Where’s the River?

Our communities face difficult decisions when it comes to managing the Boise River and the ecosystem it supports.

There was a time when natural resources were plentiful. The notion that humans could one day destroy the Earth’s ecosystems and the stream of  benefits that flow from them was long absent from economic discussion. The policy that guides today’s decisions-makers, commonly referred to as the “market economy,” came about during during that time of perceived limitless natural capital.

However, natural resources are not limitless.  Humans have depleted many of them faster than they can be restored; fouled the air, land and water; and failed to comprehend that ecosystem health affects their own. This short video produced by the Natural Capital Project is a great introduction to the problem.

Many benefits that the Boise River and its ecosystem provides are viewed as “free” or “public goods” – plant and wildlife habitat, water storage and purification, outdoor classrooms and scenic landscapes, for example. Lacking a place in the market economy, these diverse natural benefits are absent from the balance sheet; their critical importance is overlooked in public, corporate, and individual decision-making.

The first purpose of the Where’s the River? project is to increase public understanding of all of the values of the Boise River, and to inspire our communities to bring that understanding to each and every decision. In other words, to enter the full value of the Boise River on the balance sheet.

Significant new commercial, industrial and residential development is expected in the Boise River watershed. Hardrock mines, natural gas fracking, gravel mines, water storage structures, bridges, roads, planned communities, housing developments and lots of other construction have been or may be proposed. Proponents of such activities are quick to identify their associated economic benefits; they ignore or downplay their direct and indirect impacts on the Boise River ecosystem. When the Boise River ecosystem is undervalued, it is susceptible to such development pressures and the resulting loss of its ecological function and integrity.

The second purpose of the Where’s the River? project is to make sure that all Boise River ecosystem benefits are accurately described and measured, where possible, and that decisionmakers have this information and take it into consideration.


Boise River at Risk

Boise Basin Ecosystem Services Assessment Report

US Forest Service Valuing Ecosystem Services

Ecological Society of America Fact Sheet

Natural Capital Project