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MPR News

How do you put a monetary value on nature?

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Can you put a dollar value on a tree? Or a lake? Or another natural space?

MPR News' Elizabeth Dunbar, who covers the environment and climate change, talked with Mark Tercek, the president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy, about the value of nature. 

Before joining the Nature Conservancy, Tercek was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs. These two positions — banker and conservationist — aren't that different, he says. 

As an investment banker, "we forecast what can be achieved, what kind of investment returns can be accomplished and we raise capital to make those things happen," Trecek said. "That's what we try to do at the Nature Conservancy too. We bring people together, find common ground, address important challenges and invest to achieve specific tangible goals and outcomes. It's not as different as you might think at first glance."

One of the Nature Conservancy's current projects is a $10 million fund aimed at protecting forest and wetlands in northern Minnesota. Dunbar and Tercek discussed the project, and the necessity of investing in nature. 

"There are lots of reasons to protect nature. We think protecting nature is simply the morally responsible thing to do," Tercek said. "We believe ardently we owe our children and grandchildren natural systems as wonderful as the ones we've experienced."