Natural resources’ value

Thurston County’s natural resources, including its forests, wetlands, prairies and shorelines, are worth billions of dollars.

The value is defined in many ways that go far beyond quality of life to such practical things as keeping drinking water free of pollution, flood control, irrigation and other benefits that otherwise must be obtained through costly utility infrastructure such as water treatment plants, stormwater systems, pipes and dikes.

And as those natural resources are lost to development, what remains is all that more valuable, and clearly worth protecting.

A Tacoma nonprofit group called Earth Economics is making a name for itself, conducting quantitative studies of nature’s bounty that show just how precious these resources are in economic terms.

The work they’re doing in Thurston and Pierce counties, and all over the country and the globe, are redefining the debate over environmental protection and economic development.

By placing an economic value on natural resources, it becomes abundantly clear that efforts to preserve, protect and restore our forests, shorelines and open spaces are in everybody’s best interests.

Although the numbers need refining, the asset value of Thurston County’s natural resources are pegged at between $60 billion and $600 billion. The annual benefit they provide ranges from $608 million to $6.1 billion. These ranges in value are wide and need to be further refined in a follow-up study.

Federal, state and local governments represent the interests of all when these natural resource values and benefits are factored into land-use decisions.