Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Regional Research Institute

Document Number



Regional Research Institute


When assessing people’s values for the natural environment, a variety of methodological approaches may be required. This is because value pluralism negates the ability to reduce the various kinds of values to a single conception of value or super-value. Environmental valuation endeavors are defined by the question to be answered. However, for some people, the methodology employed may conflict with their perception of the issue and what values are most important to them, i.e., the methods employed are not globally incentive compatible with all modes of expressing one’s values. Therefore, any single disciplinary approach to environmental valuation may ignore these most important values, or restrict, in an unacceptable fashion, a person’s ability to express her values. No single disciplinary valuation methodology is necessary and sufficient for providing information regarding all of the values confronted in environmental decisions. In recognizing a plurality of values comes the realization that each disciplinary approach to valuation is bounded by its theoretical assumptions. A comprehensive environmental values assessment must be multi-disciplinary in scope.

An integrative hierarchical framework for environmental values is proposed (figure 1). The hierarchy is based on the notion of a prepotency of certain kinds of values over others leading directly to the use of a plurality of decision strategies. The different value levels in the hierarchy are constructed from the role of thresholds, or non-compensatory evaluations, of environmental issues. By approaching environmental problems with an awareness of a plurality of values, decision-makers may be more tolerant toward multi-disciplinary endeavors, resulting in better management and policy that is balanced, democratic, and holistic. A democratic process is suggested to deal with competing value claims and evaluate management and policy, which also promotes an environment in which concerned individuals can adapt to, evolve with, and learn from continually changing circumstances. Environmental management should be pluralistic in philosophy, pragmatic in practice, and contextual in process. Several topics are discussed for potential future research.