Close-up of green leaf with large drop of water

Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies

Nature's economic value in Santa Clara County

Every farmer knows you should not eat your seed corn, and every banker knows you should not spend your principal. Yet, that is exactly what we are doing with and to our natural capital.

Mark Tercek, Nature’s Fortune

Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies Initiative

This initiative is a multi-county effort to increase the pace and scale of conservation, secure new sources of funding, and enroll new allies for open space conservation and stewardship. The initiative conducts economic valuations of natural capital, or natural resources that can generate income, and documents the return on investment for land conservation and restoration. Nature's Value in Santa Clara County is one in a series of reports that document the economic value and multiple benefits of conservation in the three counties. Additional reports in the series include countywide natural asset valuations for Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties, and detailed economic analyses of benefits, costs, and job creation for conservation investments that protect drinking water supplies, agricultural viability, recreation and tourism, wildlife habitat enhancement, and climate change resiliency.

Measuring the value of nature

This initiative found that each year, Santa Clara County’s natural capital provides a stream of ecosystem services to people and the local economy that range in value from $1.6 billion to $3.9 billion. If we value the County’s natural capital in terms of infrastructure that can decrease in value over time, such as roads and bridges, the minimum value of the County's assets would be between $45 billion and $107 billion.

In order to estimate the value of ecosystem services in the Santa Clara County, the Authority uses valuation methods including the following:

  1. Marketing pricing
  2. Economic replacement cost
  3. Changes in property values
  4. Willingness to pay

The Authority evaluates ecosystem services including clean air, water quality and water supply, climate stability, moderation of storm events, wildlife habitat, pollination, soil retention, and more.

Nature's capital - a smart investment for healthy
communities and strong economies

Herd of brown cows on green grass around a large pond, four riders on horses circling the cows

Every economy requires the right balance of built, human, and natural capital. Santa Clara County faces a number of natural resource-related challenges including water scarcity, flood risk, climate change, loss of biodiversity, and declining agricultural productivity.

Innovative economic policies, funding mechanisms, and smart investments that value natural capital are essential to ensure beneficial, sustainable solutions for Santa Clara County’s continuing prosperity in the 21st century.

Recommendations include:

Accounting for ecosystem services benefits in decision making
Creating and coordinating use of new tools that optimize investments in natural capital
Supporting new market-based projects and legislation that incentivize stewardship of natural capital on public and private lands
Allocating existing and future funding to support natural capital solutions


Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies Regional Report, 2018

Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies Brochure
Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies Report - Nature's Value in Santa Clara County, 2014
Bay Area Balance: Preserving Open Space, Addressing Affordable Housing Report, 2017