensure that the methodologies are developed collaboratively across agencies."
The fact is that USDA, through its support of W2133 objectives, has been at the forefront in recognizing the need for improvement of valuation methods, increasing the range of ecosystem service applications, and development and testing of policy instruments that use valuation information in efforts to efficiently allocate non-marketed ecosystem goods and services.
Federal regulatory impact analyses use a benefit-cost analysis framework, which requires quantification of the monetary value of potential changes in ecosystem goods and services that result from economic activity and policies. The need for valid and reliable economic estimates of ecosystem services continues to grow as management philosophies and people's demands for environmental quality change. Federal land management agencies have adopted sustainable ecosystem management as a guiding principle, which requires information on the trade-offs among environmental, social, and economic aspects. The objectives of this regional research project are designed to provide this type of information for ecosystem services that are not valued directly by markets, as needed by decision makers in the public and private sectors.
The next five years of the W2133 project will be a period in which ecosystem services on public and private lands will experience increased pressure from changes in direct and derived demand for public lands uses, as well as possible ecosystem changes from increased variation in extreme weather events, invasive species, altered wildfire regimes and other natural hazards. In addition, federal agencies will require solid research findings that delineate the economic values of ecosystem services that are not priced in the market, in order to face possible challenges to regulatory regimes originally designed to conserve ecosystem service values, such as generation of renewable energy and possible new listings under the Endangered Species Act. Many policy issues revolve around the fact that so many of these values are public good in nature and are therefore subject to market failure in changing economic and natural environments. Public policy with regard to public land, water, air quality and other natural assets continues to evolve using more efficient economic incentive mechanisms; the success of these mechanisms lies in the ability to measure the value of natural assets and ecosystem services under changing economic and natural environments. The proposed objectives and sub-tasks for W2133 project research over the next five years directly address these challenges.
Proposed W2133 Objectives for Oct 1, 2012 through Sept 31, 2017:
Objective 1: Land and Water Resource Management in a Changing Environment
Task 1-1: Economic Analysis of Ag, Forest and Rangeland Resources,Open Space, and WUI Zones
Task 1-2: Economic Analysis of Natural Hazards (fire, invasive species, climate change)
Objective 2: Economic Valuation Methods
Task 2-1: Advances in Stated/Revealed Preference Methods
Task 2-2: Advances in Benefit Transfer Methods
Task 2-3: Advances in Spatial/Environmental Nexus
Objective 3: Integrated Ecosystem Services Valuation and Management
Task 3-1: Economic Analysis of Ecosystem Services Flows
Task 3-2: Economic Analysis of Recreation Services
Task 3-3: Economic Analysis of Water Quality
Public and private agencies and institutions express significant interest in the information provided through W2133. Stakeholders, such as the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. EPA and the DOI Bureau of Land Management participate in workshops on economics and social analyses organized with by W2133 members, and often request information on non-market valuation of wildlife and ecosystem goods and services. Stakeholder interest is directly evident from their frequent and extensive participation in W2133 annual meetings, including collaborators from the USDA Forest Service, USDA Economic Research Service, NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. EPA, and private consultants, among others. W2133 research helps shape planning and policies (USDA Forest Service Strategic Plan and Resource Planning Act values, NOAA Type A damage assessments), and direct future grant solicitations (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005).
Experiment Stations gain several advantages from participating in W2133. This project brings together experts from across the country while avoiding duplication of effort in the development, design, and application of statistical models and survey methods. W2133 combines complementary specialized expertise at different experiment stations and federal agencies to leverage advancements in methods and applications, such as integrating quantitative methods (for example, Nevada, New York, Virginia and Iowa) with empirical applications (Colorado, Georgia and Michigan).
The organizational infrastructure created by W2133 generates synergies in non-market valuation research, which would likely dissipate should this research project not be rechartered. Without a regional project, there will likely be duplication of research effort and fragmented gains in information due to limited resources at individual Experiment Stations. Failure to conduct proposed research would leave many federal and state agencies without information needed to evaluate the economic effects of natural resource policies and management plans for public and private lands.
Proceedings from W2133 annual meetings, agency publications, and co-authored journal articles document the sustained collaboration of and contributions by participating Experiment Stations. Prior advancements in theory and applications of environmental economics made by this project have built a sound foundation for important refinements and new empirical applications by this group and other Experiment Stations and agencies over the next five years. Since many members of participating Experiment Stations have formal extension appointments and work closely with collaborators within and outside of W2133, broad dissemination of research results to various stakeholders occurs through public and agency workshops and cooperative extension publications.
This regional research project creates and maintains human and network capital infrastructures that can rapidly respond to requests of local, state and federal resource managers and policy makers for evaluating emerging policy issues. Often similar management and policy issues arise in different states. The ability of each Experiment Station's scientists to leverage the expertise of their fellow members in W2133 enables their rapid response to emerging issues through applications of the methods, survey instruments, and information originally developed by other W2133 members to address similar issues in their states. Also of note is the fact that state membership has grown in the past decade, which indicates increasing interest in policy relevant non-market valuation and further expansion of the portfolio of researcher expertise.
Back to Top