processes. Although these are often helpful, decisions involving biodiversity must still be made with attention to matters that cannot be readily encompassed in a market-economics framework.

The line of reasoning developed in the previous chapters suggests the need for a discursive process that can build confidence in decisions in the face of incomplete information and differing basic values. Such decision processes will not by themselves eliminate the need for better information or the differences in philosophies. They offer some hope, however, of gaining the support of decision-makers and the public for decisions involving natural systems.

Policy and management decisions that concern biological resources commonly involve competing resource uses and conflicting value systems. Uses of land to provide goods and services with well-defined markets (for example, timber for wood products and space for development) and uses that lack well-developed markets (for example, habitat for wildlife, and maintenance of ecological functions) often compete and conflict. Those making decisions concerning biodiversity are expected to resolve the conflicts and to do so in a way that appears legitimate to the various interests affected by the decisions.

Decision-makers almost never have perfect ability to resolve conflicts and satisfy their customers. One reason is that the scope of their responsibilities might not fit comfortably with the scope of the resources affected by their decisions. For example, on-the-ground managers are limited by the geographical scope of their jobs, which often does not coincide with the range of the biological resources for which they are in part responsible, as in the Camp Pendleton case study (chapter 1), where maintaining the valuable wildlife habitat on the military base was affected by what happened on the upstream portion of the watershed that fed the river flowing through the base.

Policy-makers and resource managers also face limitations of knowledge and time—time for making important decisions, time for acquiring the knowledge needed for good decisions, and the knowledge to weigh short-term results against long-term effects. Like many decisions involving constraints of knowledge and time, decisions that concern biodiversity often must, and should, be made tentatively and incrementally. Resource managers often face pressures that seem to require immediate answers when none are certain, but the nature of decisions involving biodiversity suggests the need for a kind of management that expects changes in knowledge and readily accepts and adapts to them as they become available. Such changes in knowledge are almost sure to occur in the realms of both biology and the social sciences. And the values that society chooses to pursue will change over time as well. That makes biodiversity decisions especially challenging, and the task of assessing values, formidable.

In this complex world, the incompleteness of information is not a valid reason for not using all the information that is available. Nor is the need for simplifying decisions to accommodate pluralistic views a reason for not considering moral values. In addition to the tools from the biological and social sci-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement