Buying into conservation: intrinsic versus instrumental value.

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Many conservation biologists believe the best ethical basis for conserving natural entities is their claimed intrinsic value, not their instrumental value for humans. But there is significant confusion about what intrinsic value is and how it could govern conservation decision making. After examining what intrinsic value is supposed to be, we argue that it cannot guide the decision making conservation requires. An adequate ethical basis for conservation must do this, and instrumental value does it best.





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Justus, James, Mark Colyvan, Helen Regan and Lynn Maguire (2009). Buying into conservation: intrinsic versus instrumental value. Trends Ecol Evol, 24(4). pp. 187–191. 10.1016/j.tree.2008.11.011 Retrieved from

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Lynn A. Maguire

Professor of the Practice Emeritus

Dr. Maguire's current research uses a combination of methods from decision analysis, environmental conflict resolution and social psychology to study environmental decision making. She focuses on collaborative decision processes where values important to the general public and stakeholders must be combined with technical analysis to determine management strategies. Her recent applications of decision analysis include the management of rare species, invasive species, and wildfire risk. Dr. Maguire is also using the principles of decision analysis to improve multicriteria rating systems, such as those used to set conservation priorities, and to develop frameworks used to value ecosystem services. She is involved in both empirical and conceptual research on perceptions of the time value of environmental resources, such as endangered species, and on the mismatches in timescales of ecological, social and political systems. Recent and current collaborations on timescales, ecosystem services and prioritization of endangered species recovery efforts have been facilitated by the National Center for Socioenvironmental Synthesis (SESYNC).

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