Project Report:
Creating Decision Support Tools Based on Ecosystem Services & Values
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


The purpose of this project is to solicit stakeholder input in the creation of a computer-based decision support tool that will help people around the bay balance ecological, social and economic considerations when participating in regulatory, marine management and land use decisions that affect the bay. We will reach out to our Frenchman Bay Partners (FBP) and other stakeholders who have not yet engaged in the FBP process, including members of the business and real estate community. We will ask them to help identify the ecosystem services provided by Frenchman Bay and assign value to them. By helping to identify and determine values for ecosystem services, stakeholders will be invested in the decision support tool and be likely to use it to make decisions. Understanding the value of these services and the ecological processes that produce them is critical for ensuring the ecological and economic sustainability of the bay and the communities it supports.


We have made progress toward achieving our goals as outlined in our grant proposal.

Goal #1: Engage stakeholders in identifying ecosystem services, the interactions between those services, and their value.

Project partners from Cardno, MDI Biological Laboratory, University of Maine, and Maine Coast Heritage Trust held a series of phone conferences to plan a stakeholder event for local businesses that would serve to educate and engage participants in development of a decision support tool for Frenchman Bay. We decided to host two back-to-back stakeholder events, one on Nov. 12th, 2014 with our Frenchman Bay Partner group that would help us trial the process, and the second one on Nov. 13th, 2014 with a group of local business owners—a stakeholder group that we hoped to engage further in the future.

Frenchman Bay Partners were contacted directly through e-mail contacts. We featured the event in our e-newsletter and posted an invitation on the Frenchman Bay Partner website. In order to recruit members of the business community, we worked with Bar Harbor Rotary Club, Swan Real Estate Agency, and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce to identify and contact businesses about participation in a stakeholder event. The Bar Harbor Rotary Club communicated with its members by e-mail about our event. The Swan Real Estate Agency sent out e-mails to over 100 brokers and banks. The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce gave us a mailing list and we sent out 200 letters to business owners in the Bar Harbor area, informing about the work of the Frenchman Bay Partners and inviting them to a “Dine and Discuss” event at Galyn’s, a popular restaurant in Bar Harbor. We received RSVPs from 19 business owners. We developed a survey that would educate participants about ecosystem services as well as let them practice with trade-off questions, to get them ready for our stakeholder events. Frenchman Bay Partners and business owners were sent similar versions of an on-line survey. The survey that was sent to business owners also had background information on the Frenchman Bay Partners.

A total of 26 completed surveys were submitted; twenty-one from the November 12th stakeholder group and five from the November 13th stakeholder group. When asked whether particular bay ecosystem services were of low, medium, or high importance, the majority of respondents from both groups thought that most of the listed services were highly important to them personally and to most of the other beneficiaries listed in the survey. Most thought it was likely or very likely that most ecosystem services would suffer noticeable declines in the next 20 years.

Survey respondents were given sample trade-off questions to help prepare them for making choices and setting priorities at the November 12th and November 13th stakeholder meetings. In general, respondents were not willing to trade environmental health for increases in visitation or revenues.

Goal #2: Create a decision support tool to help stakeholders eliminate economic imbalances while conserving bay habitats

On November 12th and 13th, 2014, the Frenchman Bay Partners hosted two stakeholder meetings to review the concept of Ecosystem Services and engage people in helping to create a computer-based Ecosystem Services Value (ESValue) decision support tool for Frenchman Bay. Participants of the first meeting included a broad cross-section of Frenchman Bay Partners who helped to pilot the ESValue process. In all, 29 meeting participants provided input on their priorities and values with regard to Frenchman Bay.

Our planning team met on the morning after the first stakeholder meeting to review participant feedback, discuss the stakeholder engagement process, and modify the plan for the second stakeholder meeting, to assure that it ran smoothly and that participants had a positive experience. We decided to re-frame some of the ecosystem services language to make it more accessible to a less informed group. Feedback on the Nov. 12th meeting is provided below:

Comments on the most important outcomes from the Nov. 12th meeting:
• Determining the four ecosystem services
• Understanding the ESV aims and goals
• Dialogue with participants, a chance to hear from others regarding their priorities
• That scores were based on intuitive gut reaction from long-term residents
• Basic values about sustainable communities are similar
• Talking with others of the same mind but different perspectives
• Being able to come up with a consensus
• The discussions
Comments on how to make the workshop better:
• More background information on how to choose metrics
• Less time at the beginning [introductions] so the last segment wouldn’t be so hectic
• Explain how the tool can be used for conflict resolution before commencing with the process

Fourteen business owners participated in the second stakeholder meeting with nine project planners/facilitators. In all, there were 23 participants at the second meeting, including the planning team and facilitators.

At each meeting stakeholders were divided into three focus groups: beneficiaries of ecosystem services, aquatic ecosystem services, and terrestrial ecosystem services. Although each group was quite different in composition, both groups identified local businesses as primary beneficiaries of ecosystem services, prioritized freshwater wetlands above all other identified terrestrial ecosystem services, and viewed harvesting of marine resources as the most important ecosystem service provided by Frenchman Bay. The priorities set by focus groups like these can be used at a later date to discuss possible futures, given a development or planning scenario where the future of Frenchman Bay could be impacted.

Goal #3: Educate the public on the value of the bay by inviting them to participate in testing the model and sharing with them case studies that arise from the project.

The priority for Year 2 of this project will be to expand input into the ESValue decision support tool so that it represents the broadest array of stakeholders possible and then use the tool in one community context as a test of the model to see if it accomplishes the goal of preserving ecosystem services that people value.

The Frenchman Bay executive committee has identified a couple of projects that will help us test our ecosystem services value decision support tool: One is a proposed aquaculture project, and the other is a proposed cruise ship terminal in Bar Harbor. We will continue to look for opportunities to apply our ESValue decision support tool, in order to engage a broader array of stakeholders in discussion about the future of Frenchman Bay.

Goal #4: Increase the capacity of the Frenchman Bay Partners to achieve its mission both by expanding our stakeholder base and examining avenues for state-level endorsement of our bay management choices.

We have generated local interest in the ESValue decision support tool. We have three new business members and positive relationships with 15 others as a result of our stakeholder engagement work. We have been working to leverage funds from Alex C. Walker Foundation to increase the capacity of the Frenchman Bay Partners. We submitted a grant to the Davis Conservation Fund and received $5000 to engage business owners on the other side of Frenchman Bay in a workshop in spring 2015. We recently submitted a 3-year $240,000 grant to the Elmina Sewall Foundation to hire a full time coordinator to follow-up with businesses, expand the Frenchman Bay Partner membership, and help us achieve our conservation goals including eelgrass restoration, pollution remediation on valuable clamflats, restoration of diadromous fish runs, and documentation of our benthic habitats.

Outcomes of Stakeholder Meetings
Different Stakeholder Groups, Similar Priorities


Investigate Causes of Economic Imbalances: Economic imbalances exist in Frenchman Bay where eelgrass habitat has been lost, mudflats are closed due to pollution, benthic (bottom) habitats have been disrupted, and fish runs have been impeded. An important step toward correcting imbalances is engaging stakeholders in identifying ecosystem services and their values and in discussing market-based systems to efficiently sustain these values.

Explore and Develop Market-Based Solutions: We plan to create an ecosystem services values (ESV) decision support tool for Frenchman Bay with stakeholder input and involvement. We will target diverse stakeholders, including those who have and have not previously been engaged in our bay planning process. For example, we will work to include those in the business and real estate communities, so that they will have investment in the ESV tool and be likely to use it to make decisions.


We propose to work with diverse stakeholders to design and test a decision support tool for the four priority conservation targets identified by the Frenchman Bay Partners: mudflats, eelgrass, subtidal benthic habitats, and diadromous fishes. The geographic scope of these conservation targets is the entire Frenchman Bay watershed; therefore, we will be engaging stakeholders in the eight towns surrounding the bay as well as towns further up in the watershed. The scope of the project includes three phases: 1. Engaging stakeholders in identifying ecosystem services and values through focus sessions and surveys, and collecting existing economic and ecologic data on bay resources. 2. Building the computer support model and testing it in a community context. 3. Compiling case studies and mapping data to serve as community education tools.

Information Dissemination

We produced a technical report on the ESValue decision support tool. It is posted on our website and disseminated it to all participants of the stakeholder events. The business event received media attention; an article was published in our local MDIslander newspaper. See We assembled a panel of Frenchman Bay Partners to make a presentation at the Fisherman’s Forum in Rockland Maine on March 5th, 2015. During the panel discussion, we laid the groundwork for future work together. There will be a featured presentation on the ESValue decision support tool at the Frenchman Bay Partners annual meeting on May 2nd, 2015, as well as small group decision on future directions as they relate to identifying market based approaches to bay conservation.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$30,000.00 on 6/10/2014 (Check sent: 7/10/2014)

  Related Organizations
MDI Biological Laboratory  

Planning Group for ESV-Decision Support Tool
Planning Group for Frenchman BayESV-Decision Support Tool 2014. From left to right, Anna Farrell, Jirias Chirabati, Jane Disney, MDI Biological Laboratory, Kathleen Bell, Department of Resource Economics and Policy, University of Maine, Kelley Meyers, Doug MacNair, Brian Reilly, Cardno, Inc., missing from photo, Bob DeForrest, Maine Coast Heritage Trust

ESV tool development process
Steps involved in developing an ESV decision support tool

ESValue Technical Report (PDF)
Planning Group for ESV-Decision Support Tool
Outcomes of Stakeholder Meetings
ESV tool development process
ES Value Tool Thumbnail

159 Old Bar Harbor Road
Bar Harbor , ME 04609

After driving onto Mt. Desert Island, bear left to stay on Route 3. Drive about 4 miles, then turn left onto Old Bar Harbor Road at sign for the Lab. Turn left again onto Biol Lab Road and continue straight to parking area.

(207) 288-9880 ext 125


Dr. Jane Disney
Eelgrass Project Co-Manager
Judy Sproule
Deputy Director of Development, Mt. Desert Island Biological Laboratory

Posted 3/27/2014 1:17 PM
Updated   3/29/2015 12:20 PM

  • Nonprofit

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