Cost of ecology new unit's focus

by Sean Kelly
Staff writer

How much should British Columbians pay to increase wilderness protection? How much cost should fishers bear to bring back coho salmon?

Issues like these will be the focus of the new Eco-Risk Research Unit (ERRU) at UBC.

According to ERRU Director Tim McDaniels, the research unit will bring up-to-date technical knowledge, strategies and analytical methods to bear on key environmental policy questions.

"Society has to think about how they make decisions regarding such questions," says McDaniels, an associate professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) and the Institute for Resources and Environment (IRE).

"Ecological risk as well as human values are key parts of solutions which balance environmental, economic and social goals. Human decisions are changing the environment rapidly. The stakes are high and they call for insightful research that crosses disciplinary boundaries."

The research unit brings together UBC policy analysts, risk management specialists and scientists from economics, psychology, ecology, engineering, law and other fields, including SCARP Director William Rees and Prof. Tony Dorcey.

The UBC group has established a long-term partnership with Decision Research, a non-profit research institute based in Eugene, Ore.

ERRU members already collaborate on several ongoing projects with Decision Research, including an estuary management study in Tillamook, Ore., and a study of public perceptions of ecological risk conducted at UBC.

McDaniels says in the future the unit will take on projects funded by both the private and public sector.