Portland-based Ecotrust has done some interesting things in its history. The non-profit organization focuses on applied ecological economics. In other words, they are interested in researching, describing and applying knowledge of how people value nature and natural resources.
The logic is simple: if you want to protect, restore, or maintain X-ecological function or X-species or X-ecosystem, you find out how much people will pay for that or conversely, what it will cost society if we don’t pay for it up-front. If a species such as coho salmon goes extinct, what is the direct and indirect economic cost? Likewise, what are the costs associated with protecting their habitat, water quality, or even individual organisms. And beyond the single species perspective, what services do native ecosystems provide? The obvious ones most everyone knows: food, fiber, medicine, aesthetics, and recreation. There are other, less obvious benefits: clean air, clean water, fertile soil, protection from floods, spiritual solace, etc. What do these cost us? What are they worth to us? Do the costs and benefits equate or can we pay for the difference if we loose something? And even more important, how do we distribute those costs and benefits across society?
Back to my original intent with this post: I wanted to point out some useful resources that the organization offers, mainly in the form of mapping tools, but also some great reports that catalogue coastal and coastal temperate forest issues. These are the Oregon Estuary Plan Bookand the Watershed Locator. Ecotrust has also produced some useful information on ocean fisheries and marine reserves, all on their on-line atlas site called Inforain.
And speaking of tools, if you are reading this blog and see something I should know about (and tell others about), please let me know via the comments function. H2ONCoast has been on-line since July 2007. If there is something that it can do for you, please let me know.