Department of Environmental Protection Awarded $200,000
for Study on Economic Value of Ecosystems
(04/13) TRENTON - Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M.
Campbell today announced that the DEP has been selected
to receive $200,000 in grants to be used to assess the economic
value of services provided by New Jersey's natural ecosystems.
The $200,000 award includes $150,000 in grants from the
Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, of Morristown, and $50,000
from Philadelphia's William Penn Foundation.
The study funded by these grants will be
among the first in the United States to assess the value
of the major ecosystems of an entire state. When complete,
the analysis will include a comprehensive report on the
value of New Jersey's natural capital by land type and ecosystem
service, including maps showing the level of that value
at varying spatial scales.
"Natural resources provide valuable
services to millions of New Jersey residents," said
Campbell. "Quantifying the value of New Jersey's natural
resource services will provide a basis for making better
policy choices and demonstrate the links between healthy
ecosystems and a strong economy. The Geraldine R. Dodge
and William Penn Foundations have given the DEP a unique
opportunity, and I appreciate their generosity as well as
their recognition of the study's merit."
Undisturbed resources in the environment
provide ecosystem services. For example, wetlands provide
a valuable service by absorbing stormwater runoff and releasing
it slowly. This service would cost millions of dollars to
replace if the wetlands were drained and developed. Thus,
the economic value of wetland ecosystems is high.
"This is an innovative undertaking
that will draw nationally known experts into conservation
and smart growth discussions in our region," said William
Penn Foundation Program Officer Andrew Johnson. "We're
particularly excited about the project's potential to leverage
the effectiveness of New Jersey's policies in protecting
The Dodge Foundation's $150,000 award to
the DEP reflects its focus on land-use issues and the protection
of natural resources across New Jersey. However, David Grant,
Executive Director of the Dodge Foundation, noted that his
agency seldom awards grants to government agencies but made
an exception due to "the compelling nature" of
the DEP's proposal.
"Once the services of the state's
ecosystems have been translated into economic terms, it
will be less difficult for decision-makers to weigh those
values against the potential values of growth and development
and what it might cost to replace those services,"
said Grant. "In short, they will be able to see in
rather stark terms what is at stake when natural areas -
forests, fields, wetlands - are lost to sprawl."
When completed, the natural resource assessment's
findings are expected to become an important reference point
in land use debates and related policy decisions at the
state and local levels. The assessment will improve the
DEP's ability to make economically sound decisions on the
levels of natural resource damage assessments (NRDA).
In addition, the assessment will enable
local planners and planning boards to provide estimates
of ecosystem value at the local level to develop municipal
master plans. Such plans, together with local zoning regulations,
are primary determinants of the land uses that will be permitted
in specific municipalities.
Improved identification of areas that
provide especially valuable ecosystem services information
could also help municipalities and the state better establish
conservation and restoration priorities and target funding
for Open Space acquisition.
DEP personnel could begin to work on the
economic assessment as early as May 2004.