Multi-criteria, Dynamic and Place Based Approach to Ecosystem Valuation
This one-year planning project explores a new approach to ecosystem valuation by developing a multi-criteria system of environmental valuation for use within locally based ecosystem management processes. Emphasis will be on three objectives: (1) to refine the theoretical aspects of a proposed multi-criteria, dynamic, and place-based approach to environmental valuation; (2) to identify and propose alternative methodologies for empirically studying community-based processes for articulating goals for environmental management, paying special attention to measuring how the values/preferences of participants change as a result of participation in such processes; and (3) to establish working relationships with two currently existing watershed management projects in Northern Georgia, one in the rural Etowah River watershed and one in the rapidly urbanizing Lake Lanier area on the Chattahoochee River. The principal investigators, working with an Advisory Committee, will establish linkages between emerging theories of multi-criteria decision criteria and new, iterative, and participatory processes for identifying, clarifying, and reconciling competing values. The theory to be explored hypothesizes that, in addition to well known value differences among stakeholder groups, there are also important conflicts between short-term, individual values as measured by actual and hypothetical valuation techniques of economists and the longer-term values that represent the aspirations of a community. The investigators will develop and refine an iterative, community-based process to empirically study changes in values in response to discussions that encourage contrasts between immediate preferences and more community-based, multi-generational values. Specifically, the investigators will delineate the scope and context of the case studies, identify group participants (which will likely include stakeholders, citizens, scientists, decision-makers, a moderator or facilitator, and the research team), and design the group processes and empirical instruments (such as interview protocols, surveys, and analytic procedures for operationalizing and measuring preference changes). This research will provide a new system for examining community values, a system that differs both theoretically and methodologically from the more usual, single-criterion valuation approach (such as cost-benefit analysis). The approach differs theoretically from welfare economics by considering the impacts of social interaction and participation in management processes on valuations made by citizens (rather than seeking aggregations of valuations by individuals acting atomistically), and also by expecting citizens' inputs into valuation processes to change in response to context and as a result of interactions with other citizens (rather than treating preferences as stable and unquestioned). These theoretical departures from usual valuational work will shift emphasis from `snapshot` studies of fixed preferences toward study of an iterative process by which scientists, stake holder groups, the public, and agency staff interact in a search for consensually accepted goals for environmental management.
|Georgia Institute of Technology|
|October, 1997 to October, 1998|
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