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The safe minimum standard of conservation and endangered species: a review

  • Robert P. Berrens (a1)


The safe minimum standard (SMS) approach is a collective choice process that prescribes protecting a minimum level of a renewable natural resource unless the social costs of doing so are somehow excessive or intolerably high. Arguments for the SMS are typically invoked in settings involving considerable uncertainty and potentially irreversible losses. However, the SMS is most commonly viewed as existing only on the periphery of thought in traditional environmental and resource economics. The specific objectives are: (1) to define the SMS approach generally and examine theoretical support, particularly for its application in endangered species decision settings; (2) to examine the relationship between an SMS approach and benefit-cost analysis (BCA); (3) to examine the relationship between an SMS approach and non-market valuation; (4) to compare an SMS approach to alternative definitions of sustainability; and (5) to review the general consistency of the SMS approach with the USA's Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended. Recent attention on this pragmatic policy approach has been something far greater than cursory, with advances and detailed discussions on theoretical considerations, philosophical underpinnings and case study applications. While the SMS emerges as a fairly coarse policy instrument, its pragmatic value is seen in complex environmental policy applications, such as endangered species protection.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Dr Robert P. Berrens Tel: +1 505 2779004 Fax: +1 505 2779445 e-mail:



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