Facilitating the Inclusion of Nonmarket Values in Bureau of Land Management Planning and Project Assessments

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: Painted Hand Pueblo in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Cortez, Colorado. Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation
Painted Hand Pueblo in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Cortez, Colorado. Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation

As a multiple-use agency within the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing a wide range of natural and cultural resources, some of which are actively “used” by people, such as the development of minerals for energy generation or manufacturing, livestock grazing, and recreational opportunities. Other resources are not used directly but still provide ecosystem services that contribute to human well-being, such as flood control from intact wetlands, habitat for threatened and endangered species, and air purification from healthy forests. Applying economics to understand one aspect of value that the public places on these resources can lead to more informed decisions. However, many of the resource uses and ecosystem services provided by public lands administered by the BLM are not directly bought and sold in conventional markets and do not have an observable market price that reflects their value to society. Other economic methods are required to capture the value of these nonmarket goods and services. Examples of nonmarket values associated with BLM managed lands include the benefits received from viewing archaeological sites, hiking in a wilderness, collecting firewood for subsistence rather than commercial purposes, or appreciating the existence of wild horses without actually encountering them. Consideration of the full range of economic values, both market and nonmarket, associated with the management of lands administered by the BLM could lead to more informed decision-making by creating a holistic picture of the economic implications of resource tradeoffs. Given recent requests from field staff for information on how to incorporate nonmarket values into plans and projects, the BLM has revised its instruction memorandum on estimating nonmarket values. To support this guidance, the BLM’s socioeconomic staff at the Washington Office and the National Operations Center is partnering with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) economists to evaluate the use of nonmarket values in BLM decision-making, update existing technical resources for measuring those values, and provide guidance to BLM planners and managers on the use of nonmarket values. Partners: Bureau of Land Management - Washington Office, Bureau of Land Management - National Operations Center, Colorado State University, and Oregon State University