Forestry is an economic industry operating in the Lake Champlain watershed that has a direct impact on the aesthetic qualities of the lake. While the cutting of trees provides an economic stimulus to the surrounding area, it can have negative effects on the ecosystems ability to function, regulate and provide society. In addition, preserving trees on properties around the lake can increase property values and make an area of land more appealing, valuable and appreciated (Lake Champlain Management Conference). Studies have even shown that planting new trees on a parcel of land increase its value (Ohio DNR). Some view forestry in a positive light, while others view it negatively.
There is currently lots of debate surrounding how to best manage our forest resources, and environmental analysis of forestry has grown tremendously as more emphasis is put onto the ecosystem services that healthy forests provide. Around Lake Champlain, development and industry have sacrificed some of the forest resources available to us, and as a result the economic, aesthetic and other ecosystem services of the region have been affected. Because our forest assets are partially non-excludable and non-rival, a lack of appreciation of the benefits reaped from them has been the cause of a lack of sustainable forest management in the past (Cavatassi 3). Despite the fact that it is difficult to put a monetary value on our forest resources, that does not give us the reasoning or the right to exploit them for short-term economic benefit.
The total economic value of a forest can be broken down into three categories of value; use value, option value and non-use value. Use value deals with the direct and indirect benefits we receive related to the use of forest goods and timber, as well as the ecosystem services that the forest provides (Cavatassi 9). Direct use values are consumed directly by society and include timber and fuel we harvest from forests. Indirect use values include flood control, carbon sequestration and animal habitat. The option value consists of any future direct or indirect use values that will potentially be reaped in the future by keeping a piece of forest intact today. Some of the options values gained from keeping a forested area intact include biodiversity preservation and habitat conservation (Cavatassi 9).
Non-use values of forestry offer little tangibility to humans, but their worth is extremely important. Non-use values are comprised of bequest values and existence values. The bequest value of a forest is the value of leaving both use and non-use values for future generations (Cavatassi 10). Existence values deal with the value we attain from our knowledge that a forest will remain intact, and the benefits of habitat preservation and endangered specie conservation (Cavatassi).
When we consider clearing a forest, it is important to factor in all costs involved in the process. Aside from the direct costs of converting a forest to another type of space, but also the future values that could have been enjoyed but were lost as a result of the conversion (Cavatassi 26). Instead of focusing solely on short-term economic gain from the harvesting of resources like forests, we should be putting more focus on the present and future intangible benefits we are receiving from our forested lands. In order to keep the Lake Champlain watershed healthy, it is crucial that we put well thought out forest management practices into play. By keeping our forests around, we are helping to ensure that Lake Champlain and its surrounding areas can be enjoyed by generations to come.
Cavatassi, Romina. “Valuation Methods for Environmental Benefits in Forestry and Watershed Investment Projects.” Agricultural and Development Economics Division, Food and Agriculture Organization 1 (2004): n. pag. ideas.repec.org. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
Lake Champlain Executive Summary (1996). Economic Analysis of the Draft Final Plan for Lake Champlain Management Conference. Retrieved on April 18th, 2010 from http://adirondackresearch.com/projects/hlakechamplain.html
Lakekeeper (2009). Conservation Law Foundation. Retrieved on April 19th, 2010 from http://www.clf.org/work/CWHF/lakechamplain/ind ex.html