Bush gets one right

The Bush administration last week broke free of an often-used practice that places someone in a position largely for the purpose of undermining the mission of it. That has been especially true in regards to the environment. But the old dog performed a nice new trick when Bush’s Department of Agriculture named U.S. Forest Service Associate Chief Sally Collins to its new Office of Ecosystems and Markets.

Collins’ primary role will be to assist the Secretary of Agriculture in developing “guidelines and science-based” methods that will help establish economic values for farm, ranch and forest assets that could play a role in supporting carbon trading markets designed to offset the negative effects of global warming.

What does that mean to you?

Reporter Keith Chu of the Bend (Oregon) Bulletin summed it up perfectly when he wrote that the post gives Collins “responsibility for better understanding the economic and social value of conservation and benefits generated by forests, farm and ranchland, and helping to create reliable ways to market those benefits. The basic idea behind the ecosystem services movement is that by better understanding how people benefit from natural spaces, they can properly value how to use them.”

The Wilderness Society has long pushed for this approach. Most recently, we urged the government to place value on “ecosystem services” provided by wildlands in a 2008 report, Greater than Zero, examining the value of Alaska’s national forests.

Even Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer seems to share our view.

“Our nation’s farms, ranches and forests provide goods and services that are vital to society — natural assets we call ‘ecosystem services’,” Schafer said in a press release. “The Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets will enable America’s agriculture producers to better compete, trade their services around the world, and make significant contributions to help improve the environment.”

Though the mandate to create the office stems from the 2008 farm bill, it’s important for everyone who cares about the environment to recognize that the Bush administration did well by naming Collins to the new position. She is an exceptionally competent person dedicated to combating the effects of global warming. For the outgoing president, this is a conscientious step in the right direction.