Resource managers are faced with trying to satisfy a wide range of human needs—food, fiber, recreation, cultural and aesthetic satisfaction, national security—that depend on natural processes, all within the constraints imposed by diverse agency and other landowner mandates. They must be sensitive to the effects of management on current and long-term resource production and on the many values that people find are satisfied by these processes. The job is difficult because of the complexities of both the natural world and human society and because of the inevitable conflicts.
An important consideration in resource management has been biodiversity and its conservation. At one end of the management spectrum, that means maintaining intact native biological communities and ecosystems. At the other end, it means simply adapting management to recognize the role of biodiversity in maintaining productivity of managed landscapes. In most cases, it means recognizing how managing and conserving biodiversity fit into broad landscapes—probably a mix of public and private lands—only part of which can be managed with biodiversity concerns in mind. These concerns are important at all scales of decisions, from local to global.
But just how important is biodiversity conservation relative to the other concerns that resource managers must address? This report does not answer that question directly. Rather, it looks at processes that will be helpful to managers in comparing various biodiversity concerns or values with other values related to resources.
Conservation of biodiversity does not enter into resource-management decisions in only one way. It is a vital element in sustaining natural processes. But management of natural systems involves many tradeoffs between conservation of
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7 Broadening the Biodiversity Manager's Perspective Resource managers are faced with trying to satisfy a wide range of human needs—food, fiber, recreation, cultural and aesthetic satisfaction, national security—that depend on natural processes, all within the constraints imposed by diverse agency and other landowner mandates. They must be sensitive to the effects of management on current and long-term resource production and on the many values that people find are satisfied by these processes. The job is difficult because of the complexities of both the natural world and human society and because of the inevitable conflicts. An important consideration in resource management has been biodiversity and its conservation. At one end of the management spectrum, that means maintaining intact native biological communities and ecosystems. At the other end, it means simply adapting management to recognize the role of biodiversity in maintaining productivity of managed landscapes. In most cases, it means recognizing how managing and conserving biodiversity fit into broad landscapes—probably a mix of public and private lands—only part of which can be managed with biodiversity concerns in mind. These concerns are important at all scales of decisions, from local to global. But just how important is biodiversity conservation relative to the other concerns that resource managers must address? This report does not answer that question directly. Rather, it looks at processes that will be helpful to managers in comparing various biodiversity concerns or values with other values related to resources. Conservation of biodiversity does not enter into resource-management decisions in only one way. It is a vital element in sustaining natural processes. But management of natural systems involves many tradeoffs between conservation of
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biodiversity and other management goals. The extent of the tradeoffs and the extent of a manager's ability to effect the conservation of biodiversity are limited by the extent of the manager's authority or decision space. Resource-management decisions in nearly all cases are incremental. A manager's decisions are limited in space by agency mandates and geographical constraints. They are usually limited in time by the ability to forecast conditions and human needs. But concerns extend beyond those boundaries. Although a manager's actions are local and immediate, the management perspective must be broad enough to recognize a range of values, as well as the implications of decisions for survival of larger ecosystems. A series of decisions, no one of which has major effects, can have major cumulative effects. This report contains several case studies that are intended to show how a variety of management situations involving biodiversity conservation were or might be resolved. They include President Clinton's decision to reserve some 7 million acres of Pacific Northwest forests to protect the northern spotted owl and a local decision to protect open space in the city of Boulder, Colorado. Somewhere on that scale is the situation at Camp Pendleton, a military base along the coast of southern California that contains habitat for several endangered species but also has potentially high residential values if it were to be decommissioned by the Department of Defense. The latter case is representative of the potential for biodiversity conservation on the 25 million acres of Department of Defense lands, some of which are scheduled for decommissioning. The conflicts over biodiversity and competing values in the case studies are substantial. Some are driven by the strictures of the Endangered Species Act, which includes only some of the values of biodiversity. The cases also show the limits placed on solving the broader problems of biodiversity conservation by the limits on the manager's decision space. In the face of those limits on a resource manager's ability to deal with the issues surrounding conservation of biodiversity, what help can this report provide? A limitation of the case studies is that they illustrate decisions that were or are to be made in the absence of an overall strategy for conserving biodiversity. The Pacific Northwest forests case study led to a balanced regional decision to protect some species that depend on old-growth forests. Although important regionally and in itself, the impact of the decision neither extends beyond the boundaries of the Pacific Northwest nor fits into a broader national strategy for conserving biodiversity. The intent of this report is to consider the many approaches to valuing biodiversity for broadening the resource manager's perspective. The task assigned to the committee that wrote this report was to examine "how current scientific knowledge about the economic and noneconomic value of biodiversity can best be applied in the management of biological resources." To do that, the committee reviewed the relevant scientific literature on biodiversity, its values, concerns about its status, and its treatment in analyses of its value.
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The committee found That a broader understanding of the implications of biodiversity conservation is needed for resource management decisions on the various scales at which they are made. That the available tools for estimating both economic and noneconomic values to management alternatives are limited in their usefulness in these decisions, in part because of the wide differences in philosophies of value held by the public, but also because of the nonmarket nature of so many of the values of biodiversity. No measure or calculus adequately provides for simultaneously weighing the full range of possible values in most such decisions. That reaching public consensus on decisions involving biodiversity is hindered, often by the lack of facts on which agreement can be reached, but also by public processes that fail to take full advantage of opportunities to develop consensus. Managers are faced with the unenviable, but necessary, task of weighing the various consequences of their actions in the absence of unambiguous supporting information on their effects on biological processes, local and global. They are faced with weighing the effects in terms that are relevant to people and their values and with doing this in the absence of unambiguous measures of human values. The dilemma for managers and society alike is that decisions must and will be made. The committee found a need for better understanding of current conditions and trends related to biodiversity on the scales of typical resource-management decisions. This is a high-priority need. Applying scientific knowledge about values and biological processes generally requires relatively fine-grained information about both biological and value effects of management actions, including information on the potential cumulative effects of management and of use of resources on the basic elements of biodiversity. Despite the growing recognition of the importance of biodiversity in sustaining biological processes, major gaps still exist in our understanding. The case studies show the limits of existing knowledge of biodiversity and its implications, as well as the limits of the tools and processes for estimating values to be used in management decisions. Managers need ways to evaluate the effects of decisions within their decision space in the broader regional or even global context of biodiversity conservation. A step in this direction is the relatively recent development of regional assessments of biological resources and the biological, economic, and social consequences in some regions of the United States (for example, the Interior Columbia River Basin and the southern Appalachians). Having this kind of information available would help resource managers of subregional areas to assess the possible cumulative effects of management and resource use, as well as biodiversity conservation, in their areas on the broader regional ecosystem.
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The main regional assessments that have been done in this country have focused on areas with extensive federal ownership, in large part because the regional assessments are intended to help in federal resource management. Other areas of the country, however, also face biodiversity issues, many of which might be important for federally funded projects that are subject to regulations under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). In addition, the assessments themselves note the paucity of information on major groupings of species and uncertainties about the kind of biological information that would be most useful for managing ecosystems. A concerted effort involving the full range of federal resources management and research agencies is needed to develop the kind of biological information required for appropriate management of biodiversity on all spatial scales and across jurisdictional boundaries. Recommending an appropriate organization and assigning of responsibilities for such an effort are beyond the scope of this committee. But it seems clear that a multiagency effort is required and that the information should not be collected only for federal lands. Other owners of resource lands also need this kind of information. Despite the growing recognition of the importance of biodiversity in sustaining biological processes, major gaps still exist in our understanding of the systematics of species in the United States, and knowledge of species diversity globally is readily available only for mammals and birds. No single means of establishing economic and noneconomic values allows decision-makers to weigh the full range of people's values in biodiversity simultaneously. The committee examined range of value systems and how they might apply to decisions involving biodiversity. Each of the value systems discussed in chapter 4 of this report—contractarianism, Kantian ethics, egalitarianism, deep ecology, and so on—has legitimacy, but none by itself adequately represents the range of public concerns in biodiversity conservation. Decision-makers must be aware of the wide range of possible value systems and to consider them fairly in their decisions. Economic valuation is grounded in utilitarianism, a value system that would recommend that biodiversity be protected and promoted to the extent that society wants it and is willing to pay for it. Other value systems focus attention on other concerns: property rights, intrinsic values that have ''a good of their own", ensuring that impoverished people have access to their needs, assigning rights to "nature and so on". None is necessarily inconsistent with a belief in a ''safe minimum standard" for conserving biodiversity. That does not mean, however, that the different value systems would lead to the same results in conserving biodiversity. Economic valuation adds information that is objective to the extent that there are well-established standards for critiquing it (chapter 5). Discursive processes provide a means for deciding what weight should be assigned to valuations based on economics and other standards (chapter 6).
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Valuing biodiversity in an economic context poses challenging problems because of the many benefits provided by diverse biological systems, the lack of markets for most of the benefits, and the relatively uncompromising requirements of economic analysis. Chapter 3 has provided many examples of how biodiversity contributes to economic values. Although based generally on market-determined values, benefits as measured in an economic valuation of biodiversity conservation can also include the willingness to pay for or accept non-market-determined values (chapter 6). When applied in this broad sense, economic valuation should have an important, although not singular, role in resource-management decisions. In the absence of widespread agreement on a philosophical approach and measurable results that describe the values of natural systems in such an approach, resource managers have turned to public participation in their decisions in an effort to reach some sort of public consensus. Partly because of requirements for public participation in NEPA decisions, there is now a substantial literature on ways to improve this participation. Much of it is concerned with ways to incorporate information on resources and values in decisions. Some is concerned with improving ways to explore and reach agreement on different approaches to valuation. For resource managers, public participation processes can be contentious. The range of value perspectives that deserve a place at the table is wide and not necessarily amenable to compromise. The managers usually have little basis for choosing or weighting one perspective over the others. Nevertheless, using the best methods of economic valuation and the best available information will reap substantial benefits. Analysis of alternatives, including economic valuations, might help to reduce the gap between contrary perspectives. Structured deliberation that involves stakeholders in these decisions and is supported by analysis will be useful in defining boundaries and directions. Although economic valuations often understate the value of natural processes and systems, when economic values are unambiguously greater than expected costs, questions of value and choices are clarified. Especially in the context of utilitarian values, market prices provide a relatively unambiguous measure of some benefits and costs. In the face of constraints of knowledge, time, and understanding of people's basic values, it is still appropriate that decisions involving the conservation of biodiversity be made. Most of the decisions will be local and have mainly local effects that can be monitored and used to guide later decisions. But some will involve broader issues, major commitments of resources, and longer periods of adjustment. At whatever level decisions are made that involve the recognition of the importance of conserving biodiversity, the following conclusions will help to guide action. There is an urgent need for more information about biodiversity and its role in sustaining natural processes and for it to be gathered, organized, and
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presented on various scales and in ways most useful to those charged with managing natural resources. No simple models or approaches can adequately capture both market and nonmarket values of biodiversity in a simple, objective manner. Traditional and emerging benefit-cost approaches to valuing biodiversity can contribute important and relevant information to decision-making. But the wide ranges of values and value systems held by those affected by resource decisions and the inherent difficulties in quantifying nonmarket values place some limits on the role of models in these decisions. There is great power in using an analytic deliberative process, which is inherently qualitative, in making decisions about biodiversity, although the ultimate decisions themselves must be made by the managers or policy makers. This includes using the process to weigh the different kinds of values that are involved. Most decisions affecting biodiversity will be made on a local scale, but the aggregate of these decisions will affect biodiversity on regional and even global scales. Therefore, there is an urgent need for periodic regional assessments of the state of biodiversity so that managers can assess the consequences of their decisions in broader and more ecologically meaningful contexts.
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