Earth Economics Programs
Ecosystem Service Valuations: Working with public, private and NGO agencies, our Ecosystem Service Valuation (ESV) studies quantify the value of the goods and services provided by regional ecosystems. This valuation justifies the shift of investment toward environmental preservation and/or restoration, and unites diverse interests towards a common goal. For example, in 2014 we completed a valuation of the Colorado River Basin’s ecosystems, showing they provide up to $496 billion in economic benefits every year.
Accounting and Management Strategies: Working with public utilities, businesses, large land owners and managers, we identify, and helps clients adopt, new management approaches that value ecosystem services in addition to built infrastructure and raw materials. Currently we are working alongside six major water utilities, representing 16 million water consumers, leading a national effort to reassess national accounting standards to include the value of natural capital. To shift private and public investment toward green infrastructure requires that natural capital be recognized as a capital asset that is measurable within standard accounting systems.
Funding Mechanisms for Conservation and Restoration: Working with local and state jurisdictions, we apply innovative approaches to fund critical natural infrastructure and conservation work. For example, we are helping groups in the Green/Duwamish River Watershed design a 21st century institution for Washington State, called a Watershed Investment District. This institution would coordinate, at the watershed scale, flood, stormwater and habitat priorities, creating a dependable and efficient funding mechanisms for natural capital.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Recent Successes: In 2013, FEMA adopted a new policy to include ecosystem service
values, provided by Earth Economics, in their Benefit-Cost
Analysis tool. This is the first time a U.S. Federal agency
has explicitly included the economic benefits of ecosystem
services in their policies systemically. These values will be applied to more than 80% of all FEMA
mitigation including all floods and hurricanes. The findings from Earth Economics' report on the natural capital value of parks in Tacoma were used to promote a bond to improve parks in Tacoma. The $198 million dollar bond was passed in 2014.
Earth Economics now has a solid track record of success at the regional, national and international levels. We have completed successful projects in almost every watershed in Western Washington, including the Green/Duwamish, Snohomish, Nisqually, Puyallup, Chehalis and Cedar River Watersheds. Because we are introducing new economic concepts and tools, and because our reputation is growing so rapidly, much of this work involves outreach service (presentations, workgroups, strategy meetings, phone consultations, etc.) which is not covered by project specific grant funding. In 2010, David Batker, our Executive Director, alone presented to over 25 audiences, including universities, civic groups and other NGOs, professional societies, and state and local government. While this outreach furthers our mission and helps to move Washington State’s economy towards sustainability, it depletes resources needed for fundraising, increasing staff size, replacing old equipment and other capacity building requirements. We are in great need of funding for both time and travel that allows us to continue outreach service.