Bruce Barcott has written a fine piece on efforts to set a monetary value to wilderness areas:
The lyrical phrases of John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and David Brower never came with dollar signs attached. They couldn't. In bill and coin, nobody in those days could say what wilderness was worth. Now we can. Studies of rivers and lakes reveal that healthy watersheds provide millions of dollars' worth of water filtration, just one of many such natural services critical for healthy communities. Researchers digging into the economy of the West are finding that forests often have a higher cash value standing than they have as cut timber. Small towns born as logging outposts now thrive as recreation gateways.
"Fifteen years ago we knew intuitively that cutting down these forests didn't make sense," says Bob Freimark, Pacific Northwest director of the Wilderness Society. "We couldn't point to any economic studies to back us up. But not anymore."
(via Triple Pundit)