Trust Our Land: The human benefit of protecting nature goes beyond scenery (column) | VailDaily.com

Trust Our Land: The human benefit of protecting nature goes beyond scenery (column)

Jim Daus and Darci Palmquist
Trust our Land

We don't have to tell Eagle Valley residents and visitors about the pure pleasure and enjoyment of our lands — one step outside as the golden aspens become blanketed in snow and our valley prepares for another winter fills us with an overwhelming sense of peace, calm and gratitude, which tells us more than words can describe.

But what other ways does our land benefit us, beyond what we experience when we walk outside and enjoy it?

Nature provides numerous benefits to humans, from the pure pleasure of experiencing it to the food and water it provides us. How is it possible, then, to put a price on something so priceless? In answer, the Land Trust Alliance and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program have partnered to produce a downloadable brochure called "Investing in Nature: The Economic Benefits of Protecting Our Lands and Waters."

Having a good estimate of nature's value allows communities to make informed land-management decisions and effectively advocate for land protection. More experts are quantifying the economic worth of nature's benefits, and the press is picking up on these stories. And research shows that land conservation has an impressive economic worth in the form of tourism and jobs, health-care savings, water-quality protection, natural-disaster mitigation and more.

“Having a good estimate of nature’s value allows communities to make informed land-management decisions and effectively advocate for land protection. More experts are quantifying the economic worth of nature’s benefits, and the press is picking up on these stories.”

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Here's a sampling of benefits from the brochure, as authored by Darci Palmquist:

• Health: Nature is good for you — from reducing stress and depression to improving cardiovascular health, research shows that nature can help people be healthier and spend less on medical costs. Access to natural areas, such as parks and greenways, helps ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from nature's medicine.

• Clean water: Forests, grasslands and wetlands help filter storm water and recharge groundwater. By protecting the lands around water sources, we can provide clean drinking water to people and reduce water treatment costs.

• Local economies: How can land and water protection boost local economies? Experts are connecting the dots using economic-impact studies that identify the value nature provides in the form of jobs, recreation, tourism, increased home prices and more.

• Storm protection — Land protection is a crucial strategy for mitigating the impacts of climate change. Marshes, wetlands, forests, mangroves and oyster reefs can reduce flooding and erosion caused by storms and defend coastal communities from sea-level rise. Protecting natural areas saves lives and property and reduces the need for expensive infrastructure, such as floodwalls and levees.

• Sustainable fisheries: Protecting marine habitats helps safeguard species diversity, improves fish populations and fosters resiliency in the face of environmental changes, while balancing fishing and recreational uses.

The brochure, which can be downloaded here, presents a snapshot of some of this research and provides a starting point for helping understand the diverse value of natural places. The Land Trust Alliance and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program created the downloadable brochure to help to support land and water protection efforts across the country. After all, the more that people understand the value nature provides, the more they will care about protecting it.

Darci Palmquist is a freelance writer and editor for environmental organization The Land Trust Alliance. Jim Daus is the executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust.