On April 18, the NY Times ran an article highlighting modeling by the Univ. of California at Davis and the US Forest Service — modeling that puts a monetary price tag (as "value") on trees. In this case the trees are public trees in New York City. Guess what? According to the model, for every dollar spent on trees in NYC the City receives $5.60 in benefits. Better invest now!
Where have I seen this before? I guess the first time was about thirty years ago when I learned the "economic value" of bird watching in the Southeast US. When one extrapolated from the local study area to the whole US, the "value" was high enough to easily retire the National Debt.
Then and now I remain on the sidelines, wondering why we continue to spend tax dollars on such. Of course Nature is valuable, nobody debates that. Our lives depend on keeping the planet's ecosystems functioning and the ecosystem services flowing. But we don't need to spend a bunch of dollars conjuring up "values' to feed cost-benefit calculations. Or maybe we do as long as that seems to be the only "currency" that matters in political deliberations. But I've said enough on the CBA score already. So let's just go to the article and see what others have to say:
Maybe Only God Can Make a Tree, but Only People Can Put a Price on It , David K. Randall, NY Times 4/18/2007: It seems like a Zen koan: how much is a New York City tree worth? Since New York's first park was created in 1733, the various incarnations of the modern Parks and Recreation Department have tried to quantify a resource that at best is viewed as inherently valuable, like sunshine, or at worst is chopped down.And I hope that somehow we can get a better conversation going that will help create "A caring Economics" as Riane Eisler suggests in her new book The Real Wealth of Nations. I'm sure that McPherson would agree on that end, but our means toward the end differ radically. I prefer deliberation and public decision-making methods that don't rely on conjured-up, monetized prices. Maybe McPherson does too. Still, he and others continue to feed the CBA beast.
"Trees are great for a variety of reasons, but how do you explain that to the Office of Management and Budget?" Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, has said.
Now, for the first time, the Parks Department can actually translate the value of the city’s trees into real dollars and cents. And as expected, it’s a big number. …
The program, called Stratum, was developed by researchers at the University of California at Davis and the United States Forest Service. It takes into account several factors, including a tree’s impact on local property values, its contribution to cleaning the air by absorbing carbon dioxide, and how much its shade helps reduce energy consumption.
Factoring in the costs associated with planting and upkeep, New York City’s street trees provide an annual benefit of about $122 million, according to the Parks Department. The study concludes that New York receives $5.60 in benefits for every dollar spent on trees. …
Dr. McPherson [lead designer of the model and director of the Forest Service's Center for Urban Forest Research] said … "I hope this model provides ammunition for people on the front lines who have to battle for budgets to maintain their trees and expand their urban forests"….