Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services valuation on the Shoshone National Forest for targeted stakeholders connected to highly relevant water-based benefits.

With a history of presence of American Indian people for over 8000 years and a pioneer history connected to cattle and agriculture, the Shoshone National Forest and the Big Horn Basin generally provides many traditional values to both modern agricultural and native cultures. An initial Q-methodology vulnerability analysis better articulated climate change vulnerability and sensitivity issues surrounding water-based social benefits from the Shoshone National Forest, including 1) role of recreational benefits for water-based visitors and residents, 2) economic contributions of water-based human activities (floating, sport-fishing, subsistence), 3) biodiversity contributions with focus on key fish species (e.g., Yellowstone cutthroat trout), 4) economic contributions of ecological flow to agriculture and other domestic users, 5) traditional uses and meanings for indigenous people, and 6) ecological flow values to off-site users for rural and urban residents (emotional or symbolic meanings, beyond economic contributions).

The Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute has been funding and is interested in expanding recent social science team efforts (cooperative with The University of Montana, Shoshone National Forest, Crow Agency and Wind River Reservation) to understand climate change (and other drivers, particularly land use change) influence on the flow of ecosystem services from lands and water protected for natural and wilderness characteristics. The recently completed stakeholder assessment of strength of relevance of a set of 34 place-specific, culture specific water-based ecosystem services values, was a crucial precedent to modeling effects of various drivers on these services in the future. Immediately important planned work includes working with the four major perspectives identified in this assessment (tribal, environmental, recreation and production) to understand the relative values of threatened ecosystem services due to climate change influences on flow of water from protected and unprotected landscapes.