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Socioeconomic Factors

Introduction - Historical Overview - Socioeconomic Profile

Socioeconomic Profile - Introduction

Introduction | Social and Demographic Factors | The Economy | Projected Trends

Consideration of socioeconomic factors is essential for fully understanding most resource management issues and for making sound resource management decisions. A survey of historical economic and demographic activity can help to explain current geophysical and ecological conditions, such as hydrology, land use, water quality, and species diversity. An understanding of the makeup and extent of past and current industrialization, for example, could help to explain the presence and contemporary value of the dams that obstruct fish passage, the types of contaminants that are likely to be present behind those dams, and the economic and political pressures that may promote or inhibit their removal or modification.

Consideration of projected future economic and demographic trends can help resource managers anticipate and plan for, rather than simply react to, future activities that will impact the environment. Understanding the human demands on the physical resources upon which the natural ecological systems also depend can help resource managers identify the beneficiaries of environmental preservation and restoration actions, as well as those who will bear the brunt of the social and economic costs. Awareness of poverty, racial, and ethnic attributes of the surrounding population help resource managers meet the economic and social goals inherent in federal law and policy such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Presidential Executive Order 12898. Awareness of past industrial activities can help resource managers predict and explain the nature of contaminants that are buried in marine sediments. Michael Orbach, Professor of Marine Affairs and Policy and Director of Duke University's Marine Laboratory stated:

Management of ecosystems occurs both through private sector effort and through the mechanism of public policy. In either case, what is being "managed" is not the physical environment directly, but the human behavior associated with that physical environment... All "management," whether emanating from the private or public sector, involves human value-based decision making. The policies upon which such management is based necessarily reflect underlying human values... The fact that humans want to conserve natural resources is a value standard defined by humans themselves. Policies that allocate the use or benefits of natural resources are clearly based on value decisions concerning that use or benefit (Orbach 1995).

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Orbach, M.K. 1995. Social science contributions to managing ecosystems. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. November 1-3, 1994, Kennebunkport, Maine.

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Project Partner web pages - RIHRT, CRMC, NBEP, STB

This site was created through a partnership of the:

Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®