Healthy forest ecosystems are ecological life-support systems. Forests provide a full suite of goods and services that are vital to human health and livelihood, natural assets we call ecosystem services.
Many of these goods and services are traditionally viewed as free benefits to society, or "public goods" - wildlife habitat and diversity, watershed services, carbon storage, and scenic landscapes, for example. Lacking a formal market, these natural assets are traditionally absent from society’s balance sheet; their critical contributions are often overlooked in public, corporate, and individual decision-making.
When our forests are undervalued they are increasingly susceptible to development pressures and conversion. Recognizing forest ecosystems as natural assets with economic and social value can help promote conservation and more responsible decision-making.
The Forest Service is exploring national opportunities to advance markets and payments for ecosystem services. With help from our partners and others, we will encourage broader thinking and collaboration that stimulates market-based conservation and stewardship.
Updated: November 21, 2011 4:00 PM