On Oct. 7, the Obama Administration released a memorandum directing federal agencies to factor the value of natural infrastructure and ecosystem services into federal planning and decision-making.
Ecosystem services are critical contributions provided by nature that support and protect U.S. communities and the economy. Additionally, these services protect the health and safety of vulnerable populations and help build more resilient communities. Examples of such services provided in a White House blog include the billions of dollars worth of flood protection provided by Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and the water quality benefits provided by Catskill Mountain forests to New York City — access to clean water at a cost several times less than that of building a new water-filtration plant.
However, such ecosystem services are often overlooked. Integrating ecosystem services into planning and decision-making can lead to better outcomes, fewer unintended consequences, and more efficient use of taxpayer dollars and other resources.
The memorandum directs agencies to develop and institutionalize policies that promote consideration of ecosystem services in planning, investment, and regulatory contexts. It also establishes a process for the federal government to develop a more detailed guidance on integrating ecosystem-service assessments into relevant programs and projects to help maintain ecosystem and community resilience, sustainable use of natural resources, and the recreational value of the nation’s unique landscapes.