Incorporating Natural Infrastructure and Ecosystem Services in Federal Decision-Making (Memorandum for Executive Departments and Agencies)

President Obama released new policy guidance directing Federal agencies to begin incorporating ecosystem services in Federal planning and decision-making. The memorandum directs agencies to develop and institutionalize policies that promote consideration of ecosystem services, where appropriate and practicable, in planning, investment, and regulatory contexts. It also establishes a process for the Federal government to develop a more detailed guidance on integrating ecosystem-service assessments into relevant programs and projects to help maintain ecosystem and community resilience, sustainable use of natural resources, and the recreational value of the Nation’s unique landscapes.

The stated goal of this memorandum and subsequent implementation guidance is to better integrate into Federal decision making due consideration of the full range of benefits and tradeoffs among ecosystem services associated with potential Federal actions, including benefits and costs that may not be recognized in private markets because of the public-good nature of some ecosystem services.

According to the memorandum, implementation will entail the development of a description of current agency practices, and a work plan to meet the policy directive to be submitted to CEQ by March 30, 2016.  This initial process will take place over a 14 month period where federal agencies first submit plans, within six months, on how they will integrate ecosystem services assessments into decision frameworks.

The description and work plans required are to characterize the current state of agency practice and provide a narrative description of current challenges, if any, which could or do impede the consideration of ecosystem services in Federal decision making. Each agency’s work plan will lay out how it intends to move toward the goals of this policy directive.

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will develop the implementation guidance, to be issued as an appendix to this memorandum. Following the release of the implementation guidance, agencies will be expected to revise and refine their work plans to show that they are consistent with that document. Revised work plans will be submitted to CEQ within 120 days of the release of the final implementation guidance.



Publication Date: October 7, 2015

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