Spotlight on Duke in Washington: Ecosystems Forum Hosts Federal Stakeholders

Recently spotted in and around the Duke in Washington office were members of the National Ecosystems Services Partnership (NESP), an initiative of Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. On their schedule were meetings for its Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services (FRMES) project, which seeks to provide guidance to federal agencies on how to plan and manage ecosystem services. These meetings served as a forum for sharing research and reports between Duke staff and federal stakeholders.

Below, Lydia Olander, Director of the NESP, talks about the goals and practical applications of the FRMES project.

DiW: Tell us a little about the Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services project and what you hope to accomplish through it?
LO: The FRMES project is designed to do two things:

  • Bring together a cross-agency community to share ideas and build a consistent understanding and use of ecosystem services in the context of federal resource management and planning.
  • Develop a guidebook for agencies that explores how ecosystem services can be used, given agency legal authorities and mandates, common decision processes, and current planning and management assessment methods.  The guidebook will consider the contexts within which different agencies would be applying ecosystem services frameworks, including a series of case studies from a number of agency partners.  It also will contain a technical element: methods for conducting ecosystem services assessments and guidance on a common framework for quantifying ecosystem services and evaluating trade-offs.

DiW: How do these initial meetings contribute to the bigger conversation on ecosystem services?
LO: There is deep interest in the concept of ecosystem services across many federal resource agencies as well as at the executive level, especially with respect to how it could improve decision making and help agencies better manage public land and water resources.  Although it draws on concepts and research that agencies and academics have been developing for many years, ecosystem services is a new enterprise in many respects.

Both methods and perceptions among resource managers, academics, and federal decision makers continue to evolve. By working with agencies and outside experts through the FRMES project and especially in meetings such as the one held recently in Washington, D.C., this project will develop the credible, consistent methods and community of engaged practitioners necessary to advance agencies’ integration of ecosystem services approaches into their resource planning and decision making.

While our project is focused on informing planning processes in agencies that manage public lands and waters, there are a broader suite of applications. For example, the framework, methods, and examples explored in the guidebook could inform air and water quality rule makings or large-scale restoration efforts, such as those being developed in response to Hurricane Sandy.