Decision-makers are often compelled to make judgements about the value of the environment. Development, management and policy decisions typically involve trade-offs that positively affect some aspects of the issue under consideration, while negatively affecting others. Comparing which alternative is better than another can be very challenging, especially when the alternatives are like comparing apples to oranges. For example, clearing land for a housing development could increase jobs and incomes, but might also reduce species habitat and water quality. How should the decision-maker compare these vastly different dimensions? These difficult decisions have to be made all the time, but are they made with enough thought to the intrinsic values of the natural environment?
There doesn’t seem to be a standardized method in this province to assign values to environmental services and resources. This is understandable, as uncertainty regarding environmental impacts, differences in social values across individuals and groups, as well as other factors, make this a challenging task. However, good environmental management and decision-making needs a systematic way to evaluate and consider the effects of decisions on the public and the environment. A local toolkit could help both public and private decision-makers assess environmental value, which would provide important information to help guide development. They are hoping that someone at Memorial could complete research on this topic to help develop this useful toolkit, while also bring the issue to the attention of the people who could use it.