Using economics as a river conservation tool
Scientists, economists, ecological planners, resource managers, and government officials are becoming more aware of the values and functions that natural environments provide free of charge. Recognition of the worth of these natural systems is proving to be an important factor in many decisions about the future of our rivers and watersheds. Begin incorporating economics into your river conservation efforts by researching how people historically and currently appreciate your river. However, an in-depth, credible, river-specific economic analysis may be necessary to convince skeptical decision-makers. Economic analyses can be categorized into five different approaches: river recreation economics, project evaluation economics, natural watersheds for sustainable futures, land development economics, and water and power pricing economics. In every case, economic analysis is most credible and useful when it is: reflective of the full range of beneficial uses (public and private), undertaken by independent researchers, presented by respected and articulate individuals after peer review, picked up by the media, heard by policy-makers, endorsed and reinforced by local business interests, and presented in a context unencumbered by conflicting user groups.