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Implementing the Safe Minimum Standard Approach: Two Case Studies from the U.S. Endangered Species Act


  • Robert P. Berrens
  • David S. Brookshire
  • Michael McKee
  • Christian Schmidt


In situations characterized by true uncertainty and potential irreversibility, the safe minimum standard (SMS) approach is a decision rule to protect some critical natural resource-unless the social costs of doing so are somehow "intolerable." The SMS has been discussed widely, but actual case studies remain rare. We present two case studies, focusing on endangered fishes in the Colorado and Virgin River systems, demonstrating that the legal framework of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) is consistent with the SMS. The case studies incorporate the results from applied general equilibrium modeling and provide an avenue for investigating excessive economic consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert P. Berrens & David S. Brookshire & Michael McKee & Christian Schmidt, 1998. "Implementing the Safe Minimum Standard Approach: Two Case Studies from the U.S. Endangered Species Act," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 74(2), pages 147-161.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:74:y:1998:i:2:p:147-161

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Berrens, Robert P. & McKee, Michael & Farmer, Michael C., 1999. "Incorporating distributional considerations in the safe minimum standard approach: endangered species and local impacts," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 461-474, September.
    2. Bulte, Erwin H. & van Kooten, G. Cornelis, 2001. "Harvesting and conserving a species when numbers are low: population viability and gambler's ruin in bioeconomic models," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 87-100, April.
    3. Solomon, Barry D. & Corey-Luse, Cristi M. & Halvorsen, Kathleen E., 2004. "The Florida manatee and eco-tourism: toward a safe minimum standard," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 101-115, September.
    4. Irmi Seidl & Clem Tisdell, 2001. "Neglected Features of the Safe Minimum Standard: Socio-economic and Institutional Dimensions," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 59(4), pages 417-442.
    5. Grijalva, Therese & Berrens, Robert P. & Shaw, W. Douglass, 2011. "Species preservation versus development: An experimental investigation under uncertainty," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(5), pages 995-1005, March.
    6. Farmer, Michael C., 2001. "Getting the safe minimum standard to work in the real world: a case study in moral pragmatism," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 209-226, August.
    7. Palmini, Dennis, 1999. "Uncertainty, risk aversion, and the game theoretic foundations of the safe minimum standard: a reassessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 463-472, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q26 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Recreational Aspects of Natural Resources


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