Aligning Regulation with the Informational Need: Ecosystem Services and the Next Generation of Environmental Law
29 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2012 Last revised: 10 Dec 2012
Date Written: October 30, 2012
Informational mandates included in natural resource statutes should have proven to be effective vehicles for integrating the valuation of ecosystem services into resource management decisions. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), for instance, requires that the adverse impacts from a given action be assessed before an agency commits to an action, and the value of ecosystems to human welfare would seem relevant to that inquiry. Yet the effort to integrate ecosystem services valuation into law has yielded complicated and unsatisfactory results in the courts. This article suggests that courts’ engagement in the information gathering exercise entailed in environmental regulations has only perpetuated a process that systematically rejects the relevance and value of ecosystem processes. Additionally, this article argues that regulatory intervention should employ investigatory methodologies like ecosystem services research which results in the production of a more informed resource management decision. Ecosystem services research supplies information on both economic values and ecosystem processes, so employing ecosystem services research will accomplish the intended goal of environmental regulation to correct resource market inefficiencies resulting from incomplete information. Excluding an accounting of ecosystem services can produce decisions that do not accurately or efficiently reflect the interdependency between ecological and economic wealth. Understanding natural resources in terms of the value of ecosystem services that they produce helps to contextualize the relationships between public needs, private wealth, and the cost of ecosystem loss.
Keywords: ecosystem, environment, natural resources, NEPA, environmental regulations
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