SAN JOSE (KCBS)— A new study is attempting to put a dollar amount on the value of nature and other open spaces in Silicon Valley. But how do you commodify things like mountains, lakes, streams and meadows?

You may be surprised that the study actually comes from preservationists with the Santa Clara Open Space Authority that are tyring to make dollars and sense with this abstract concept.

“Never before have we really looked at nature from the dollar value. What does it return back to the local economy?” said Andrea Mackenzie the general manager from Santa Clara County Open Space Authority.

She said the new study shows that the Silicon Valley’s natural capital is worth at least $1.6 billion. That figure includes everything from water supply to wildlife habitat, to farmland and recreational areas.

“We see this as a platform to drive investment in nature, open space and farmland in the greater Bay region over the long term,” she said. “This information is really critical because it can’t just reside in our land conservation agencies. It has to be used in our planning, in our policy and in our investments.”

Mackenzie said the study should be taken into account when it comes to conservation efforts, especially when public and private foundation money are distributed so that the biggest impact is felt.

Already 1.3 million acres are protected in the Bay Area, but Mackenzie said remaining open spaces are threatened by global warming and development.


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