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Ridin' Point

- a weekly column published in the Siskiyou Daily News

July 19, 2011



Total Resource Management and Ecosystem Services
Recently, I watched a webinar meeting of the California Water Plan Update. John Lowry of the Department of Conservation talked about Total Resource Management and ecosystem services. http://www.waterplan.water.ca.gov/docs/meeting_materials/ac/06.29.11/4a-regionalplanning-doc-jl.pdf The approach implements the California Natural Resources Agency’s 2010 Action Plan for the Future of Natural Resources Management http://www.floodplain.org/cmsAdmin/uploads/IRM_Action_Plan12-10.pdf It also seems to dovetail with the U.S. Forest Services’ new “All Lands” approach..

Total Resources Management is: “A planning and decision making process that coordinates resource use so that the long term sustainable benefits are optimized and conflicts among users are minimized. IRM [Integrated Resource Management] brings together all resource groups rather than each working in isolation to balance the economic, environmental, and social requirements of society.”

The 2010 State Action Plan indicates that old laws and policies were created when natural resources were considered abundant and resilient. “Climate change, growth, and increased competition for these resources require a new era of strategic thinking, leadership, and unifying policies and actions designed to preserve and restore our natural resources for long-term sustainability and for the benefits of all citizens. “ (Apparently, individual private property rights are no longer in vogue in California.)

Lowry indicated that the components of an ecosystem (hydrology, biology, geology and social systems) interact to create “ecosystem services.” These include: clean air and water; reducing the severity of floods, droughts, winds and waves; detoxification and decomposition of wastes; soil and soil fertility; pollination; control of agricultural pests; dispersal of seed; nutrient cycling; biodiversity; protection from ultraviolet rays; stabilization of climate change; moderation of temperature extremes; diverse human cultures; beauty and spiritual sustenance. Ecosystems must be managed for diversity and resilience to allow them to respond to change and continue to provide ecosystem services to humans and other populations over the long term.

The new management approach will have greater public involvement, emphasize “inclusiveness” and integrate federal, state, tribal, regional and local goals. According to Lowry, integration of management efforts will incrementally become more commonly used as “traditional methods fail to achieve anticipated results” causing a collapse of the old management system. Further work will be done to define specific ecosystem services of benefit to the public and to determine the management strategies that need to be in place to sustainably produce those services.

Michael Perrone from the Water Plan team talked about the new finance strategy to pay for restoration and to protect natural lands from human impact in order to provide ecosystem services. It is possible to valuate the benefits of restoration/protection by calculating the “avoided costs” of conflicts or by calculating the price it costs to provide what we need artificially. For instance, one can calculate the costs of the loss of “nature’s goods “ such as fish production, erosion control through floodplains, clean water through wetland filtration, groundwater recharge from open land and carbon sequestration from forests by looking at the costs to construct hatcheries, levees, and water treatment plants. http://www.waterplan.water.ca.gov/docs/meeting_materials/ac/06.29.11/4b-EcoServices-ACmeeting-jun11-mp+kc.pdf

Looking at the costs of seven recently constructed fish hatcheries, a new hatchery would cost from $10-30 million. There are 835,000 feet of rip rap on the Sacramento, which would be worth $2.6 billion in today’s dollars. It cost $15 million to build a new water treatment plant in Santa Monica with a capacity to treat about 320,000 gallons a day. It cost $175 million to upgrade a water treatment plant in San Bruno. Presumably, investments would be made in protection and restoration as an alternative to investing in the traditional artificial solutions.

Additional research indicates that there are already worldwide markets trading in compensatory offsets (mitigation banking) for impacts to biodiversity and ecosystem services. http://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/documents/acrobat/sbdmr.pdf Like carbon credit trading, the scheme requires that human impacts be offset in a no net loss (or full mitigation.) This is accomplished by purchasing shares in a fund that will be used to protect or restore land. (In my opinion, this is a scheme by wealthy environmental brokers such as Mr. Gore to grow even wealthier.) Unfortunately, this can mean that rural lands are increasingly “protected” from human use, which can mean leaving rural communities without access to or use of the natural resources that form their economic base. http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/ecosystem_services.htm

Regional Forester Randy Moore recently indicated that he had been in dialogue with municipal water districts in the central valley, downriver from mountain communities. He was trying to get them interested in investing in the “ecosystem services and the restoration of national forest rivers to avoid some of their costs such as water filtration of sediment. I am not certain that creating additional powerful stakeholders interested in the management of mountain natural resources is such a grand idea.

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