Sustainability has become a frequently used term in discussions of natural resource management and policy. Ecosystem management is generally perceived as having "sustainability" as the objective. The role of economics in sustainable ecosystem management is a subject of considerable debate.
Views on the relationship between economics and sustainability vary dramatically. At one extreme is the view that economics is inherently at odds with sustainability and should be discarded. At the other extreme is the view that economic markets are best at determining resource decisions, and that technology change will indefinitely substitute for resource depletion. A less extreme view is that economics has the capability to provide useful information about sustainability if the economic model/approach is properly specified.
Resource management decisions in the United States are made in an environment that incorporates a number of factors in addition to economic effects. Social effects, political effects, and laws and regulations are important factors that affect resource management decisions. Economic effects can be treated as a separate set of information to be compared with other effects. Alternatively, economics can be used to evaluate efficiency within constraints imposed by other factors.
Key words: sustainability, economics, ecosystem management.
Correspondence: Linda L. Langner, USDA Forest Service, Resources Program and Assessment Staff-4SW, 201 14th St.SW, Washington, D.C. 20250, USA