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Fundamentals of estimating the net benefits of ecosystem preservation: The case of the Salton Sea

Kurt Schwabe, Peter W. Schuhmann, Kenneth A. Baerenklau, Nermin Nergis | July 15th, 2008

This article, both theoretical and methodological in nature, argues the potential merits of using a net benefits’ framework as a tool to aid policy-makers in their efforts to compare Salton Sea restoration alternatives and inform the public as to the potential magnitude and distribution of trade-offs associated with each alternative. A net benefits approach can provide a more accurate comparison and evaluation of the potential net returns from public spending on Salton Sea restoration than what wouldbe provided under the suggested criteria of current legislative mandates.

Furthermore, a net benefits framework provides a more lucid and systematic accounting framework by which to enumerate the full array of benefits and costs of each alternative for policy analysis. Finally, net benefits’ analysis serves to add transparency to the decision-making process sothat the public gains an understanding of how its scarce resources, including both financial and natural capital, are being appropriated. Additionally, we illustrate and emphasize the importance of estimating the non-market values associated with many of the ecosystem services provided by the Salton Sea and describe the major techniques that do so.


agricultural drainage, economic analysis, ecosystem restoration, fugitive dust, planning and management, risk assessment, Salton Sea