Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012ID179B

An Ecosystem Services Analysis of the Boise River Basin

Institute: Idaho
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2013-09-30
Total Federal Funds: $10,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $20,000

Principal Investigators: Scott Lowe

Abstract: Recent proposals for industrial and commercial developments in the Boise River Basin (BRB), such as headwater mines, new dams, and lower-river residential development, have involved proponents that have identified the positive economic benefits associated with these activities; the opponents of these projects have identified their potential negative impacts on the ecology, recreational values and services provided by the BRB. Arguments made by both groups have illuminated the need for a holistic ecosystem services accounting (including both market-based and non-market based costs and benefits,) in their analyses. One group, Idaho Rivers United, through their Boise River Values Project, have indicated that an accurate measurement of the ecosystem services associated with the BRB is vital for the continued success of their larger Boise River Campaign and in their effort to win protections for the BRB. The IRU has indicated that the primary arguments in many of the long-running policy discussions that they face are focusing more and more on economic questions. In addition, they have realized that BRB conservationists are ill informed and ill-equipped to engage effectively in economic debates. As a result, the direct benefits, as well as the non-market ecosystem services, are grossly undervalued or ignored completely as policy makers evaluate issues like new mines and dams, water security and development in the floodplain. Similarly, a number of recent Boise State University research proposals to the National Science Foundation have focused on the BRB. None of the proposals identified here have been funded, and most referee reports have identified the social science component as one of the weak points to the proposals specifically, the relationships between human populations and water systems. A thorough survey of the existing literature and data available is necessary as a starting point to build expertise in this area. The objective of this project is to conduct a thorough literature and data review of the ecosystem services associated with the BRB The final literature review will serve a number of purposes, but most importantly it will enable future research efforts on the BRB by identifying, articulating and beginning to build the justification for a value assessment for the market-based and non-market ecosystem services associated with the BRB. We believe that a major contribution of the project will be to develop a literature and data review with four areas of emphasis: First, a large-scale identification of all potential ecosystem services in the BRB; second, a collection of all existing economic analyses of the ecosystem services in the BRB; third, a review of external studies that have presented valuations for the (similar) ecosystem services identified in area of emphasis one, above; fourth, a review of existing local and regional data that can be used to address the deficiencies in measures of ecosystem services in the BRB. We anticipate that the second area of emphasis above will be relatively short, and that the first area of emphasis will require the undergraduate research assistant to conduct interviews and hold conversations with a number of stakeholders and interested parties.