Value Beyond Markets. Where are the innovative examples that incorporate true value of ecosystem services into decisions?
When USDA established the Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets we had hoped to incorporate into our mission the value of ecosystem services to people. However, as the laser focus on markets grew, OEM shifted to a singular emphasis on markets. The shift came at the expense of fostering a broader understanding of ecosystem service values. Too often these are not fully incorporated into key decisions, from appraisals to damage assessments to land use planning; decisions with little direct relevance to markets.
The US Forest Service’s new Planning Rule incorporates ecosystem service values into the long-term planning of national forests, an explicit inclusion that reflects the continued evolution of the multiple-use paradigm. Integrating an ecosystem services framework into the Planning Rule signals that the Agency is grappling with and striving towards institutionalizing the way nature’s benefits to society are accounted for in decisions.
The Big Marsh Ecosystem Services Project on Crescent Ranger District in the Deschutes National Forest is a great example of progressive land managers asking different questions, striving to identify the many ecosystem services this watershed provides, and understand how effective planning can protect these valued services in the long term. Unfortunately, such examples are few and critics are many. Challenges to the new Planning Rule are inevitable. But shouldn’t we encourage and support these innovative approaches when we see them? To critique is easy; to build something new takes courage. How can we help?