A lot of things found in and around the Great Lakes can be bought and sold – from drinking water to lakefront property. Still, some features of the lakes – like its ecosystem – are not for sale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jim Meadows reports… a new study tries to measure the value of something many consider priceless:
A lot of things found in and around the Great Lakes can be bought and sold, from drinking water to lakefront property. Still, some features of the lakes — like its ecosystem — are not for sale. The Great Lakes Consortium’s Jim Meadows reports a new study tries to measure the value of something many consider priceless.
The Lake Michigan Federation says there’s no commodity price for healthy fish and birds living around Lake Michigan — but that people are willing to pay to preserve them. A study prepared for the Federation at the University of Illinois at Chicago estimates how much people would pay — the so-called “natural capital” value of the southern Lake Michigan shoreline. Anna Cooper, who worked on the study, says their numbers could play a role in future decisions about the lake. Just one example she gives is the decision in Chicago to close a small airport along the lakeshore. Meigs would be closed, and the land used for other purposes.
“You know, if it could be shown that having that area as a natural preserve or changing it back into a wetland or something like that, if that could be shown to be basically cost-effective, that people … would value those species and that habitat more than they would value that land put to another use.”
The study estimates Chicago area residents are willing to pay 117 to 197 dollars per household to preserve the lakeshore ecosystem – for a total natural capital value of roughly three to five billion dollars per year, but it’s only an estimate. The Lake Michigan Federation’s Joel Brammeier says they couldn’t afford to do an actual survey of residents — so they extrapolated.
“In this study, we employed a technique called benefits transfer, which is the transferring of data from one study with a similar species and situation to a new region, in this case the Chicago region.”
Still, Brammeier says their study is a good conservative estimate of how much Chicagoans value the lakeshore ecosystem, and he believes other parts of the Great Lakes would also benefit from a valuation of their natural capital. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jim Meadows.