Ecosystem management may extend multiple use management, where economists identify and value a complex mix of ecosystem outputs. The dominant theme in conservation biology favors “safe minimum standard” (SMS) constraints on ecosystem attributes, which respond to complex and purely uncertain ecological knowledge and lead economists toward valuation questions that identify “tolerable” constraints. A hierarchical SMS constraint raises substitution possibilities among ecosystem-level components. Economists may identify unavoidable resource tradeoffs, such as in allocating land among elements of a reserve network, particularly when ecological wealth differs among geographically dispersed human communities. Economic and ecological ironies obfuscate intuitive contributions to ecosystem management policy.