Genuine Progress Indicator Adapted for Economic Planning of Vermont’s Landscape

Project Title: 

Forest Foundations of the Genuine Progress Indicator: Macroeconomic Policy and Planning for the Vermont Landscape

Award Year: 
Jon D. Erickson
University of Vermont
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
Eric Zencey
University of Vermont
Colin Beier
SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry
Andrea Colnes
Energy Action Network, VT
Lauren-Glenn Davitian
Common Good Vermont
Jamey Fidel
Vermont Natural Resources Council
Kate McCarthy
Vermont Natural Resources Council
Jeb Spaulding
State of Vermont
Peter Victor
York University, ON

Since the Great Depression, economic growth has been measured by gross domestic product (GDP): the annual value of goods and services produced within an economy. When decision makers prioritize GDP growth at all costs, private development and harvest pressures on forestlands can increase at the expense of the broader public benefits of sustaining the forest base. As nonrenewable resources are depleted, economies turn to renewables to continue growing. As other timber producing regions of the world boom and bust, industry will return to Northern Forest.

The shortcomings of GDP as an economic policy guide and measure of sustainable economic welfare have long been recognized. Alternative macroeconomic measures include the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), which was developed at the national scale to measure the long-term, net benefits of economic activity, including forestland use and management. Vermont leads the nation in development, adoption, and implementation of new indicators, such as the GPI.

This project builds on recent advances at the state and regional scales for measuring GPI and modeling the net benefits of forest utilization and policy in Vermont. NSRC researchers will incorporate forest ecosystem services into a larger macroeconomic accounting framework of GPI to model policy decisions on forest taxation, land valuation, and biomass energy development at the state-level. Evaluating different scenarios of long-term forest land use trends and alternatives can then inform a full analysis of the economic, social, and environmental trade-offs in state, regional, and national forest policy choices.