Ecosystem Services in NEPA

The ecosystem services concept is generating excitement in environmental circles around the world as a way of protecting public goods such as crop pollination, the capacity of wetlands to “clean‐up” water, and the climate buffering action of vegetation. In the United States, land managers and policy officials have begun to take notice of ecosystem services, and the idea is shaping policy guidance for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), management initiatives, and dispute resolution. However, new concepts in policy discourse and guidance do not necessarily produce a different set of decisions or outcomes in resource management. Government land management and other environmental agencies are constrained by political institutions (e.g., legislative authorization, appropriations and oversight) and the pressures of relevant laws and interest groups—both agency clients and critics.

Our research will provide a systematic review of the use of ecosystem services in legislation and policy – with particular focus on how federal policy guidance on ecosystem services has or has not influenced environmental assessments under NEPA. The deeper contribution of this research explores the impact of the ecosystem services approach on how policy‐makers think and act. This study fills a critical gap in our understanding of U.S. environmental policy by examining how ecosystem services are being considered under NEPA. Further, our research demonstrates the capacity of science and scientists to create and promote tools useful for the real world of environmental decision‐making and governance.


Adding ecosystem services to environmental impact assessments:More sequins on a bloated Elvis or a rockin’ idea?

Presnall, CK, L López-Hoffman & ML Miller. 2014 (available online March 11, 2014). Ecological Economics. Invited submission to special issue on ecosystem services in U.S. federal environmental regulatory policy. DOI:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.02.001 (link)

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