FIGURE 6-1 Decision tree for Catskills watershed study.

fishing and tourism was lost, how many animals of each type were killed); and (3) valuation of each of these losses. Clearly, completing all three stages of such an ecosystem valuation study presents a massive and challenging task.1 Although numerous studies were commissioned by Exxon, the State of Alaska, the federal government, and other interested parties, a clear answer to the question of the dollar value of damages to ecosystem services caused by the oil spill was not produced (Portney, 1994). As noted in Chapter 5, there are difficulties in quantifying the link between the oil spill and changes in ecosystem services as well as difficulties in valuing such changes—especially when considering nonuse values such as existence value. There was no obvious and simple way of framing this issue in the Exxon Valdez case because all aspects of the damages were relevant to disputes about compensation.

These two cases illustrate the importance of how a valuation study is framed, and how the frame used derives from the specific context within which an ecosystem valuation issue is raised. They also illustrate that the way an issue is posed may make a huge difference in the complexity of the valuation problem to be addressed.

In addition to determining the question to be asked and the complexity of the analysis required, psychologists have shown that how an issue is framed frequently affects the way in which people make judgments about that issue and


It is important to note that under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) legislation the federal government was only allowed to sue for public damages, which exclude loss of tourist revenues and business profits. See Hanemann and Strand (1993) for further information.

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