Sunday, October 30, 2016

Willingness to pay for ecosystem conservation in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest: a choice modeling study

Forest ecosystems contribute to human welfare in important ways, but because of the nonmarket nature of many of the goods and services produced, both markets and governments fail to optimize their production commensurate with their economic and ecological significance. Despite the recent proliferation of nonmarket environmental valuation in the literature, the incorporation of nonmarket values into public forest decision making has been limited by institutional and methodological barriers. To address this disconnect, we conducted a case study to quantify conservation values for the Tongass National Forest in a manner conducive for public forest planning. A choice experiment featuring proposed forest management alternatives with changes in critical attributes relative to their levels in the status quo was used to generate the requisite data. Econometric analysis suggests that Alaskans have strong preference for conservation management, including both preservation and ecological restoration, over status quo or exploitation management. However, there is significant heterogeneity among Alaskans in terms of bias toward the status quo depending on their socioeconomic characteristics, e.g., gender, age, place of residence, household income, whether or not they have dependent children. The findings of this study can be helpful to forest managers in the preparation of resource management plans consistent with maximization of total economic value of forest ecosystem services.
Discussion and Conclusions
The objective of this study was to use best practices for designing a choice experiment most applicable for forest planning and management to measure WTP for conservation programs on the Tongass. The mean WTP for 50% old-growth preservation (US$147 2012) is consistent with the mean preservation values found in a meta-analysis (Hjerpe et al. 2015) of global ecosystem conservation (US$131 2010). Estimation results based on random parameter logit show that household WTP varies depending on the attribute and specific level. However, there are important differences in how respondents value different levels of each attribute. In particular, the scope effect seems to hold for old-growth preservation and watershed restoration attributes (with the 100% level preferred more than 50% level), but does not for the second-growth forest restoration attribute. For this attribute the coefficient on 100% is much smaller than the corresponding coefficient on 50% level. This valuation pattern suggests that Alaskans hold significant values for nontimber outputs because the background information provided to them on old growth preservation explicitly stated that the benefits would be of nontimber type and would entail the loss of timbering jobs on these acres. Yet, the smaller program WTP for a 100% increase in all noncost attributes compared with a 50% means that Alaskans’ support for conservation has a threshold and is diminished past a certain point....
View overlooking green trees and water
by Evan E. Hjerpe 1 and Anwar Hussain 1 and2
1. Conservation Economics Institute
2. Forest Policy Center, Auburn University
Ecology and Society
Volume 21, Number 2; 2016; Article 8

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