. "Status of Ecological Knowledge Related to Policy Decision-Making Needs in the Area of." Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1996.
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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals
Particularly given the political climate that stresses greater and greater attention to such cost-benefit calculations, it is imperative that the ecological values be well represented. Consider three examples. The commitment to the goal of no-net-loss of wetlands is admirable. However, given the substantial benefits that wetlands provide in the form of flood control it may well be the case that an economically justified goal should be net gain in wetlands. Similarly, in the Pacific Northwest, the amenity value of relatively undisturbed ecosystems has a high economic value, demonstrated by the rapid growth in "footloose" industries in the Northwest. A more accurate calculus of the economic costs and benefits of resource conservation in the Northwest would probably give greater weight to the goal of biodiversity conservation. Finally, although the protection of habitat in rapidly growing urban areas is often criticized as being economically unsound, the maintenance of greenbelts and open space in urban areas is often found to have significant economic benefits. Again, better calculus of the economic values of ecosystem services and natural systems could often lead to the incorporation of those values as one goal of management. This would aid in defining goals not only for the protection of ecosystem services but also for multi-species resource management.
3. How can planning tools be made to be more interactive and accessible to a broader cross-section of the public?
Clearly, the goals of resource management cannot and should not be based only on economic considerations. Many values of biodiversity, for example, involve ethical or moral considerations and thus cannot be incorporated into cost-benefit calculus. Moreover, the protection—or use—of particular resources may have profound cultural significance that would be difficult to appreciate in studies of valuation. (How else to explain the surprisingly strong support for grazing-land management policies that benefit a tiny fraction of people at great cost to taxpayers and to the environment?)
Geographic information systems provide a tool that with sufficient development could be used by a broader array of civil society to learn about both the values of the resources in their region and the consequences of various management options. These tools would enable people to better understand the consequences of various options for both the short-term and the long-term economic and ecological outlook in a region. Without such tools, neither the civil society nor its representatives in government are able to adequately weigh the pros and cons of different resource management options.
Assessing Impacts and Managing Resources
The obstacles to enhanced ability to predict the consequences of human impacts on specific systems and the ability to successfully manage resources are similar. Most significantly, they relate to need for significantly improved site-specific